Big money fails to stop Trump, again, prompting a donor reckoning

Big money fails to stop Trump, again, prompting a donor reckoning
Republican presidential candidate and former US President Donald Trump speaks during his New Hampshire presidential primary election night watch party, in Nashua, New Hampshire, on January 23, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 27 January 2024
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Big money fails to stop Trump, again, prompting a donor reckoning

Big money fails to stop Trump, again, prompting a donor reckoning
  • While supporters of Nikki Haley outspent the main outside group supporting Trump’s candidacy by more than two to one over the past year, Trump beat Haley in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries

From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, wealthy donors have thrown tens of millions of dollars at Republican US presidential candidate Nikki Haley in an effort to keep Donald Trump from returning to the White House.
They have learned a hard lesson: Big money cannot win the Republican presidential nomination, at least not against Trump, who holds the support of a wide majority of the party’s voters.
Pro-Haley forces outspent the main outside group supporting the former president’s candidacy by more than two to one over the past year, according to a Reuters analysis of campaign finance disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission.
The SFA Fund Inc, the main pro-Haley super PAC, has so far reported spending more than $70 million backing her run over the last year, and a super PAC affiliated with billionaire Charles Koch reported spending around $40 million to support Haley or oppose Trump.
In contrast, the main pro-Trump super PAC, known as MAGA Inc, reported spending about $50 million over the same period.
Despite that, Trump romped to two strong wins, first in Iowa on Jan. 15, and then on Tuesday in New Hampshire.
While Haley has vowed to carry on, Trump has driven all of his other rivals out of the race and has all but clinched the Republican nomination to face Democratic incumbent Joe Biden in the November general election.
In interviews with around a dozen donors and strategists who opposed Trump, a feeling of powerlessness seeped through.
“Trump has a base that basically is impenetrable. I don’t think money was the issue at all,” said metal magnate Andy Sabin.
Sabin himself is illustrative of some donors’ frenzied quest for a Trump opponent: At first, Sabin backed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Then, put off by DeSantis’ foreign policy stance, Sabin decided to back US Senator Tim Scott.
When Scott dropped out, Sabin chose to back Haley. After she lost New Hampshire, however, Sabin said on Wednesday the race was effectively over.
Haley’s campaign said Sabin had only donated $6,600, the maximum allowed, and had been refunded. The campaign added they raised some $2.6 million in the 48 hours since her New Hampshire defeat on Tuesday. Haley has taken a tougher stance on Trump this week and has even fundraised off a warning he made to her donors to stop funding her.
Still, the apparent failure of anti-Trump Republicans to stop him highlights his popularity with his supporters, many of whom dismiss the multiple criminal prosecutions he faces as politically motivated. Trump says he is innocent of all the charges.
The disempowering of wealthy donors is yet another way that Trump, who is financially fueled by small contributions, has fundamentally remade the Republican Party.
“The idea that any single entity can take checks and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to impact a presidential campaign is just not a 21st-century reality,” said Ed McMullen, a top fundraiser for Trump, and his former ambassador to Switzerland.
Trump’s financial model was sparking imitators, McMullen said. “I’m finding more candidates who are starting to focus more on a broader donor base than a singular high-dollar donor base.”
Hard-line conservatives in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, for instance, already rely heavily on small campaign donors.
The Trump and Haley campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.

