House adjourns without speaker after Kevin McCarthy loses sixth vote

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) sits in the House Chamber during the third round of votes for House Speaker on the opening day of the 118th Congress on Tuesday, January 3, 2023, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC.

Matt McClain | The Washington Post | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives adjourned for a second time in two days Wednesday without electing a speaker, after GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., failed in six consecutive votes to secure enough support to be elected to the post.

The adjournment, until 8:00 p.m. ET Wednesday, gave Republicans precious time to chart a path forward, whether that be through negotiations with the core 20 holdouts, or by coalescing around a new candidate for speaker.

Still, the lack of a speaker left the House in disarray, largely due to the fact that no rank and file members can be sworn into office until a speaker is elected. This left all 434 members of the House technically still members-elect, not official voting representatives. 

The ripple effects of this historic procedural limbo were felt across Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Outgoing Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., pointed out that a host of constituent services were essentially frozen until the new Congress is sworn in.

“Who can legally help any and all of our citizens with issues we normally handle everyday?” Long tweeted. “Passports, IRS, Veterans issues, SBA, Post Office, Immigration issues, Corps of Engineers, etc.” 

He also questioned how congressional salaries would be allocated. “Who’s getting paid? Outgoing or incoming?”

Staffers to some newly elected members also told Politico they were unable to access their official email accounts because their bosses had not been sworn in yet. 

The core group of 20 GOP holdouts voted for Florida Rep. Byron Donalds in several rounds of votes Wednesday, each time denying McCarthy the 218 votes he needed to take the gavel.

All 212 Democrats voted for that party’s incoming Minority Leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.

The mood on the House floor grew more contentious throughout the day, as Republicans loyal to McCarthy grew increasingly frustrated, and Democrats grew impatient over five hours of voting.

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., renominated Donalds in the fifth round of voting before asking McCarthy to withdraw his name.

“You’ve been having my favorite president call us and tell us we need to knock this off,” Boebert said on the House floor, referring to former President Donald Trump. “I think it actually needs to be reversed. The president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy that, ‘sir, you do not have the votes and it’s time to withdraw.'”

U.S. Rep.-elect Lauren Boebert (R-CO) delivers remarks in the House Chamber during the second day of elections for Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 04, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Win Mcnamee | Getty Images

Together, Donalds and Jeffries marked the first time that two Black Americans have ever been nominated for House speaker.

Donalds, who was nominated by Texas Republican Chip Roy, told reporters outside the chamber that he would reinstate a House rule to “vacate the chair” if he were elected. That would make it easier to replace the future House speaker.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made it more difficult to change House leadership by requiring a party leader or a majority vote by one party to force the vote. Donalds said any member of the chamber should be allowed to call for a vote on the House leader.

“This was a mainstay rule in our chamber that empowered all the members of Congress,” said Donalds, who on Tuesday had publicly shifted his support away from McCarthy. “And Nancy Pelosi is the one who stripped it. And so we think it is important for our institution to function correctly on behalf of the American people to put it back in place.”

When asked about national security concerns while Congress in limbo, Donalds said a hypothetical threat shouldn’t affect the voting process.

“I would anticipate (President Joe Biden) would act to secure the homeland to take care of the American people,” he said. “When it comes to leveraging money to be spent in response, that’s something the members would have to put into their calculus as well. But that doesn’t mean that we should speed up our business here for some (hypothetical) that may exist at some point.”

Democrats could help McCarthy by withholding their votes, which would reduce the number of votes he needed to win House Speaker, according to the Intercept. But former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Pelosi and others have reportedly dismissed that out of hand.

Pelosi told reporters outside the House floor earlier Wednesday that the Republican chaos revealed “a lack of respect for this institution.”

“There’s a lack of respect for the sworn duty we all have to defend the Constitution and get the job done for the American people,” she told reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is seen at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on December 21, 2022.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

Little appeared to have changed, publicly or privately, between Tuesday and Wednesday. Both McCarthy’s allies and his opponents delivered effectively the same message in interviews Wednesday that they have been for weeks: We’re not going to budge.

