John Light

John is TPM‘s Prime editor. His writing has also appeared at The Atlantic, Mother Jones, Salon, Slate, UN Dispatch, Vox, Worth, and Al Jazeera, and has been broadcast on Public Radio International. Before joining TPM, John was a producer for Bill Moyers and WNYC, and worked as a news writer for Grist. He grew up in New Jersey, studied history and film at Oberlin College, and got his master‘s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

Articles by John

At the end of every year, TPM awards the Golden Dukes. Named in honor of the scandal-plagued former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the awards recognize a politician who has distinguished themselves with an attention-grabbing display of corruption, abuse of power, or risible behavior. (Here are 2017’s winners.)

In 2018, however, it appears we need to increase the frequency with which the award is given. We’ll now be giving a “Duke of the Week” each weekend.

This week’s winner is former Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), who hit the ball out of the park this week when he was found guilty of 23 felony charges involving misspending $1.25 million in political donations. That’s a healthy sum for a member of Congress to receive, let alone misspend. Stockman was arrested while attempting to board a flight to the United Arab Emirates; he later said his 28-count indictment was the work of the “deep state.” Because he is considered a flight risk, Stockman will be in federal custody until he is sentenced in August.

During his trial, prosecutors laid out the story of a white-collar crime spree, funded by two conservative donors, Illinois-based Dick Uihlein of shipping container fame and Baltimore money manager Stanford Rothschild Jr. Uihlein testified that he thought the money was going toward helping Stockman mount a primary challenge to Texas Senator John Cornyn and a house for Republican interns — the “Freedom House” — on Capitol Hill.

Stockman, however, found other uses for the money.

As Allegra Kirkland reported for TPM last month, Stockman spent some of the money surveilling three members of the Texas legislature who he considered opponents, including an African-American state representative who he feared would mount a primary challenge against him. “Republicans love black conservatives,” he texted the political operative he hired to conduct the spy operation.

He also used some of the donors’ money to travel to Egypt in a failed attempt to collect fresh donations from an international cement company, a scheme for which he enlisted the help of officials in the Egyptian defense ministry.

And then there were the mundane personal expenses. Stockman, The Houston Chronicle reports, spent $450,000 in donations from Rothschild on tanning salons, a kennel bill, a new dishwasher, airline tickets to Sudan, and a bulk purchase of 500 pop-up Advent books that his brother made. Oh, and a boat ride to see dolphins.

For putting conservative millionaires’ money to such creative uses, Stockman is our Duke of the Week.

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This Monday through Friday (the 13th) constituted a particularly wild ride that started with a raid on Michael Cohen’s home, office and hotel room and ended with a judge ordering Cohen himself to appear in court. While TPM’s reporters remained doggedly on the Russia probe beat, we also dug deeper on some issues that have had a less prominent role in the spotlight, including Ryan Zinke’s mass reassignment of senior Native American staffers and a bizarre story involving a gun manufacturer in Florida with ties to a similarly named gunmaker in Russia — ties that wold violate U.S. sanctions. The goal of TPM Prime is to give you a deeper look at the work our reporters and editors are doing; here’s what we published this week.



This Week: Trump Won’t Let The Voter ‘Fraud’ Lie Go; Victories For Voting Advocates Across Country
by Tierney Sneed

Tierney has your voting rights and democracy roundup for the week.

The Real Danger with Trump & Putin
by Josh Marshall

If Putin continues to provoke and Trump is compromised in how he responds, we could be headed toward conflict, Josh writes.

Key Context On Michael Cohen
by John Light

As news broke that Michael Cohen’s home, office and hotel room had been raided by the FBI, we resurfaced some of our reporting on Michael Cohen’s past.

Key Questions About the Michael Cohen Raid
by Josh Marshall

Josh’s initial reactions to the news of the FBI raid on Michael Cohen

I Don’t Buy It
by Josh Marshall

Is the raid on Michael Cohen really just about hush-money payments that he facilitated on Trump’s behalf? Josh doubts it.



This Week: States Keep Obama’s Health Care Legacy Alive
by Alice Ollstein

Alice has what you need to go on the latest efforts on the state and federal level to (depending on the party in power) undermine or preserve health care access.

Trump’s Latest Attack On The Rule Of Law
by Zack Roth

Zack runs down the many alarming aspects of Trump’s response to the FBI raid on Michael Cohen.

Making Sense of the Cohen Firestorm; What’s in the Black Box?
by Josh Marshall

Josh pulls the threads together on what we know about Michael Cohen, and the many reasons investigators might be interested in him.

A Look At The Banks Involved With Cohen’s Sketchy Stormy Daniels Deal
by Tierney Sneed

Tierney takes a look at the two banks involved with Cohen’s Stormy Daniels transaction, noting that Thomas Barrack, a close friend of Trump’s, sits on the board of one.



Three More Things on the Michael Cohen Front
by Josh Marshall

Josh offers further thoughts on why the FBI raids on Cohen’s office, home and hotel would be deeply worrisome to Trump.

The Next Steps In The Zinke Investigations
by John Light

Alice has been reporting on investigations into whether Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke took race into account when reassigning senior Native American staffers. His Department’s Inspector General put out a report this week suggesting the reassignments may have been illegal, and there are likely more reports to come.



Yup, We Were On To Something
by Zack Roth

Our reporting on Kalashnikov USA, a Florida-based company with ties to the Russia-based Kalashnikov Concern, pays off.

Which GOP Rep. Thinks Our President Is A Motherf*cker? Join TPM’s Investigation
by Matt Shuham

Matt crowdsources some accountability journalism.

The Comey Book Wasn’t Even The Third Biggest News Today
by Josh Marshall

Josh runs down the key events on a crazy Thursday in a crazy week.



The Ultimate Betrayal
by Josh Marshall

Was Michael Cohen shut out of the White House after Trump became President? Maybe so, Josh’s reporting suggests.

This Week: Michael Cohen Is In The Feds’ Crosshairs; Rosenstein Forecasts That He Will Be Fired
by Allegra Kirkland

Allegra has everything you need to know about the Russia probe (a heavy lift this week) in one place.

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Today, TPM’s reporting surfaced in the halls of Congress when Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) lambasted Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke for staff reassignments during his tenure that appear to be politically and, possibly, racially motivated.

Read More →

The FBI has raided the home, hotel room, and 30 Rockefeller Plaza office of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, multiple outlets are reporting. Agents seized records on a number of topics, including the $130,000 payment that Cohen made to Stormy Daniels.

Cohen, of course, has been a focal point in both of the scandals currently plaguing the White House: the President’s relationship with the adult film actress, and his campaign’s contacts with Russia during the election.

Here’s some background reading from our editors’ blog as we await the latest:

– “Cohen Moving Back to Center of Russia Probe

– “The Stormy Agreement and the Comey Letter — On the Same Day!

– “Michael Cohen and The Trump-Russia Money Channel

– “‘Says Who?’ – Piecing Together the Michael Cohen Story

– “What Happened to the Michael Cohen Ukraine Dossier?

– “What The CIA and FBI Knew About Trump Before 2016

– “Michael Cohen, Trump and the Russian Connection

– “It’s All So Confusing (The Michael Cohen File)

Read More →