The Oprah Winfrey Airport? And Netflix taps ABC exec to work with Obamas.
The Oprah Winfrey Airport? And Netflix taps ABC exec to work with Obamas.
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December 19, 2018
Black Lawmakers Warn Tech, Bob Menéndez Calls for FBI Investigation, and ESPN Names Director of Diversity
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THE NEXT STEP... The Senate overwhelmingly approved the First Step Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at overhauling federal prisons and reducing recidivism, issues that disproportionately impact communities of color. The legislation is now on the verge of becoming law. SO MUCH WINNING… In a swift reversal, the White House on Tuesday dropped its demand that a government funding measure includes $5 billion for Donald Trump’s border wall. The concession paves the way for lawmakers to reach a compromise and end the Congress without a partial government shutdown. But will they? LOCK HIM UP? Maybe. A federal judge postponed the sentencing of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Advisor, saying he might face jail time if they proceeded on Tuesday. CRUMBLING FOUNDATION... The Donald J. Trump Foundation will close in response to a lawsuit filed by the NY Attorney General’s office, which has accused the Trump family of using the charity for self-dealing and political gain. DUCEY MOVEAZ Governor Doug Ducey will appoint Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally to the late Senator John McCain’s Senate seat after she lost her Senate bid to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. JET-SETTING WITH THE GOP... To Afghanistan. That’s what Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) did over the weekend in a secret trip as part of a congressional delegation. These trips are often kept secret until the lawmakers have returned. UNBOSSED, UNBOUGHT... Newly elected lawmaker Ayanna Pressley, the first Black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress, is getting the former office of the late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman in the country elected to Congress. THE FUTURE IS FEMALE... Nevada is set to make history by becoming the first legislature in U.S. history to have a majority of female lawmakers. THE SIXTH MOST DANGEROUS PLACE FOR JOURNALISTS? The United States, which placed behind Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico, Yemen, and India, in that order. Six journalists were killed in the U.S. this year. EL SHOW DE ESTA NOCHE... NBC Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon will join Lin-Manuel Miranda in Puerto Rico next year to film a special episode on the island, where Miranda is expected to reprise his starring role in the iconic musical Hamilton. EXPERTS SAY... Reading the Beat every day will increase your political awareness and potentially increase civic engagement. And by experts, I mean me. We’re kicking off your Wednesday with this...
  • Thousands of migrant children may be released to sponsors.
  • Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) presses Homeland Security for the receipts on Donald Trump's border claims.
  • Bozoma Saint John gets a docuseries.
  • House Ethics clears Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ).
  • Netflix taps former ABC exec to oversee original programming.
  • HUD Secretary Ben Carson has some explaining to do regarding “Dreamers” and home loans.
  • The Oprah Winfrey International Airport? Read to the bottom!
  • Catch The Beat DC's Tiffany D. Cross this morning at 8:30A EST on MSNBC's Morning Joe. Tune in!
The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah and Ronny Chieng on-set last week in NYC.
CA Democrats Congressman Jimmy Gómez and Congresswoman Nanette Díaz Barragan on Monday at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in California, where they personally escorted migrants across the border. 
Menéndez Calls for FBI and FEC Investigation Into NRA and Possible Work with Russian Operatives 
Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina is the first Russian national convicted of seeking to influence U.S. policy in the run-up to the 2016 election by acting as a foreign agent. She agreed to cooperate in a plea deal with U.S. investigators in exchange for less prison time. Senator Bob Menéndez (D-NJ), however, is not happy about the plea deal. Last week, he called for a federal investigation into whether the Kremlin funneled money to the NRA during the 2016 or 2018 elections. In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and FEC Commissioner Caroline Hunter, he said if the NRA was involved, it would represent a breach of U.S. law and “violate the sovereignty of our democratic system and, as such, merits close scrutiny by your respective agencies.” He also asked the agencies to determine whether candidates, campaign staff, or volunteers in any House or Senate races were aware of, or helped to facilitate, the flow of Russian money to these campaigns. The Senator pressed Wray and Hunter, saying it is the responsibility of their agencies to counter threats emanating from the Kremlin against the electoral processes. “Effectively neutralizing these threats requires that we identify them in real-time, which is why it is important that your agencies direct scrutiny to not just a possible Russia-NRA conduit during the 2016 election, but also whether that conduit is still active today,” Menéndez wrote. Butina admitted to working with an American political operative under the direction of a former Russian Senator, who is now the Deputy Governor of Russia’s central bank, to forge connections with officials at the NRA, conservative leaders, and candidates during the 2016 presidential race, including Donald Trump, whose rise to the White House she presciently predicted to her Russian contact. Of note: preliminary findings, released earlier this year by the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggest that the Kremlin used the NRA to improperly direct financial support to Trump’s 2016 campaign. More here.
