U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden is hinting that Russia may have laundered money to President Donald Trump and his associates.
The Oregon Democrat, who serves on both the Senate Intelligence Committee and Senate Finance Committee, made the suggestion when he announced a hold on the nomination of Sigal Mandelker for under secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence on Thursday, May 11. It will stay in place until the Treasury Department provides both committees with any financial information connecting Russia to Trump and his associates.
"I have stated repeatedly we have to follow the money if we are going to get to the bottom of how Russia attacked our democracy. That means thoroughly review any information that relates to financial connections between Russia and President Trump and his associates, whether direct or laundered through hidden or illicit transactions," Wyden said at the time.
Mortgage deduction ban supported
A bill to cap the state mortgage-interest deduction at the 2017 Oregon Legislature hasn't seen much action yet, even though the speaker at the City Club of Portland's last Friday Forum said the federal version is the greatest public contributor to racial wealth inequality in the county.
House Bill 2006 would generate an estimated $500 million a year by abolishing the state deduction completely for people making more than $100,000 a year or $200,000 as a couple, and for anyone who wants to deduct interest on a second home. It also would cap the maximum amount of interest that anyone could deduct from their state taxes at $15,000 a year. So far it has only received a single hearing.
On May 12, Brandeis University urban policy professor Thomas Shapiro called the federal deduction a $100 billion a year giveaway that mostly benefits the top 10 percent of taxpayers. He said the money would be better spent helping young families purchase their first homes. Shapiro spoke to the City Club as part of a series on the affordable housing crisis.
Could Democrats' ploy backfire?
In an attempt to tarnish a potential Republican candidate for governor, Democrats are backing a bill that would close a financial-disclosure loophole also used by members of their own party, including former state Rep. Jules Bailey, a Southeast Portland Democrat, when he ran for Portland mayor.
The Democratic Party of Oregon has accused Republican Bend-area state Rep. Knute Buehler of failing to report fees he received from a medical company that does business with the state. But Buehler did not receive the money directly. Instead, it was paid to a business he owns. That is the same loophole that allowed Bailey and other politicians to avoid reporting income they have received from entities with state interests over the years.
House Bill 3457 was introduced after the accusations were made against Buehler. While running for mayor, Bailey told the Tribune he supported requiring lawmakers to disclose major clients, but then refused to disclose those with state interests that did business with his own firm.