A $5 billion campaign donation to Trump

So the TikTok/Oracle deal has been approved. I see at least three forms of corruption. First, there is the Trump administration’s misleading claim that the company will now be American. Actually, the company will be 80% owned by ByteDance, which is a Chinese company (with a minority of American shareholders.) The Chinese will have voting control.

Second, this is quite similar to the proposed Microsoft deal that the Trump administration rejected. The difference of course is that both Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison and Oracle CEO Safra Catz are big Trump supporters. So we have banana republic-style favoritism. National security? Don’t make me laugh:

Trump’s willingness to accept a water-downed deal indicates how this saga was as much about scoring political points than truly caring about TikTok’s national security risks. Oracle’s proposal is similar to what ByteDance was willing to do months ago — from the creation of an autonomous TikTok management structure to the designation of a new headquarters outside of China. Plus, the company had already vowed it would add 10,000 jobs in the U.S.

But the worst part of the deal is the US government shakedown of TikTok. Trump was told that it was illegal to demand that the US government get a cut of any deal, so they instead insisted on a $5 billion dollar donation to an “educational foundation” pursuing one of Trump’s pet causes, the whitewashing of history:

Mr Trump also said the Chinese company would donate $5bn to an educational fund, which the US president said would address his earlier promise that ByteDance would pay the US government a fee for the transaction. “They are going to pay $5bn into a fund for education so we can educate people as to the real history of our country,” the president said at a campaign rally in North Carolina on Saturday night. 

Trump is campaigning against the 1619 Project, which is fine. (I also don’t like leftist propaganda.) But he doesn’t stop there. Like other white nationalists, he’s promoting a history where Civil War-era generals who committed treason against the United States of America are treated as heroes. They weren’t heroes, they were traitors who fought to keep millions of black men, women and children enslaved.

Given that Trump is running for President on this issue, the $5 billion dollar payment is little more than a disguised campaign donation. In 2020 America, it’s all pay to play.

PS. A glimmer of good news:

The Trump administration’s curbs on WeChat were put on hold by a California judge, upending an effort to halt use of the Chinese-owned app in the U.S.

Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in San Francisco issued a preliminary injunction at the request of a group of U.S. WeChat users, who argued that prohibitions would violate the free-speech rights of millions of Chinese-speaking Americans who rely on it for communication. The app, which was supposed to disappear from U.S. app stores on Sunday, has 19 million regular users in the U.S. and 1 billion worldwide.

I use WeChat to communicate with my wife, who’s currently being quarantined in China.

Also good news for Apple.



25 Responses to “A $5 billion campaign donation to Trump”

  1. Gravatar of Hunt Hunt
    20. September 2020 at 10:40

    Wondering who will run the “education fund?” Ivanka, Trump Jr. or Trump himself?

  2. Gravatar of Skeptical Skeptical
    20. September 2020 at 11:58

    Best wishes to you and your wife.

    Scott, there are ways around WeChat if you need to communicate. Please ask if you need references

  3. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    20. September 2020 at 13:44

    Thanks Skeptical.

  4. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    20. September 2020 at 14:40

    A few comments.

    1. The government should be blocking all mergers and acquisitions by large tech companies under the anti-trust laws regardless of nationality.

    2. You should be complaining to the Chinese government about blocking Skype, Line, Vibe and every other chat applications except WeChat (probably better to wait until your wife is back in the U.S.) Why the heck would the U.S. allow WeChat to operate in the U.S. when China blocks comparable U.S. companies from operating in China. In fact, why would the U.S. allow any trade or other intercourse with a country that engages in censorship.

  5. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    20. September 2020 at 16:28

    Joe Lieberman formally registers as lobbyist for Chinese telecom giant


    Trump extorts money from the China lobby by shaking them down.

    The Democrats extract money from China “by providing protection.”

    On several occasions candidate Joe Biden has said he would end tariffs on China imports.

    “Biden Says He Will End Trump’s Tariffs On Chinese-Made Goods, Aide Walks Back Statement”


    I am still amazed that the businessman Trump has turned his back on the largest source of campaign contributions, that is, China money. But then, Trump’s campaign style has always been unorthodox.

    Beyond that, what will we do for entertainment when Trump leaves office, which I believe will happen shortly?

  6. Gravatar of Matthias Görgens Matthias Görgens
    20. September 2020 at 16:55

    Dtoh, what basis does your normative judgement have?

    About your second point: why should the US harm its citizens (and customers) just because other countries harm theirs?