One exception to the stalemate was a fresh endorsement for McCarthy from Trump, who on Tuesday afternoon had initially sounded an uncertain note about the political future of one of his most loyal allies in Congress.

“REPUBLICANS, DO NOT TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT,” Trump posted on his Truth Social website Wednesday morning. “IT’S TIME TO CELEBRATE, YOU DESERVE IT. Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a GREAT JOB – JUST WATCH!”

Despite Trump’s broad support among conservative Republican voters, it was not clear his new endorsement would move the needle for any of the holdouts in Congress. While the group of 20 far-right Republicans are all close Trump allies, the former president’s name and his “America First” message have been notably absent from the intraparty GOP debate raging behind closed doors.

McCarthy himself was tight lipped Tuesday and into Wednesday, and he declined to give interviews or take his message to the airwaves or social media.

When asked Wednesday morning what his plan would be, NBC News reported that McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol, “Same game plan as yesterday.”

When a journalist asked how he would get more votes, McCarthy replied: “We’re sitting, we’re talking … I think we can get to an agreement.”

Instead, he authorized a handful of allies to negotiate with the holdouts, many of whom identify with the Freedom Caucus, a loosely organized 40+ member caucus led by Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry, who is among the most outspoken opponents of McCarthy’s speaker bid.

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.

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Rivian stock hits 52-week low after company misses 2022 production target

Employees work on an assembly line at startup Rivian Automotive’s electric vehicle factory in Normal, Illinois, April 11, 2022.

Kamil Krzaczynski | Reuters

Shares of Rivian Automotive notched a new 52-week low on Wednesday after the company missed its 25,000-unit production target for last year.

The EV startup late Tuesday said it produced 24,337 vehicles in 2022, including 10,020 in the fourth quarter. Of those, 20,332 vehicles were delivered to customers during the year, including more than 8,000 from October through December.

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The missed target caps off a difficult year for the company as well as Rivian investors. Shares of the automaker declined by more than 80% during 2022 amid production, parts and supply chain problems.

Rivian said during its IPO roadshow in 2021 that it expected to build 50,000 vehicles in 2022. But it cut that guidance by half in March due to production and global supply chain issues.

Shares of Rivian during early trading Wednesday dipped by as much as 4.5% to $16.56 a share before reversing course and gaining more than 2% to close at $17.71 a share. A year ago the stock traded for $106.80 a share.

Shares of Rivian have fallen more than 80% in the last 12 months.

Fed minutes December 2022:

WASHINGTON – Federal Reserve officials are committed to fighting inflation and expect higher interest rates to remain in place until more progress is made, according to minutes released Wednesday from the central bank’s December meeting.

At a meeting where policymakers raised their key interest rate another half a percentage point, they expressed the importance of keeping restrictive policy in place while inflation holds unacceptably high.

“Participants generally observed that a restrictive policy stance would need to be maintained until the incoming data provided confidence that inflation was on a sustained downward path to 2 percent, which was likely to take some time,” the meeting summary stated. “In view of the persistent and unacceptably high level of inflation, several participants commented that historical experience cautioned against prematurely loosening monetary policy.”

The increase ended a streak of four consecutive three-quarter point rate hikes, while taking the target range for the benchmark fed funds rate to 4.25%-4.5%, its highest level in 15 years.

Officials also said they would focus on data as they move forward and see “the need to retain flexibility and optionality” regarding policy.

Officials further cautioned that the public shouldn’t read too much into the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee’s move to step down the pace of increases.

“A number of participants emphasized that it would be important to clearly communicate that a slowing in the pace of rate increases was not an indication of any weakening of the Committee’s resolve to achieve its price-stability goal or a judgment that inflation was already on a persistent downward path,” the minutes said.