‘Total disconnect’
The disconnect between wealthy donors and Republican voters on the ground is apparent.
Keith Rabois, a Miami-based venture capitalist backing Haley, in December shared a graph on social media platform X showing her climb in public opinion polls. “This is exactly what a successful startup’s KPIs look like,” he wrote.
Key Performance Indicator, which aims to gauge business performance, is unlikely to be among the average Trump voter’s, or average American’s, daily lexicon.
“Key Performance Indicator? I just chuckle,” said Gary Leffler, a general contractor who was a precinct captain supporting Trump in Iowa and is known for driving a Trump-themed tractor to rallies.
“It’s a classic mistake made by people who have money. They take people out of the equation. It’s a total disconnect,” Leffler added of the donor class. “They’re not going to the grocery stores, to the home improvement stores, they’re not really connecting to people on the street.”
When asked about his comments and donors’ role, Rabois said he never believed “money matters” in politics, and said voters would again reject Trump.
Another illustration of the apparent diminishing power of old-line Republican money comes in Charles Koch, the fossil fuels magnate whose family built Americans for Prosperity (AFP), one of the most formidable US conservative advocacy and donor networks.
While Americans for Prosperity Action’s endorsement of Haley gave her more money and momentum, their advertisements and door-knocking failed to convince enough voters. To be sure, AFP Action’s 2024 strategy also involves congressional races, where it aims to prevent Democrats from gaining seats.

Coming home to Trump?
Reed Galen, a former Republican consultant who is raising money for the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, said donors might have had more success if they had started spending against Trump a year earlier, been relentless in their attacks, and benefited from stronger candidates.
Still, he conceded: “I’m not sure even that would have worked.”
Some donors who had previously bet against Trump have already begun to support him.
Dan Eberhart, a prominent donor who previously supported DeSantis, is now backing Trump. And Sabin, the metals magnate, said he would vote for Trump in November, although he said he would not give him a “nickel.”
Several donors told Reuters that Trump’s team had been calling to try to get them on board, including in at least one case by enticing them with the offer of a Trump meeting at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
On Wednesday, Trump upped the ante, saying anybody making a contribution to Haley would be “permanently barred” from his political orbit.
One Haley donor said he feared speaking out against Trump for fear of getting on his bad side, adding, “That’s dangerous.”
Of course, Trump has long had some major, committed donors on his side, including Home Depot billionaire Bernie Marcus, who told Reuters he would likely fund Trump even if the candidate is convicted.
George Glass, a major Trump campaign fundraiser and his former ambassador to Portugal, said he expected “at least half” of donors who backed a non-Trump candidate would return to the fold, adding, “It’s pretty much a unification behind President Trump.” 


Media tycoon Jimmy Lai to testify in Hong Kong security trial

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai to testify in Hong Kong security trial
Updated 4 sec ago
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Media tycoon Jimmy Lai to testify in Hong Kong security trial

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai to testify in Hong Kong security trial
  • The charges against Lai, founder of the now-shuttered Chinese-language tabloid Apple Daily, revolve around the newspaper’s publications
HONG KONG: Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai will take the witness stand for the first time in November in a high-profile national security trial where he is accused of sedition and colluding with foreign forces, a court said Thursday.
The charges against Lai — founder of the now-shuttered popular Chinese-language tabloid Apple Daily — revolve around the newspaper’s publications, which supported the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019 and criticized Beijing’s leadership.
Besides sedition, the 76-year-old is also accused of two counts of colluding with foreign forces — which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment — by calling for international sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials.
Lai, who pleaded not guilty to the charges in a trial that started in January, “elects to give evidence in this case,” said his lawyer Robert Pang.
His testimony will start on November 20 and could run for weeks, said Esther Toh, one of the three senior judges handpicked by the Hong Kong government to try security cases.
Lai has been in custody for more than 1,300 days.
Following massive pro-democracy protests in 2019, Beijing imposed a sweeping security law to quell dissent.
The prosecution has so far called eight witnesses and played over 40 hours of Lai’s talk shows and video interviews since January to mount a case against him and eight others.
Dozens of Hong Kong and foreign politicians and scholars — including former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — were named as his foreign contacts and “agents.”
But Lai’s lawyer argued Wednesday that the prosecution failed to prove he had continued to call for sanctions after Beijing criminalized such advocacy with the security law.
Judges on Thursday ruled against Lai’s defense team, calling on him to answer to all charges.
The other defendants in the case are six former executives of the newspaper and two activists, as well as three Apple Daily companies that have been taken over by the Hong Kong government.