Cory Booker Shines Light on Pharma’s Efforts to Manipulate Medicaid Drug Coverage Decisions
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) on Tuesday introduced a bill to shine a light on certain tactics drugmakers employ to profit off of state Medicaid programs by influencing their drug coverage decisions. The bill follows an investigation over the summer which found that drug makers swarm state Medicaid board meetings when their drugs are under consideration, and have given payments and perks to doctors serving on those boards, like free meals and consulting opportunities. Booker called the practices disturbing. “These tactics are all in the pursuit of one goal – making themselves more money,” Booker said. Under current law, drug companies are required to disclose any payments or other perks of value made to physicians and certain other providers. But these disclosure requirements don’t apply to many individuals who serve on the review boards, including pharmacists, who by law must make up at least one-third of the membership of a state’s board. Drug companies have a lucrative financial interest in influencing which drugs are included on a state’s preferred list under Medicaid since the program covers roughly 76 million people or nearly one out of every four Americans. These efforts are often at odds with state efforts to keep costs low. The Medicaid Drug Decisions Transparency Act would expand the payment reporting requirements to include pharmacists as well as individuals who serve on a state drug use review board and require states to clearly publish a list of state Medicaid drug use review board members. The measure would also increase financial penalties for drug makers that fail to comply with the reporting requirements. More here.

Judy Chu Demands Receipts from DHS Over Claims Terrorists Are Trying to Cross the Border
Donald Trump and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) have been claiming that the U.S. catches 10 terrorists a day at the border. Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) wants the receipts. She has asked Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to clarify the claim, which DHS first introduced. “This is an alarming statistic,” Chu wrote in a letter Monday. “If true, 3,600 terrorists are crossing or attempting to cross our southern border every year. This would represent a significant percentage of terrorists worldwide.” The claim has been used as evidence for the need to quickly fund Trump’s border wall. However, a 2017 State Department report on terrorism found that there is “no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States,” Chu noted. The letter is peppered with questions: “From where do these terrorists originate? Where are the terrorists being held? Are they in U.S. prisons or held by the U.S. military? Have any of these terrorists apprehended at the Southern border been prosecuted in federal court? If so, please provide their case number and citations.” Read the full letter here.

Former Hillary Clinton staffer and Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan on Saturday enjoying the sun over the weekend.
NBC’s Rodney Batten, who's rocking his ugly Christmas sweater, and colleague Kristen Welker on Tuesday in DC.
Raúl Grijalva Cleared by Ethics 
The House Committee on Ethics has cleared Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) in a probe on the settlement he made with a former female staffer who had accused him of creating a hostile workplace and being drunk on the job. According to documents obtained by The Hill, the ethics panel unanimously voted to dismiss the allegations that Grijalva had misused funds. The probe was looking into whether he misused funds after he paid the ex-staffer $48,000 in 2015, when she left his office after working there for three months. “It’s been a bane on my family; politically, it’s used against me whether it’s the midterms or anything else. I don’t know if this necessarily makes it go away, but it does minimize the lies and for that I’m happy,” Grijalva said. The issue was recently thrust back into the headlines after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke came after the Congressman when Grijalva penned an op-ed calling on Zinke to resign. “It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle,” Zinke wrote. A reminder that while Grijalva is set to become the Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee in the 116th Congress, Zinke was forced to tender his resignation amid growing ethics scandals. More here.

New Congressional Report Finds Stronger Laws Needed to Prevent Cybersecurity Breaches 
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
and Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) last week released a Democratic staff report which found that concrete reforms are needed to help prevent future data breaches, hold companies accountable, and protect consumers and their sensitive personal information. In response to the GOP report following the 2017 Equifax data breach investigation, the House Committees on Oversight and Government Reform and Science, Space and Technology conducted a joint investigation. “Unfortunately, Committee Republicans issued a report without including Democratic suggestions to prevent data breaches in the future,” Cummings and Johnson said. “This was a missed opportunity to convert the Committees’ oversight efforts into concrete reforms.” The Dem report provided recommendations including requiring federal financial regulatory agencies to report their efforts to protect consumers from cybertheft; requiring all federal contractors to comply with cybersecurity standards and guidance; enacting a comprehensive notification law that governs how data breach victims should be notified; and amending the Federal Trade Commission Act to strengthen civil penalties for private sector violations of consumer data security requirements. See the full report here.