Following the meeting, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated that while there has been some progress made in the battle against inflation, he saw only halting signs and expects rates to hold at higher levels even after the increases cease.

The minutes reflected those sentiments, noting that no FOMC members expect rate cuts in 2023, despite market pricing.

Markets currently are pricing in the likelihood of rate increases totaling 0.5-0.75 percentage point before pausing to evaluate the impact the hikes are having on the economy. Traders expect the central bank to approve a quarter-point increase at the next meeting, which concludes Feb. 1, according to CME Group data.

Current pricing also indicates the possibility of a small reduction in rates by the end of the year, with the funds rate landing around a range of 4.5%-4.75%. Fed officials, however, have expressed doubt repeatedly about any loosening of policy in 2023.

The minutes noted that officials are wrestling with two-pronged policy risks: One, that the Fed doesn’t keep rates high long enough and allows inflation to fester, similar to the experience in the 1970s; and two, that the Fed keeps restrictive policy in place too long and slows the economy too much, “potentially placing the largest burdens on the most vulnerable groups of the population.”

However, members said they see the risks more weighted to easing too soon and allowing inflation to run rampant.

“Participants generally indicated that upside risks to the inflation outlook remained a key factor shaping the outlook for policy,” the minutes said. “Participants generally observed that maintaining a restrictive policy stance for a sustained period until inflation is clearly on a path toward 2 percent is appropriate from a risk-management perspective.”

Along with the rate hikes, the Fed has been reducing the size of its balance sheet by allowing up to $95 billion in proceeds from maturing securities to roll off each month rather than be reinvested. In a program started in early June, the Fed has seen its balance sheet contract by $364 billion to $8.6 trillion.

While some of the recent inflation metrics have shown progress, the labor market, a critical target of the rate increases, has been resilient. Nonfarm payroll growth has exceeded expectations for most of the past year, and data earlier Wednesday showed that the number of job openings is still nearly twice the pool of available workers.

The Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, the personal consumption expenditures price index less food and energy, was at 4.7% annually in November, down from its 5.4% peak in February 2022 but still well above the Fed’s 2% target.

Economists, meanwhile, largely expect the U.S. to enter a recession in the coming months, the result of the Fed’s tightening and an economy dealing with inflation still running near 40-year highs. However, fourth-quarter GDP for 2022 is tracking at a solid 3.9% rate, easily the best of a year that started out with consecutive negative readings, according to the Atlanta Fed.

Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari said Wednesday, in a post for the district’s website, that he sees the funds rate rising to 5.4% and possibly higher if inflation doesn’t trend down.

California braces for powerful atmospheric river storm

An aerial view shows the damage after rainstorms caused a levee to break, flooding Sacramento County roads near Wilton, California, U.S., January 1, 2023.

Fred Greaves | Reuters

Another atmospheric river storm is threatening California with flooding, landslides, and power outages on Wednesday as millions of residents recover from several destructive storms, one of which caused a levee breach last weekend.

Flood watches are in effect across central and Northern California, where the ground has become more saturated and vulnerable to flooding and rapid runoff. The new storm is expected to compound the damage in the already-battered region and is forecast to bring up to four inches of rain and winds up to 40 miles an hour to the valleys, according to the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center.

Officials in the city of Watsonville and in Santa Cruz County have issued mandatory evacuation orders for communities at high risk of flooding. San Mateo County, located south of San Francisco, declared a local state of emergency and activated its emergency operations center.

“Prepare now for flooding, downed trees and power outages,” National Weather Service forecasters in the San Francisco Bay Area said Tuesday evening, warning residents that the weather system would bring major rain and wind.

In south Sacramento County, responders are attempting to repair part of a 34-mile levee system along the Cosumnes River, which protects land made up mostly of vineyards and cattle ranches, before the storm is set to arrive on Wednesday.