France sees no Olympic spike in Covid cases: minister

France sees no Olympic spike in Covid cases: minister
Updated 29 min 16 sec ago
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France sees no Olympic spike in Covid cases: minister

France sees no Olympic spike in Covid cases: minister
  • A few of the 10,500 athletes set to patricipate have tested positive for Covid since arriving

Paris: There has been no spike in Covid cases in France as tourists surge in for the Paris Olympic Games, a minister said Thursday, adding that the government would remain “vigilant.”
“Covid is still with us at a low level” but “we’re not in a period with an explosion or strong return” of the virus, junior health minister Frederic Valletoux told broadcaster Franceinfo.
He added that authorities were not “for now” expecting to introduce mask requirements in venues.
“There’s no kind of very strong alert signal at this stage,” Valletoux said.
A few of the 10,500 athletes set to patricipate have tested positive for Covid since arriving.
“We knew there is no such thing as zero risk,” Valletoux said.
Among the worst hit are Australia’s female water polo team, with the delegation’s head Anna Meares confirming five cases, while several Belgian competitors have also tested positive according to Olympic Committee doctors.
Some delegations have toughened up precautions in response.
For instance, France’s rowing team insisted on masks at media events ahead of the competition.


Video of violent arrest at Manchester Airport sparks protest

Video of violent arrest at Manchester Airport sparks protest
Updated 36 min 34 sec ago
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Video of violent arrest at Manchester Airport sparks protest

Video of violent arrest at Manchester Airport sparks protest
  • One man was kicked and stamped upon as he lay face down on the floor. The second man also appeared to be struck in the head by an officer

LONDON, July 25 : A video showing a British police officer kick and stamp on a man’s head during an arrest at Manchester airport in northern England sparked a protest outside a police station late on Wednesday night.
Police said they had referred the actions to an independent complaints watchdog after the video, filmed by an onlooker, was posted on social media platforms and attracted immediate criticism.
It showed a chaotic scene in an airport car park in which several officers armed with tasers restrained two suspects. One man was kicked and stamped upon as he lay face down on the floor. The second man also appeared to be struck in the head by an officer.
A Greater Manchester Police (GMP) statement said the video showed “an event that is truly shocking, and that people are rightly extremely concerned about. The use of such force in an arrest is an unusual occurrence and one that we understand creates alarm.”


It said police had been responding to reports of an assault, and that three officers were themselves assaulted during their response. The officers required hospital treatment, including one female officer who had a broken nose.
“One male officer has been removed from operational duties and we are making a voluntary referral of our policing response to the Independent Office of Police Conduct,” the statement added.
The two men were arrested on suspicion of assault, assault of an emergency worker, affray, and obstructing police.
The incident sparked a protest outside a police station in a nearby town. One videos posted online showed the crowd of at least 100 people chanting “Shame on you GMP.”
Police, who have not confirmed any details about the identity of those arrested at the airport, said the protest concluded safely and without incident.
“We have spent the evening listening to community feedback and will continue to engage with communities and elected members to maintain strong partnership links and understand local views,” they said in a subsequent statement.


Bangladesh relaxes curfew as unrest recedes

Bangladesh relaxes curfew as unrest recedes
Updated 25 July 2024
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Bangladesh relaxes curfew as unrest recedes

Bangladesh relaxes curfew as unrest recedes
  • Thousands of troops are still patrolling cities and a nationwide Internet shutdown remains largely in effect
  • Banks, government offices and the country’s economically vital garment factories had already reopened on Wednesday