Black Caucus Warns Silicon Valley: Stop Weaponization of Your Platforms or Congress Will Act
Following a report which revealed that Russia used a significant social media presence to target Black voters in attempts to suppress the vote in the 2016 election and turn them away from Hillary Clinton, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) put tech companies on notice. Outgoing CBC Chair Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Diversity Task Force Co-Chairs, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC) said they wanted “to hear directly from Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, and CEOs of other companies whose platforms were weaponized” about what they knew about Russia’s efforts and how they plan to address the issue in the future. And they’re ready to act -- they issued a warning to the social media giants, saying, “If they can't stop the weaponization of their platforms, then Congress will.” The CBC joined the chorus of civil rights activists demanding change. The NAACP said it returned a donation from Facebook and called for a week-long boycott of the social network and Instagram. And a coalition of more than two dozen civil rights groups sent Facebook a letter criticizing the company’s role in “generating bigotry and hatred towards vulnerable communities and civil rights organizations.” WaPo reported that the groups called on Zuckerberg to step down as Chair of the Board and COO Sheryl Sandberg to resign from her seat. They also called on Facebook to hire at least three members to diversify the Board and create an independent civil rights ombudsman. More here.
The Daily Show’s Roy Wood Jr. on Monday in NYC.
Former Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs Kimberly TeeHee, NM Democratic Congresswoman-elect Deb Haaland, and 2004 OK congressional candidate Kalyn Free in Oklahoma over the weekend.
Thousands of Migrant Children May Be Released to Sponsors 
The Trump administration has been criticized for holding nearly 15,000 migrant children in make-shift shelters, including the infamous Tent City in the Texas desert, without a plan for their release. And the death of Jakelin, the seven-year-old who died in custody, has further raised the alarm on how children are treated in these facilities and shined a spotlight on how unprepared Customs and Border Protection are for the growing number of children and families in its custody. In a move that many viewed as a response to the growing criticism, the Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday announced it would be changing the ways it conducts background checks on sponsors of migrant children. The government will no longer require that all adults in sponsor households to submit fingerprints, just the potential sponsors; those will still be shared with the authorities. The previous policy had been used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to arrest at least 170 undocumented people. The move could bring the release of hundreds, if not thousands, of children from government custody and might even result in the closure of Tent City. More here.
Administration Recommends Gutting Guidance Ensuring Students of Color Don’t Receive Harsher Punishments than White Peers
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Federal Commission on School Safety have recommended rescinding Obama-era guidance meant to reduce racial discrimination in school discipline. This recommendation comes despite a recent report which found that while schools are reporting fewer out-of-school suspensions, they still suspend Black students at double the rate of white or Hispanic students. The Commission, which was created by Donald Trump to help prevent future school shootings, instead called on schools to “seriously consider” arming certain school staff members, in partnership with local law enforcement to ensure proper training. While it stopped short of suggesting schools arm staff, the Commission did recommend incentives for retired law enforcement officials, military veterans, and others with firearms training to serve as educators, as well as ease teacher certification so that they can more easily join the profession. But student advocacy and civil rights groups immediately voiced strong opposition to the rescission, saying the recommendation is “offensive, it’s infuriating, it’s nonsensical.” Research shows that in schools that adopt restorative practices in place of exclusionary practices -- something the guidance championed -- minority students see more time in school, resulting in higher achievement and fewer referrals to juvenile justice systems. More here.
Senate Dems Demand Answers from Ben Carson Over Denial of Housing Loans to Dreamers
A lender who previously worked with a DACA recipient to obtain a loan through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), said the Trump administration had decided that FHA loans can no longer be granted to DACA recipients. Democratic Senators Bob Menéndez (NJ), Cory Booker (NJ), and Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) are demanding answers from HUD Secretary Ben Carson over the supposed change. In a letter to Carson, the Senators want to know why the Trump administration has implemented an unofficial policy of denying FHA insured mortgages to "Dreamers" -- which reportedly started around May of this year. The lawmakers want Carson to tell them more about the change and whether or not it is an official policy; what caused the change and which administration officials were involved; and if HUD has any other plans to disqualify applicants from FHA-insured mortgage loans based on their immigration status. They also want all relevant documents related to HUD’s current policy and they want the lenders to provide information on how many potential borrowers have been affected. “While federal courts have currently stopped President Trump from expelling DACA recipients from the country, this is yet another example of the Administration adopting underhanded tactics to punish DACA recipients for remaining in the United States,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are appalled that the Trump Administration would exploit a federal government program to deny Dreamers an opportunity of owning their own home, a cornerstone of the American dream.” More here.