A view of landslide on the highway 92 West in San Mateo County as heavy rainstorm hits West Coast of California, United States on December 31, 2022.

Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The new storm is part of a series of atmospheric river storms that climate scientists forecast will continue this month. Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow streams in the atmosphere that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“These storms typically bring heavy or extreme rainfall and snowfall rates over relatively short periods of time,” said Daniel McEvoy, a climatologist with the Western Regional Climate Center.

Atmospheric rivers contribute up to 50% of California’s annual precipitation and drive about 84% of flood damage in the Western states. While recent heavy rains have brought a degree of relief to drought-imperiled California, scientists warn the storms won’t immediately alleviate severe deficits in the state’s groundwater and soil moisture.

Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA, said there are at least two additional atmospheric river storms forecast in the next five days that could lead to more severe flooding.

“This is not just a one-and-done. This is an ongoing sequence,” Swain said. “The big flood risk comes with this succession of progressively stronger storms, which looks like the pattern we’re in.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said on Twitter that the state’s operations center is at its highest emergency level and its flood operations center is coordinating efforts like bringing sandbags to local residents. Officials said the state is setting up shelters and is prepared to deploy staff to hospitals and ambulance strike teams.

Cars are piled up next to a wheelchair submerged in the water after rainstorms caused flooding in Sacramento County, in Wilton, California, U.S. January 2, 2023.

Fred Greaves | Reuters

XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible subvariant of Covid yet, WHO says

XBB.1.5 strain, January 4, 2023, Suqian, Jiangsu, China.

CFOTO | Future Publishing | Getty Images

The XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant that’s currently dominating the U.S. is the most contagious version of Covid-19 yet, but it doesn’t appear to make people sicker, according to the World Health Organization.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, said global health officials are worried about how quickly the subvariant is spreading in the northeastern U.S. The number of people infected with XBB.1.5 has been doubling in the U.S. about every two weeks, making it the most common variant circulating in the country.

“It is the most transmissible subvariant that has been detected yet,” Van Kerkhove told reporters during a press conference in Geneva on Wednesday. “The reason for this are the mutations that are within this subvariant of omicron allowing this virus to adhere to the cell and replicate easily.”

It has been detected in 29 countries so far but it could be even more widespread, Van Kerkhove said. Tracking Covid variants has become difficult as genomic sequencing declines across the world, she said.

The WHO doesn’t have any data yet on the severity of XBB.1.5, but there’s no indication at the moment that it makes people sicker than previous versions of omicron, Van Kerkhove said. The WHO’s advisory group that tracks Covid variants is conducting a risk assessment on XBB.1.5 that it will publish in the coming days, she said.

“The more this virus circulates the more opportunities it will have to change,” Van Kerkhove said. “We do expect further waves of infection around the world but that doesn’t have to translate into further waves of death because our countermeasures continue to work.”

Scientists say XBB.1.5 is about as good at dodging antibodies from vaccines and infection as its XBB and XBB.1 relatives, which were two of the most immune evasive subvariants yet. But XBB.1.5 has a mutation that makes it bind more tightly to cells, which gives it a growth advantage.

As XBB.1.5 rapidly spreads in the U.S., China is battling a surge of cases and hospitalizations after abandoning its zero-Covid policy in response to social unrest late last year. U.S. and global health officials have said Beijing is not sharing enough data on the surge with the international community.

“We continue to ask China for more rapid regular reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths as well more comprehensive real-time viral sequencing,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva on Wednesday.

A growing number of countries, including the U.S., are requiring airline passengers from China to test negative for Covid before boarding their flights. China’s foreign ministry has said such measures lack a scientific basis and has accused the governments of manipulating Covid for political purposes. But the WHO director-general said the requirements are understandable given the limited data coming out of China.

“With circulation in China so high and comprehensive data not forthcoming, it’s understandable that some countries are taking steps they believe will protect their own citizens,” Tedros said Wednesday.

