Archive for the ‘corruption’ tag
Happy weekend, everyone. It may only be Saturday, but a kettle of vultures is already circling above the heads of Americans. Here are a few highlights of shameless crooks, cons, and the Wall Street Journal.
While the economy was collapsing, the government was busy throwing billions of dollars at their buddies responsible for the chaos, and you contemplated if you would have to kill the family dog and eat it to live, members of the House Financial Services Committee were cashing in on the action.
Anticipating bargains or profits or just trying to unload before the bottom fell out, these members of the House Financial Services Committee or brokers on their behalf were buying and selling stocks including Bank of America and Citigroup — some of the very corporations their committee would later rap for greed, a Plain Dealer examination of congressional stock market transactions shows.
You’re welcome, taxpayers. The list of representatives (originally posted on Cleveland.com’s Metro) include:
– Charlie Wilson (D-OH): Managed to stop crying for Americans long enough to make his stock trades on the same day the banks were getting a government bailout. Wilson sold between $15,001 and $50,000 worth of Huntington Bancshares stock on the same day Huntington got $1.4 billion in TARP bailout.
– Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL): Bought Citigroup stock valued between $1,001 and $15,000 the day before the House passed the financial rescue bill and President Bush signed it into law, records show. She opposed the bill. Eleven days later, she bought $1,001 to $15,000 worth of Bank of America stock on the same day that Paulson told leading banks that they would have to accept billions in bailout money to prevent a financial meltdown. Brown-Waite now works for the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
– Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY): took a novel approach and blamed everything on her account managers. McCarthy purchased a $2,275 bailout recipient J.P. Morgan Chase while Congress was still writing its rescue bill.
– Jackie Speier (D-CA): bought up to $15,000 in Citigroup stock 10 days after the bank got a $25 billion bailout. Her office says the report was filed in error, the transaction should have been listed as her husband’s (Speier apparently doesn’t share money with her husband,) and she wants us all to know that she wishes he had not made it.
– Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV): Capito’s stockbroker husband sold more than $100,000 in Citigroup stock in several transactions late last year. His brokerage firm was owned by Citigroup and his compensation included Citigroup stock. A Capito spokesman said the House Ethics Committee gave her verbal approval to join the committee despite her husband’s job.
– Judith Biggert (R-IL): Also from the magnanimous House Ethics Committee, and another lady whose husband landed her in hot water when he sold Wells Fargo stock while Congress was helping to shape the rescue bill. Biggert said she does not discuss stock transactions with her spouse, and asked the press if it was still 1956. (I made that last part up.)
Meanwhile, Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein reports that from 2000 through 2008 the top 20 most active health care companies sponsored 192 trips worth more than $380,000 for dozens of politicians and staff. The list of health care companies includes Pfizer, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck & Co.
“‘Corruption is government intrusion into market efficiencies in the form of regulations.’ That’s Milton Friedman. He got a goddamn Nobel Prize! We have laws against it precisely so we can get away with it! Corruption is our protection! Corruption keeps us safe and warm! Corruption is why you and I are prancing around in here instead of fighting over scraps of meat out in the streets! Corruption is why we win!”
The quote is from the film Syriana, and the character that delivers the passionate/delusional diatribe is Danny Dalton, a Texas oilman and member of Committee to Liberate Iran. Dalton is a patsy, and is being charged with “corruption” in order to protect a much larger, much more corrupt corporation standing behind him. He’s a fall-guy, and that’s why he flies off the handle.
Watching the Bush administration and Wall Street executives’ gulp and thrash like beached fish made me think of little Dalton. The stock market isn’t a force of nature. It takes men and women (but mostly men) creating very corrupt policies to create America’s initial wealth, and then her downfall.
Everyone needs to stop acting like they’re surprised by the recession. It’s not cute, and it’s painfully insincere.