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) with philanthropist and former boxer Fernando Vargas in Las Vegas over the weekend.  
ABC 7 NY’s CeFaan Kim and Food Crush Hospitality’s Dale Talde holding their newborns on Monday in NYC.
Netflix Taps Channing Dungey
Netflix has tapped former ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey as its new VP of original content. Regular Beat readers will recall last month when we reported on her departure from ABC, we speculated she might be going to Netflix as an executive. The 49-year-old is a 14-year veteran of ABC and was the network’s first Black division head. The shows that she helped bring to air include Shonda RhimesScandal and How to Get Away With Murder, both of which came to define an era for ABC. The 1991 UCLA graduate is the first Black executive to lead a broadcast network. She led the decision to cancel Roseanne earlier this year -- last season’s highest-rated TV show -- after Roseanne Barr’s racist comments on Twitter ignited a firestorm of criticism. Her hiring at Netflix antes up competition between Disney and Netflix -- Disney pledged to create a new entertainment service, called Disney+, aimed at making inroads into Netflix's lead in the direct-to-consumer streaming business. “I’m drawn to the forward-thinking, risk-taking and creative culture at Netflix, and the deeply talented people there, especially Ted and Cindy [Holland, Netflix's VP of original content], with whom I’m excited to partner on setting the strategy for original content,” said Dungey, who also called Netflix “the unparalleled leader in streaming.” Dungy will help oversee content from former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama, Shonda Rhimes, Jenji Kohan, Kenya Barris, and others. More here.
ESPN Names New Director of Diversity and Inclusion
Wokie Daboh
has been named Director of Diversity and Inclusion at ESPN. She previously was a Senior Manager for Global Inclusion Diversity and Engagement at Medtronic, where she was responsible for creating a culture of inclusion and diversity, and managing the organization's recruitment strategy. She also served as a Manager for Global Inclusion Diversity and Engagement there. Daboh -- who is of Liberian descent -- previously worked in a variety of human resources roles at Target, SC Johnson, and Kohl’s. The 2004 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities graduate holds a Master’s from the University of Massachusetts. ESPN has been celebrated many times for its diverse hiring practices. However, the network did come under fire earlier this year for sidelining one of its star talents, Jemele Hill, after she called out white supremacy in the White House, the NFL, and the country. Hill has since joined The Atlantic and the new ESPN President, Jimmy Pitaro, has asked that talent stick exclusively to sports so as to not drive a wedge between the network and the NFL. More about Daboh here.

Bozoma Saint John Gets Docuseries 
Bozoma Saint John is getting her own docuseries. The famous marketing exec -- who has risen to business celebrity status thanks to her work for PepsiCo, Beats, Apple, Uber, and Endeavor -- will host and produce the upcoming series, Bozoma: Being Badass, on the Starz network. She describes the show as a cross between Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, Mister Rogers, and The Oprah Winfrey Show saying it will bring a sense of “purposefulness” to a range of topics that span her personal and professional life, from her love of fashion to the challenges of being a single, working mother and widow. She says the series’ underlying message is “to show up wholly as ourselves. “I’ve had a lot of great feedback from different types of people who have said they appreciate that I’m able to be exactly who I am in all these spaces, even if I’m the one and only.”  The 41-year-old daughter of Ghanaian immigrants is known for being innovative in her field including coming up with popular ad campaigns for Apple Music, such as the commercial starring Mary J. Blige, Kerry Washington, and Taraji P. Henson. At Pepsi, she orchestrated the halftime at the Super Bowl featuring Beyoncé. Production will begin next year. More here.

Miss Indian World 2018-2019 Taylor Taiłbí Denzhöoné Susan and KS Democratic Congresswoman-elect Sharice Davids on Capitol Hill in DC last month.
House of Highlights’ C.J. Toledano, comedian Hasan Minhaj, and House of Highlights’ Omar Raja on Monday in NYC.