  7. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    20. September 2020 at 17:36


    it’s more than the monetary corruption. To me this fight is about US intelligence slowly losing access to milk the world’s data themselves, as they surely always have through various backdoors. Huawei was the biggest threat to this, as a hardware backbone provider of products the US simply doesn’t have. Whether the Chinese government gained access to monitor data through that backbone or not, was just one issue. The bigger one was likely, that for the first time ever, the US would _not_ have access to it. Previous internet backbones were US provided and the talk about backdoors for the NSA has been around forever. And now the same thing plays out with software – the main point of this deal probably was that TikTok data are now stored and handled fully in the US. So the US government gains access to the Tik Tok data.

    Of course the corrupt monetary deal on top of all that is just Trumps’ way of life. I still fully expect some kind of US government deal where he will make the US renege on its debt. That would be another Trumpian staple: bankruptcy as a business tool. How and why a full 1/2 of Americans support or consent that this scum sits at the top of the US government, I don’t know.

  8. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    20. September 2020 at 17:55

    Pennsylvania and Biden Center Sued for Undisclosed China Mega-Donations

    Posted on May 21, 2020 by NLPC Staff

    “National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), a nonprofit public interest organization, filed a complaint with the Department of Education requesting that it conduct a full investigation into the University of Pennsylvania’s failure to disclose the source of millions of dollars of donations from China since 2013 to the university and its Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement as required by law.

    Since 2017 alone, when the Biden Center opened and after Joe Biden announced he was running for President in April 2018, the university received over $70 million from China, of which $22 million were listed as “Anonymous.” Federal law requires the disclosure of the source of all donations over $250,000. The complaint also requests referral to the Department of Justice to file an enforcement action seeking compliance and to recoup all the costs of the investigation.

    The complaint notes that the Biden Center co-sponsored the 2020 Penn China Research Symposium January 31, 2020, that included opening remarks by Ambassador Huang Ping, Consul-General of the People’s Republic of China in New York….”


    Egads, the “Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement” ? CCP Ambassadors invited to present opening remarks? “Global Engagement”?

    Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Yemen, Libya…and a globalized mercenary military that eats $1.3 trillion a year? (DoD, DHS, VA, black budget and pro-rated interest on the national debt).

    Good luck, Americans. You face a Hobson’s choice.

    I gather the CCP-sympathizers or mouthpieces favor Biden.

    I am voting for Pat Paulsen.

  9. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    20. September 2020 at 18:02


    Best wishes to you and your wife as well. I hope it’s quarantine due to entry (from the high-risk country known as USA) and not due to disease.

    I will focus on the fringe topics of your blog entry, as I often do, not with the intention to annoy you, but only because the fringe interests me:

    Like other white nationalists, he’s promoting a history where Civil War-era generals who committed treason against the United States of America are treated as heroes.

    I agree that they weren’t heroes from the Union point of view. But traitors?

    How exactly is this so much different from the fabrication called the 1619 project that you referred to as leftist propaganda?

    And how does this treason-seeking attitude fit in with your libertarian, cosmopolitan attitude? So, a soldier can never resign? And a state can never secede and declare itself independent? Sounds weird to me.

    I find it funny that the same people, you not included, who angrily call Confederate generals “traitors” never call American revolutionaries and the Founding Fathers traitors.

    This is not about treason at all. The problem with generals like Lee was not that they were supposedly “traitors”, whatever that word means. The problem was that they were fighting for the wrong cause.

    And cynics would say: The other problem (from their point of view) was that they lost, because as Churchill knew, history is written by the victors.

  10. Gravatar of Cartesian Theatrics Cartesian Theatrics
    20. September 2020 at 19:04

    Oracle (and the many other billionaire donations) would never expose themselves to this risk if the war wasn’t already lost. Can’t be just Trump, it’s the whole system.

  11. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    20. September 2020 at 21:06

    dtoh, You said:

    “Why the heck would the U.S. allow WeChat to operate in the U.S. when China blocks comparable U.S. companies from operating in China.”

    Because just because communist China does something stupid that hurts the Chinese people doesn’t make me want the US government to do something equally stupid. If you see someone shoot himself in the foot, does that make you want to shoot yourself in the foot?

    You said:

    “In fact, why would the U.S. allow any trade or other intercourse with a country that engages in censorship.”

    Because I believe our government should allow Americans to be free, to make our own choices as to who to trade with. Trade helps both parties. Why do you want to punish the Chinese people because their government is repressive—that makes no sense at all. I’m not some sort of socialist who wants the government to run our economy, to tell us what to do.

    Trade is mutually beneficial, and promotes better relations between countries. We should be encouraging more international trade, not less.

    mbka, Well, not quite one half of the population. There’s the Electoral College.

    Christian, You said:

    “And a state can never secede and declare itself independent? Sounds weird to me.”

    Not unless the central government allows it. Go talk to people in Catalonia if you don’t believe me.

  12. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    21. September 2020 at 00:04

    Here’s another Bloomberg piece that supports this point:


    Of course this was never about national security. It was a Putin-style shake down, cronyism, propaganda operation, and was revenge for the embarrassment the app facilitated vis-a-vis that failed rally attendance debacle.