Beijing’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention shared data Tuesday with the WHO indicating BA.5 sublineages, BA.5.2 and BF.7, account for about 98% of all infections in the country. But Van Kerkhove said China is not sharing enough sequencing data from around the vast country.

“It’s not just a matter of knowing what variants are circulating,” Van Kerkhove said. “We need the global community to assess these, to look at mutation by mutation to determine if any of these are new variants circulating in China but also around the world.”

Salesforce is cutting 10% of its personnel, more than 7,000 employees

Signage on a Saleforce office building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Salesforce is cutting 10% of its personnel and reducing some office space as part of a restructuring plan, the company announced Wednesday. The company employed more than 79,000 workers as of December.

In a letter to employees, co-CEO Marc Benioff said customers have been more “measured” in their purchasing decisions given the challenging macroeconomic environment, which led Salesforce to make the “very difficult decision” to lay off workers.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about how we came to this moment,” he said. “As our revenue accelerated through the pandemic, we hired too many people leading into this economic downturn we’re now facing, and I take responsibility for that.”

Salesforce will record charges of $1.0 billion to $1.4 billion related to the headcount reductions, and $450 million to $650 million related to the office space reductions, the company said.

Shares of Salesforce were up nearly 3% on Wednesday.

The cuts mark the latest round of departures at the cloud-based software company, the largest private employer in San Francisco. The company let go fewer than 1,000 employees in November. Later that month, Bret Taylor announced his plan to step down as co-CEO on Jan. 31, leaving Marc Benioff alone again at the top of the company he co-founded in 1999.

In the three trading days after the Taylor news landed alongside Salesforce’s third-quarter earnings report, the stock had two of its three worst days of 2022, plunging 8.3% and 7.4%, respectively. 

Days later, the company announced the departure of Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, who joined Salesforce as part of its biggest acquisition ever.

Salesforce hired aggressively during the pandemic. At the end of January 2022, it employed 73,541 people. It said in a December filing that its headcount had risen 32% since October 2021 “to meet the higher demand for services from our customers.”

Now, like many other major tech companies, Salesforce is looking to cut costs as it contends with slowing revenue growth and a weakening economy. Days after Twitter’s new boss, Elon Musk, slashed half his company’s workforce, Facebook parent Meta announced its most significant round of layoffs ever, eliminating 13% of its staff. Amazon, Lyft, HP and DoorDash also announced significant cuts to their workforces.

Salesforce said it expects its employee restructuring to be complete by the end of fiscal 2024, and its real estate restructuring to be complete by fiscal 2026.

— CNBC’s Jordan Novet contributed to this report.

Nonprofit financed by billionaire George Soros donated $140 million to political groups in 2021

Hungarian-born US investor and philanthropist George Soros answers to questions after delivering a speech on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos on May 24, 2022.

Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

A nonprofit financed by billionaire George Soros quietly donated $140 million to advocacy organizations and ballot initiatives in 2021, plus another $60 million to likeminded charities.

Soros, who personally donated $170 million during the 2022 midterms to Democratic candidates and campaigns on top of that, spread the additional largess through the Open Society Policy Center — a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that falls under the Soros-funded Open Society Foundations network, according to a copy of its 2021 tax filing, which was obtained by CNBC and is the most recent data available. The Open Society Policy Center also doled out $138 million to advocacy groups and causes in 2020. Two of Soros’ children sit on its board, the tax filings and its website shows.

The donations bring Soros’ contributions to political campaigns and causes since January 2020 to roughly half a billion dollars — at the least — most of it steered through dark money nonprofit groups and going largely toward political causes aligned with Democratic Party.

Soros’ nonprofit donations don’t always go directly to political causes. The funds sometimes flow from one of his nonprofits, then to another, before being spent on the advertising, organizing and social media campaigns that directly reach voters.