There’s been a proliferation of handwringing and philosophizing about what caused the economic collapse, why there was little impetus to aggressively address a rotting subprime industry, why our politicians were too lazy, slow, or indifferent to do something to address Wall Street’s broken ways.
Times of economic woes are the only time our society collectively examines the Free Market, and the effects of globalization — rarely on the world — but on us, Americans. How will this screw us? How long will it last? How will this vast machine affect us parochially?
Americans pretend like this is the others’ problem, and that they don’t also benefit from our corrupt society. Wall Street practices are certainly corrupt, but the problem isn’t contained to mortgage lenders, banks, and insurance companies. It’s pandemic and it has infected every facet of the American way of life.
The dirty truth no one wants to admit is that corruption floats America to the top. Only by utilizing cheap labor, deregulation, and speculative lending can our markets create extraordinary wealth. Wall Street occasionally acts as though it has just awoken from a strange nightmare because it’s necessary to act moral every now and then, namely when the press shows up.
Now is the time financial experts act like they have no idea how market bubbles inflate, CEOs get bonuses 100 times their annual salaries, and people like Bernie Madoff exist.
Regulation is trendy right now, but what that actually entails may surprise Americans. If our government seriously regulated the Free Market, and extended that moral behavior to the international community with living wages and humane worker conditions, it would profoundly change the way Americans live.
The price of our food, clothing, and other goods would increase. Fuel would skyrocket. Everything would be more expensive, and we would have to do with a lot less. CEOs would surrender their penthouses and yachts. Certain exotic fruits like bananas would suddenly cost much more now that Central American workers are permitted to unionize and demand living wages.
On the plus side, maybe less children would die and more people could have a shot at stability and happiness. Maybe cases of infectious disease would decline. Maybe people would drive less. Maybe we could save the world.
Of course, Americans would have to sacrifice, and they have a history of hating that. But things are changing now. There’s a murmur in this society, and it seems to be saying: Our way of life is broken. We need to fundamentally change the way we live.
People want regulation. They want less enormous wealth and extraordinary poverty. They want balance and justice. But they have to stop looking to the men that made the corruption to fix the problem. Americans have to demand the presence of independent sheriffs to watch industry 24/7 in order to right the wrongs of our corrupt past.
If regulation actually existed, things would be a lot less cushy for Americans, which would probably be a good thing, but some may suddenly miss that corruption that kept them so sheltered for so long.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested today by FBI agents on federal corruption charges.
Updated at 9:17 a.m.: Blagojevich also was alleged to be using a favors list, made up largely of individuals and firms that have state contracts or received taxpayer benefits, from which to conduct a $2.5 million fundraising drive before year’s end.
Even Blagojevich’s recently announced $1.8 billion plan for new interchanges and “green lanes” on the Illinois Tollway was subject to corruption, prosecutors alleged.
The complaint repeatedly references conversations secretly recorded by federal authorities.
The criminal complaint alleges Blagojevich expected an unnamed highway concrete contractor to raise a half-million dollars for his campaign fund in exchange for state money for the tollway project. “If they don’t perform, (expletive) ‘em,” Blagojevich said, according to the complaint.
Updated at 9:08 a.m.: Blagojevich and Harris were arrested simultaneously at their homes at about 6:15 a.m., according to the FBI. They were transported to FBI headquarters in Chicago, where they remained at 9 a.m.
Updated at 9 a.m.: Blagojevich is slated to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan today at a time that has not yet been scheduled, according to Randall Samborn of the U.S. attorney’s office.
Updated at 8:57 a.m.: On the issue of the U.S. Senate selection, federal prosecutors alleged Blagojevich sought appointment as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the new Obama administration, or a lucrative job with a union in exchange for appointing a union-preferred candidate.
Blagojevich and Harris conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of Blagojevich in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned by Tribune Co.
Blagojevich and Harris, along with others, obtained and sought to gain financial benefits for the governor, members of his family and his campaign fund in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions, state jobs and state contracts.