    This actually accomplishes quite a bit, illegally, from the perspective of authoritarian politics.

  13. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    21. September 2020 at 01:29

    Sumner: “They weren’t heroes, they were traitors who fought to keep millions of black men, women and children enslaved” – now Sumner has crossed the Rubicon. Civil War historians cannot agree why the South fought, but many say it’s because of regional differences (slave economy vs tariff protected economy, the Shelby Foote thesis) rather than the Northerner’s love of the Black man (the James Macpherson thesis, who goes so far as to cite Union solders letters which mentioned freeing slaves as a motivation, which, knowing human psychology, surely cannot be the main reason the Union solders fought, anymore than ‘making the world safe for democracy’ was in WWI, e.g., read Guy Sajer’s Nazi solder memoirs, or for that matter US solder Richard Henry Timberlake Jr.’s WWII memoirs). But Sumner walks where angels fear to tread; he once opined on Greek politics, which even I, occasionally living in Greece, and reading and speaking Greek, don’t dare do.

    PS–why is everybody so concerned about Sumner’s wife? Faux politeness, fake concern over strangers you’ll never meet? For all we know, both she and Scott are double agents working for the USA/China (unlikely, but theoretically possible).

  14. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    21. September 2020 at 07:14

    Not unless the central government allows it. Go talk to people in Catalonia if you don’t believe me.


    the question was not that most governments today still act as they did 225 years ago, the question was what you think is right.

    It now sounds more and more as if, including your other blog entries as well, that you really support this attitude. That’s just sad and terrible.

    So the question is, why a part-time or even full-time libertarian such as you defends this childish, power-addicted, undemocratic, centralistic behavior.

    I suppose the Americans should have waited another 170 years for the British to give them the okay for independence as well.

    @Ray Lopez
    I agree that the motivation was certainly not slavery. Moral stories of this kind are always the pretext to hide one’s own lust for power.

    The war after the secession of the South would not have been necessary. The North could have simply accepted the secession and immediately concluded a peace treaty. The time of slavery was near its end anyway. One could have avoided the greatest devastation in American history and saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

    The South would have not survived in the long term without the North; sooner or later the South would have had to rejoin, mostly to the terms of the North, but peacefully, without the death of hundreds of thousands of people.

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    21. September 2020 at 09:42

    Christian, As usual, you completely misunderstood my argument. I never said that Spain should not grant independence to Catalonia–maybe they should. I merely described international law.

    And it’s easy for you not to worry about slavery persisting for a few extra decades. You weren’t out there working in the cotton fields, being whipped while you worked.

  16. Gravatar of ee ee
    21. September 2020 at 09:48

    My favorite Civil War scholar is Gary Gallagher who argues based on contemporary sources that the South seceded to retain slavery and the North escalated to preserve the Union, not to emancipate. Emancipation was a tool to help win the war as the North entered Southern territory. I’m also tempted by the counter factual where the North allows the South to secede peacefully but IMO the South would have taken a very long time to eventually emancipate in that case. I don’t think it’s fair to argue that you could’ve had peace and quick emancipation.

    Off topic sorry but IMO in a healthy government the Senate would agree to confirm Ginsberg’s replacement with a supermajority which would take away some of the drama from the nomination process. By confirming with just 50% it guarantees the nominee will be unpopular with a large chunk of the population.

  17. Gravatar of Randomize Randomize
    21. September 2020 at 10:37

    Just to be clear, the $5 billion to his preferred charity is bribery. I hope they impeach him again.

  18. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    21. September 2020 at 11:32

    I merely described international law.


    You do this kind of trickery quite often. Why would you even do that. Your conduct is not correct. Benjamin Cole recently has done something similar, and you were right to criticize him for it. Not to mention that you didn’t even describe international law, which is pretty quiet when it comes down to secessions.

    And it’s easy for you not to worry about slavery persisting for a few extra decades. You weren’t out there working in the cotton fields, being whipped while you worked.

    I am as worried as others, the real question is whether this war was the right solution. And I doubt that very much. It’s kind of funny that I have to argue like this, our roles are exactly reversed, this is usually your way of reasoning.


    My favorite Civil War scholar is Gary Gallagher who argues based on contemporary sources that the South seceded to retain slavery and the North escalated to preserve the Union.

    I’m not sure about the escalating part but the rest sounds exactly right. The South seceded in order to save their lifestyle, their economy, their society, including slavery, because their way of life, at least huge parts of it, were unfortunately based on slavery.

    The North went to war to preserve the Union, in other words to preserve their dominating power. This should be quite obvious to anyone who reads about this conflict from a neutral position. I’m glad that some historians seem to read it in this way, too. Not all hope is lost.