Many of the Open Society Policy Center’s 2021 donations weren’t necessarily earmarked to help sway the midterm elections, according to the foundation’s website.  At the same time, Tom Watson, an editorial director at the Open Society Foundations, conceded in an email to CNBC that “there are definitely some OSPC grants that went to organizations working to combat voter suppression, support voter registration and expand civic participation.” Those are all core Democratic principals.

Complex network of nonprofits

The foundation network includes several affiliated 501(c)(4) groups, a type of nonprofit under the U.S. tax code that’s allowed to engage in political activities, as well as more traditional 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, its website and tax filing show.

All of the nonprofits fall under Soros’ Open Society Foundations network, which spans the globe. It describes itself as “the world’s largest private funder of independent groups working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights,” and it has dozens of offices in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

It additionally runs the Open Society University Network, which includes more than two dozen colleges across the world, sponsoring research projects through its Democracy Institute, among other initiatives. While not illegal, the complex network of related nonprofits, research funding and charities financed by Soros obfuscates the original origin of the donations.

Through the network, Soros has donated more than $32 billion over the years, according to its website. It says it gives “thousands of grants every year toward building inclusive and vibrant democracies,” with active projects in more than 120 countries.

Wealthy special interests

“Wealthy special interests and individuals try to hide their influence in elections, including by funding politically active nonprofits, because they know that the messenger matters,” Aaron McKean, an attorney at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center said. “Voters have a right to know who is trying to influence elections so that they can make informed choices when filling out their ballot.”

The Open Society Policy Center’s budget in 2021 was funded by a single $196 million donation from the Open Society Foundation network, according to foundation officials. An affiliated 501(c)(3) charitable group called the Open Society Institute received a $1.78 billion donation in QECL shares from the Foundation to Promote Open Society, which was founded and is funded by the billionaire businessman.

In the U.S., the Open Society Policy Center donated to a variety of politically active groups and causes since the start of the 2020 election cycle, including $4.5 million in September to Reproductive Freedom for All, according to data from the nonpartisan watchdog OpenSecrets. The campaign backed Michigan’s successful ballot initiative called Proposition 3 that enshrined abortion rights into the state’s constitution.

The group also gave $1 million in 2020 toward a campaign that supported an Oklahoma prison sentencing ballot measure titled Yes on 805. The ballot initiative would have ended repeat sentence penalties for nonviolent offenses in the state; it failed to pass during the 2020 election.

Helping Democrats

The vast majority of Soros’ personal donations during the 2022 cycle went to two super PACs: Democracy PAC and Democracy PAC II, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Both of those groups are run by the billionaire’s son Alexander Soros, who also sits on the boards of the Open Society Institute and Open Society Policy Center. Politico reported that these PACs were meant to help Democratic candidates and groups in 2022, and in future election cycles.

Records show that the Democracy PACs, which by law can raise and spend an unlimited amount of money, donated millions of dollars in the midterms to organizations that actively helped Democrats running for office, including support for the Senate Majority PAC and the House Majority PAC.

The Open Society Policy Center’s other donations listed on their 2021 990:

  • America Votes: $16.9 million
    A voting rights group focused on educating people on how to vote by mail.
  • Demand Justice: $.4.5 million
    A liberal judicial advocacy group. It recently raised just under $6 million, according to a tax return acquired by Politico. Demand Justice announced a $1 million ad buy this year supporting Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination.
  • Equis Labs: $6.48 million
    A group dedicated to increasing Latino voting.
  • Future Forward USA Action: $5.5 million
    This 501(c)(4) group donated over $60 million during the 2020 election to its sister PAC, Future Forward USA, which spent millions backing Biden’s run. The Open Policy Center’s website says its 2021 donations were meant, in part, to “support policy advocacy on the Build Back Together legislative package and a global vaccine campaign.” A pared back version of the bill was renamed the Inflation Reduction Act; it passed and was signed into law in August.
  • Sixteen Thirty Fund: $23.9 million
    The group acts as a “dark” money fund for “progressive changemakers” and groups that often align with Democratic Party. It provides operational support, like HR and legal resources, to progressive candidates. It recently raised more than $189 million and made $107 million in grants.