DHAKA: Bangladesh further eased a nationwide curfew Thursday as students weighed the future of their protest campaign against civil service hiring rules that sparked days of deadly unrest last week.
Last week’s violence killed at least 191 people including several police officers, according to an AFP count of victims reported by police and hospitals during some of the worst unrest of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s tenure.
Thousands of troops are still patrolling cities and a nationwide Internet shutdown remains largely in effect, but clashes have subsided since protest leaders announced a temporary halt to new demonstrations.
Hasina’s government ordered another relaxation to the curfew it imposed at the height of the unrest, allowing free movement for seven hours between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm.
Streets in the capital Dhaka, a sprawling megacity of 20 million people, were choked with commuter traffic in the morning, days after ferocious clashes between police and protesters had left them almost deserted.
Banks, government offices and the country’s economically vital garment factories had already reopened on Wednesday after all being shuttered last week.
Student leaders were set to meet later Thursday to decide whether or not to again extend their protest moratorium, which is due to expire on Friday.
Students Against Discrimination, the group responsible for organizing this month’s rallies, said it expected a number of concessions from the government.
“We demand an apology from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to the nation for the mass murder of students,” Asif Mahmud, one of the group’s coordinators, said.
“We also want the sacking of the home minister and education minister.”
Mahmud added that the estimated toll in the unrest was understated, with his group working on its own list of confirmed deaths.
Police have arrested at least 2,500 people since the violence began last week, according to an AFP tally.
Protests began after the June reintroduction of a scheme reserving more than half of government jobs for certain candidates, including nearly a third for descendants of veterans from Bangladesh’s independence war.
With around 18 million young people in Bangladesh out of work, according to government figures, the move deeply upset graduates facing an acute jobs crisis.
Critics say the quota is used to stack public jobs with loyalists to Hasina’s Awami League.
The Supreme Court cut the number of reserved jobs on Sunday but fell short of protesters’ demands to scrap the quotas entirely.
Hasina, 76, has ruled the country since 2009 and won her fourth consecutive election in January after a vote without genuine opposition.
Her government is also accused by rights groups of misusing state institutions to entrench its hold on power and stamp out dissent, including the extrajudicial killing of opposition activists.


Indonesia launches ‘Golden Visa’ to lure foreign investors, boost economy

Indonesia launches ‘Golden Visa’ to lure foreign investors, boost economy
Updated 25 July 2024
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Indonesia launches ‘Golden Visa’ to lure foreign investors, boost economy

Indonesia launches ‘Golden Visa’ to lure foreign investors, boost economy
  • Five-year ‘Golden Visa’ requires individual investors to set up a company worth $2.5 million, while a 10-year visa requires a $5 million investment
  • Individuals not looking to set up a company must place $350,000 and $700,000 to gain a 5-year and 10-year permit respectively

JAKARTA: Indonesia launched a long-term visa scheme on Thursday intended to attract foreign investors, President Joko Widodo said, with amounts of up to $10 million giving them a 10-year visa and access to Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
The five-year “Golden Visa” requires individual investors to set up a company worth $2.5 million, while a 10-year visa requires a $5 million investment.
Individuals not looking to set up a company must place $350,000 and $700,000 to gain a 5-year and 10-year permit respectively, and the money can be used to buy Indonesian government bonds, public company stocks, or place deposits.
Corporate investors are required to invest $25 million to get five-year visas for directors and commissioners. They need to invest $50 million to gain a 10-year visa.
If the investment is made in the new $32 billion capital city currently being built in the jungles of Borneo island, $5 million dollars will gain investors a 5-year visa and $10 million a 10-year visa, the immigration agency said.
Several countries offer similar investment visa schemes, but others, including Canada, Britain and Singapore, have scrapped such schemes as governments conclude they do not create jobs and could be a means to park speculative money.
Jokowi, as the president is commonly known, said the visa was intended to lure “good quality travelers.”
“We’re launching the golden visa to make it easier for foreign nationals to invest and contribute in Indonesia,” he said.
Silmy Karim, chief of the immigration agency, said Indonesia had granted golden visas to almost 300 applicants since it began testing the permits out last year, attracting $123 million.
Silmy also said the authorities are discussing ways to grant a special status for foreign nationals of Indonesian descent, modelled after the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI), which allows foreigners of Indian ancestry to visit, work and live in India indefinitely. That could be issued by October, he added.
Silmy said the plan was intended to respond to calls for Indonesia to allow its citizens to hold another passport.