  19. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    21. September 2020 at 16:41

    We should be doing everything possible to weaken and destroy the Chinese government even if that inflicts a cost on the Chinese and American people. There is no outcome and there has never has been an outcome that is not disastrous when a dictatorial and tyrannical government is left unopposed and gains excessive power.

  20. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    21. September 2020 at 16:47

    Why haven’t you complained to the Chinese government or published a blog post in China in Chinese complaining about the Chinese government blocking chat apps.

  21. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    22. September 2020 at 18:48

    dtoh: Sumner has family members inside communist China, and Xi Jinping makes Trump look like a creampuff.

    Perhaps Sumner is wise to selectively express opinions.

    I cannot mention a certain monarch.

  22. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    23. September 2020 at 12:36

    ee, That’s right. Christian knows nothing about American history.

    dtoh, LOL. Who is the “we” who should destroy China’s government. The US government headed by a president who encouraged Xi Jinping to put Muslims into concentration camps? A man who would sell out human rights in China for the export of a few soybeans? A man who praises war criminals? A man who favors torture? A man who said we should have stolen Iraq’s oil? A man who makes one racist statement after another? A man you supported for president but never seem to condemn for dragging the United States of America into a sewer with his disgusting corruption and immorality?

    BTW, we’ve tried your policy for 60 years with Cuba, with zero success. Indeed many experts believe Cuba would be far better off today if we’d engaged with them with trade and travel, instead of isolating them and giving their disgusting government an excuse for its economic failure. The Chinese government loves to portray China as a nation victimized by outsiders (Japan, Britain, etc.) If we do what you suggest we play right into the hands of the most virulent nationalists in China.

    On your second point, I hereby complain about the Chinese blocking chat apps. And I complain about America putting 400,000 people in prison for drug crimes. And I complain about zoning policies in Hong Kong. And I complain about the caste system in India. And I complain about human rights in Burma.
    And I complain about my gardener.

    I have lots of things to complain about. There’s just so little time. But I have to say that the blocking of chat apps in China is pretty far down my list, even in terms of Chinese human rights abuses.

  23. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    23. September 2020 at 16:18

    I think we all know that if you complained about Chinese censorship or Uighur concentration camps in a manner that was audible to large numbers of Chinese citizens, you would either a) be denied future entry to China or b) you would be deported or imprisoned if you were already in China.

    Cuba was/is a small economy that is/was propped up by other countries. As a result of the trade restrictions (and their failed form of government), they have remained a small, weak and unimportant country. That should be our goal. If China becomes a free democratic society that would be nice, but that should not be the policy goal.

    “We” is everybody in the world who loves humanity and civil society.

    Won’t comment on Trump because it’s impossible to have any kind of factual discussion on that topic here.

  24. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    24. September 2020 at 10:57

    dtoh, I don’t think your proposed policies are just wrong, I think they are highly destructive. We should want Cuba to be a thriving successful country.

    And I can’t even imagine why you think having China become free and prosperous is just a minor goal relative to keeping them weak (which means poor.) It should be our primary goal!

    I certainly don’t have the ability to have a “factual discussion” (as you put it) in China, but I frequently call the Chinese government and its policies evil in the blog, and anyone in China who cares to read this blog can do so. I did so while in China.

    So we seem to agree that the inability to have a factual discussion is good reason not to comment. Then why do you want me to try to write a blog in the Chinese language? Do you think I’m capable of having a highly intelligent discussion in Mandarin?

    You said:

    “We” is everybody in the world who loves humanity and civil society.”

    So does that include people who advocate putting Muslims into concentration camps? Just curious.

    And isn’t free trade a part of civil society? How about increased immigration? How about free flow of capital?

    If Trump told the Chinese that he intended to put sanctions on them until they improved their human rights they’d laugh at him, knowing full well that he was not sincere, and that he could be bought off with a few bushels of soybeans and a bone for his pal Larry Ellison at Oracle.

  25. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    25. September 2020 at 00:27


    Of course, it would be nice for China to become strong and prosperous, but relative to the risk of the CCP destroying humanity and civilization, it’s something we should be willing to sacrifice in a heartbeat. Same for US prosperity.

    You should be honest about what would happen to you if you were vocal in your criticism of China and had a large Chinese audience. Not doing so hurts your credibility IMHO.

    It’s only hard to have a discussion about Trump. On other topics the discussion seems rationale.

    Free trade and free flow of capital are great. Just don’t let cheaters play the game.

    As you know I’m highly supportive of increased immigration but also believe we should reduce illegal immigration.

    Who wants to put Muslims into concentration camps except the CCP?

    Current administration has been hundred times better than its predecessors in dealing with the CCP.

    Do you really expect moral purity in politics? Governance (including the best governance) has never worked that way.

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