Emerson Morrow, a spokesman for America Votes told CNBC that funding from the Open Society Policy Center “has provided critical support for America Votes’ mission.” The group says it took on “voter suppression and engaged new and hard-to-reach voters” in 2021, focusing on expanding voting access in the key states of Nevada, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The Open Society Policy Center’s website lists a single donation of $23.9 million to the group in 2021 to “support nonpartisan voter engagement in multiple states,” according to its website.

America Votes, a 501(c)(4), raised over $245 million and doled out over $170 million in grants from July 2020 through June 2021, according to its most recent tax disclosure. Its top contributions included a $14 million donation to Family Friendly Action PAC, a super PAC that spent $7.2 million backing Democratic candidates running for Congress during the 2022 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets. It also donated $9.7 million toward Black PAC, a super PAC that spent $9.5 million during the recent midterms supporting Democrats.

Empowering advocates

Amy Kurtz, the president of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, pointed to the Open Society Foundations website for more information on its donations from the Soros backed groups. The Sixteen Thirty Fund raised over $189 million in 2021, according to their latest 990 disclosure.

“At a time when the extreme right wing is better funded than ever and threatening our rights and democratic institutions like never before, Sixteen Thirty Fund is meeting these threats head on,” Kurtz said in an email. “As a fiscal sponsor, Sixteen Thirty Fund empowers advocates and philanthropists to quickly and efficiently launch campaigns to tackle today’s toughest challenges. The administrative, legal, and HR support we offer is critical so public-interest efforts can focus on working to improve the lives of all Americans.”

All the other organizations mentioned in this story who received funding from the Open Society Policy Center did not return a request for comment.

Correction: The headline and two references in the story were updated to correct the year in which the donations were made. They were made in 2021.

Alibaba, other China ADRs surge as Ant Group capital plan approval fuels hope for relaxing scrutiny

Alibaba has faced growth challenges amid regulatory tightening on China’s domestic technology sector and a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. But analysts think the e-commerce giant’s growth could pick up through the rest of 2022.

Kuang Da | Jiemian News | VCG | Getty Images

Chinese tech stocks that trade in the U.S. jumped Wednesday morning after Chinese officials approved an expanded capital plan from Ant Group.

American depositary receipt shares of Alibaba jumped more than 6% in premarket trading after the news, as did stock of JD.com. Elsewhere, shares of Baidu and NetEase rose more than 5% each, while Trip.com popped 4.5%.

The moves come as investors are seeing signs of a more relaxed Chinese regulatory environment. Ant Group, which previously had its own IPO plans scuttled by regulatory concerns, was allowed to double its registered capital as part of the new plan.

A softer regulatory touch among its tech stocks, as well as the reversal of zero-Covid policies, is seen by some investors as a sign the Chinese government will be supportive of private sector growth this year.

“China has struck a notably accommodating tone in recent months, pivoting away from its stringent COVID controls and dialing back its regulations on previously highly depressed sectors (i.e., property). The recent Central Economic Work Conference (CEWC) has set government’s priority for 2023 to revive consumption and support the private sector,” Fawne Jiang of Benchmark wrote in a note to clients Wednesday.

ADRs are similar to common stock, but represent a more indirect form of ownership. They also allow Chinese shares to trade in the U.S. without the companies having to follow U.S. accounting regulations, which has led to concern that they may be delisted at some point.

However, last month the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board — a U.S. accounting watchdog — announced it had received access to examine accounting firms in China and Hong Kong. That move is seen as a positive step in lowering the risk of delisting.

— CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

Correction: Chinese tech stocks that trade in the U.S. jumped Wednesday morning. An earlier version misstated the day.