Sacramento Bee Names Opinion Editor
Gil Durán
has joined The Sacramento Bee as the California Opinion Editor. In his new role, he’ll oversee strategy for McClatchy’s five California news organizations: The Sacramento Bee, The Fresno Bee, The Modesto Bee, the Merced Sun-Star, and The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. Durán was most recently a Principal and Co-Founder at the consulting firm FrameLab Communications. Prior to that, the 42-year-old was a Senior Advisor for Communication at NextGen America, and a Senior VP at Fenton. Durán spent nearly a decade in California politics, serving as the Communications Director for Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Press Secretary for Governor Jerry Brown, and Press Secretary for former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. He also worked as a Senior Advisor to then-Attorney General Kamala Harris. The 1998 DePauw University graduate says his decision to return to journalism was sparked, in part, by the murder of The Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi. “We live at a time when both democracy and the free press have come under sustained attack from powerful forces around the globe that have no respect for either institution,” Durán said. “(Khashoggi’s death) reminded me that the pen is mightier than the sword, and it’s a journalist’s purpose to ‘print the news and raise hell’ — and hold the powerful to account.” More about him here.
WaPo Adds Capitol Hill Video Reporter
The Washington Post has promoted Rhonda Colvin to Capitol Hill Video Reporter. In her new role, she’ll help expand WaPo’s Capitol Hill coverage with a permanent video presence and develop lines of enterprise coverage in collaboration with colleagues on the politics team. Colvin was most recently a Video Planning Editor, where she planned coverage of major events for video, along with reporting her own projects including the recent “Now What?” and “Traveling While Black.” Prior to joining WaPo, she worked for The Wall Street Journal, ideastream, and the News-Herald, among other outlets. The 2004 Bowling Green State University graduate, who also holds a Master’s from Columbia University, starts her new role in January 2019. More here.

MSNBC’s Mariana Atencio in Miami on Monday before taking off to her last reporting trip of the year.
Journalist Ed Gordon and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) catching up over lunch at Beans & Cornbread in Southfield, MI.
American Airlines Names Steven Graves VP of Enterprise Technology Services
American Airlines promoted Steven Graves to VP of Enterprise Technology Services. In his new role, he’ll oversee IT operations, network, end-user computing, telecommunications, and vendor management. Graves was previously the Managing Director of Enterprise Infrastructure Services, where he helped lead automation efforts that significantly reduced turnaround time for the infrastructure team. Prior to joining American Airlines, he was the VP of Information Technology Services & Digital Transformation at Reyes Holdings. Graves has also served as a VP at JCPenney, Express, and Well Fargo, and is a member of the National Retail Federation and the American Management Association. The 2005 Franklin University graduate began his career as a Senior IT Manager for Infrastructure and Converged Technology at Abercrombie & Fitch. More about him here.

Oprah G. Winfrey International Airport?
Tennessee Councilwoman Sharon Hurt has proposed renaming the Nashville International Airport as the Oprah G. Winfrey Nashville International Airport. Although Oprah was born in Mississippi, she got her career start in Nashville. After graduating from East High School, she received a full scholarship to Tennessee State University before she launched her successful media career. "I think it's a grand opportunity for us to recognize someone of Oprah's stature," Hurt said in an interview with USA Today. She said the name change is especially fitting since the Nashville Airport is undergoing multi-billion-dollar renovations at the moment and having a new name to go along with it would be a very strategic move. But this change was not up to the Council; it’s the airport authority board who had the final say. Hurt received a letter from Airport CEO Doug Kreulen stating the name change would violate naming policies. Airport policy reportedly states that an individual must be deceased for at least two years, and have made a substantial contribution to the airport or field of aviation to have building or facility named after them. Womp, womp. More here.
FOMO
Thursday, January 3, 2019, 6P: A reception honoring Congresswomen-elect Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Deb Haaland (D-NM), the first Native American women elected to the U.S. Congress. National Museum of the American Indian, Fourth Street & Independence Avenue, S.W., DC. Click here for more information.
Wednesday, January 9th, 2019, 6P: The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute hosts a swearing-in ceremony and welcome reception for the Hispanic members of the 116th Congress. U.S. Capitol Visitor Center - Congressional Auditorium & Atrium, East Capitol St NE and First St SE, DC. Click here for more information.
Friday, January 18, 2019, 9A–3P: The Indigenous Peoples Movement hosts the Indigenous Peoples March to bring awareness to the injustices affecting Indigenous men, women, and children. DC. Click here for more information.
Saturday, February 16, 2019: The Association for the Study of African American Life and History’s 93rd Annual Black History Luncheon. Washington Renaissance Hotel, 999 Ninth Street, N.W., DC. Click here for more information.
Tuesday, May 14, 2019: APAICS 25th Anniversary Awards Gala Dinner to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The evening honors Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders, both current and pioneers, and recognizes outstanding individuals and organizations that continue to politically empower the AAPI community. 1000 H Street, N.W., DC. Click here for more information.
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