“The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering,” U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement. “They allege that Blagojevich put a ‘for sale’ sign on the naming of a United States senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism.”
Blagojevich and Harris were accused of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy that included Blagojevich conspiring to sell or trade the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama in exchange for financial benefits for the governor and his wife. The governor was also accused of obtaining campaign contributions in exchange for other official actions.
Blagojevich was taken into federal custody at his North Side home this morning.
A Blagojevich spokesman said he was unaware of the development. “Haven’t heard anything — you are first to call,” Lucio Guerrero said in an e-mail.
The stunning, early morning visit by authorities to the governor’s North Side home came amid revelations that federal investigators had recorded the governor with the cooperation of a longtime confidant and had begun to focus on the possibility that the process of choosing a Senate successor to President-elect Barack Obama could be tainted by pay-to-play politics.
Blagojevich was taken into custody hours after the Tribune reported that the investigation into allegations of pay-to-play politics within his administration had been expanded to include his pending choice of a Senate replacement for Obama. The Democratic governor has said he expects to make a decision on the state’s next senator in weeks.
Sources told the Tribune that investigators intensified their investigation into Blagojevich amid concerns that the process of choosing a new senator could be tainted. The actions by federal authorities came a day before Blagojevich’s 52nd birthday.
The Tribune previously disclosed that federal investigators had recordings of Blagojevich. Those recordings were aided by the cooperation of longtime Blagojevich confidant and former congressional chief of staff John Wyma.
On Monday, Blagojevich said he has done nothing wrong in his stewardship of the state and challenged critics to record him because his discussions were “always lawful.”
By Zachary Roth
Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman says that new revelations about his prosecution amount to “outrageous criminal conduct in the US Attorney’s office and the Department of Justice,” and are “more frightening than anything that has come before.” And he believes that his case is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of politicized prosecutions by DOJ.
Siegelman was reacting in an interview with TPMmuckraker to the news, first reported this morning by Time, that the US Attorney on his case, who had recused herself because her husband was a top GOP operative who had worked closely with Karl Rove – and even run the 2002 campaign of Siegelman’s gubernatorial opponent — continued to advise prosecutors on the case.
At times while speaking to TPMmuckraker, Siegelman appeared to have trouble maintaining his composure. He called the news — which came from a whistleblower in the US Attorney’s office who passed on emails and other information to the House Judiciary Commitee — “another shocking revelation in the misconduct of the US attorneys offices and the DOJ.”
The news appears to contradict previous statements from DOJ on the matter. When Congress investigated the affair earlier this year, DOJ had said that the US Attorney, Leura Canary, had recused herself “before any significant decisions … were made.”
Siegelman continued: “If what [the whistleblower] says is true, it’s one issue. But the fact that it was never disclosed to the defense or the judge, and then was covered up by DOJ, is a crime, even if what she said wasn’t true.”
He added: “At every stage of this investigation, either by lawyers or the House Judiciary Committee, DOJ has refused to turn over documents” or otherwise cooperate.
The authenticity of the key emails provided by the whistleblower has not been questioned, according to Time.
Siegelman also said he was shocked by other revelations from the whistleblower, including that one of the jurors had expressed romantic interest in an FBI agent working with prosecutors. He called it “astounding” that this hadn’t been revealed to the judge and the defense.
And Siegelman, a Democrat, left no doubt that he believes that the apparent politicization of his prosecution was just one example of many such cases. “If this were isolated to just the middle district of Alabama, it would be shocking enough. But I guarantee this kind of misbehavior has been going on all over the country.”
He added: “Whoever is the new Attorney General has to be strong enough to weed out the Karl Rove clones who have been embedded in US Attorneys’ offices throughout the United States. If not, it is going to eat at our system for years to come.”
At one point, Siegelman turned philosophical: “If I’ve been put through this for a reason, it’s to expose the fact that this is not an isolated incident. I am prayerful that Congress will dig in and demand the truth. These folks have got to be weeded out.”