Europe begins New Year with historic winter heat, ski resorts close

Poland’s capital of Warsaw recorded temperatures of 18.9 degrees Celsius on Jan. 1; more than 5 degrees Celsius above the previous record set 30 years ago.

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

A winter heatwave smashed several national temperature records across Europe over the New Year’s weekend, prompting meteorologists to sound the alarm, while some ski resorts were forced to close due to an absence of snow.

January temperatures reached an all-time high in several European states, with national records set in at least seven countries.

Polish capital Warsaw recorded temperatures of 18.9 degrees Celsius (66 degrees Fahrenheit) on Jan. 1 — more than 5 degrees Celsius above the previous record set 30 years ago.

Northern Spanish city Bilbao logged 24.9 degrees Celsius on New Year’s Day — temperatures that might typically be expected at the start of July. Switzerland experienced 20 degrees Celsius on Sunday.

Warm weather and low snowfall forced some low-altitude ski resorts in the northern Alps and French Pyrenees to close a few weeks after opening.

Among the European countries that recorded their hottest days in history were the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Belarus, Latvia and Lithuania.

Regional records were also broken in France, Germany and Ukraine.

The most extreme event ever seen in European climatology.

Maximiliano Herrera

climatologist

Meteorologists and climatologists expressed alarm over the unseasonably warm winter weather, saying there were “too many records to count” and that many of the overnight minimum temperatures were comparable to summer.

“We just observed the warmest January day on record for many countries in Europe,” Scottish meteorologist Scott Duncan said via Twitter.

“Truly unprecedented in modern records,” Duncan said Sunday, adding that the intensity and extent of the warmth across the region was “hard to comprehend.”

Many ski resorts in Bavaria are currently suffering from a lack of snow.

Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Maximiliano Herrera, a climatologist who tracks global weather extremes, described the temperature records as “the most extreme event ever seen in European climatology.” In remarks reported by The Washington Post on Monday, Herrera added, “Nothing stands close to this.”

Guillaume Séchet, a broadcast meteorologist in France, said Europe had “experienced one of the most incredible climatic days in history” on the first day of 2023.

Winter heat follows record-breaking summer

Apple, Amazon lost a ‘staggering’ $800 billion in market cap in 2022

Sometimes a little perspective is needed to really drive home the magnitude of a specific statistic. That’s the case with the gigantic losses tallied by Apple and Amazon last year.

The two stocks were the biggest losers of market cap in 2022. Apple shed $846.34 billion in value and Amazon lost $834.06 billion. Market cap measures the combined value of all of a company’s stock.

The value shed by each of the two companies dwarfs the total size of other household tech stocks. Bespoke Investment Group called the numbers “staggering” in a tweet.

Amazon’s stock sunk as the company’s earnings floundered and fourth-quarter guidance was dispiriting. Its performance was in line with the tech sector more broadly, which has been hurt by rising interest rates, slowing internet advertising and other factors.

BTIG's Jonathan Krinsky offers the technical take on Apple and Tesla

Despite being one of the few big tech names to avoid an earnings plunge, Apple still struggled as questions swirled around the popularity of its new products and it faced difficulty with iPhone 14 shipments during the holiday season due to Covid-19 restrictions at its main China factory.

The personal tech titan also has slowed the pace of hiring along with others in the sector as concerns grew over a potential recession, which could dilute demand as consumers delay purchases of big-ticket items to save money. Apple stock shed 3.7% in trading Tuesday — hitting a 52-week low as its market cap fell below $2 trillion for the first time since May.

But what can get lost in the data is just how large these two companies are within the stock market. Compared with peer Meta Platforms‘ $315.56 billion year-end market cap, Amazon was more than twice the size at $856.94 billion. On Dec. 30, Apple was multiple times that size at $2.067 trillion.

In fact, what each of the two stocks shed in one year alone is more than double the size of Meta’s complete market cap.

That $830 billion loss alone is the equivalent of

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