Archive for the ‘Corruption’ Category
While slamming Democrats, [American Postal Workers Union president Mark] Dimondstein reserved special condemnation for Issa, the Republicans’ leading voice on postal reform. Noting that Issa had proposed eliminating Saturday postal service as part of a bill undoing veterans’ pension cuts, the union president called the congressman “a pure enemy of the Postal Service…”
This is, of course, a half-truth. In fact, Issa has shown himself to be an enemy of all public services, including free parks and libraries. He has consistently advocated the privatization of all govt functions, proposing that even police and military be replaced by private security firms and fire depts be paid for by subscription. So it really isn’t fair for the postal workers’ union to single him out. Still, it’s typical of the Issa wing of the party (the wing which is, after all, in control of the party) to attach an attack on a public union to a bill cutting veterans’ benefits. Sort of a Pub’s Dream Two-fer.
An Issa “spokesperson” (you can never get these guys to reply personally to any communication from the hoi-polloi) replied to the union’s criticism this way:
This false claim about privatization is being pushed by entrenched special interests who oppose common sense and bipartisan reforms in both House and Senate postal modernization bills.
“Special interests” may be accurately considered as a reference to unions since Issa defines “public interest” as anything a corporation wants, but the interesting word here is “false”. Whenever Issa and his people have claimed that some unpleasant fact reported about this peppy little stooge of the powerful was “false”, all the evidence proved it was true, which in turns mean this flat denial likely proves it’s exactly what this is all about.
The most obvious question here is: did Staples contribute to Issa’s campaign and if so how much? But Salon’s reporter, Josh Eidelson never asks – let alone answers – that question. Instead he delves deeply into Dianne Feinstein’s husband’s connections to Staples (to no very great effect) because he’s suspicious of La F’s refusal to support the union’s preferred bill (offered by Vermont senator Bernie Sanders), a bill he doesn’t bother to explain.
It seems that even “progressives” can’t bring themselves to directly attack extreme corporate puppets like Issa, who has never had a thought a corporation didn’t put in his head.
PS I don’t have to explain why privatizing the Post Office is a really bad idea, do I?
OK, so you can’t generalize too much nationally from the fucked up politics of NY state but otoh this is such a shining example of the state of the Democratic party that it’s howling for attention. Two NY Blue Dog Dems just voted with their GOP colleagues to turn the leadership of the Democrat-controlled Senate over to the Pubs. To quote Rosalind Russell, “Ain’t it perfect?”
Republicans regained control of the New York State Senate on Monday afternoon, winning support from two dissident Democrats in a surprise power-sharing deal. The sudden coup effectively ended Democratic control of Albany after five months and allowed Dean G. Skelos of Long Island to reclaim the title of majority leader, replacing Malcolm A. Smith of Queens.
The raucous leadership fight erupted on the floor of the Senate around 3 p.m., with two Democrats, Mr. Espada and Hiram Monserrate of Queens, joining the 30 Senate Republicans in a series of parliamentary maneuvers. Democrats tried to stall, storming from the chamber and even turning off the lights, but Republicans continued the session and elected new leadership.
Both Mr. Espada and Mr. Monserrate said they still considered themselves Democrats.
“Why?” is the question. Not “Why did they do it?” That question is easily answered, at least in the case of Mr Espada.
The shakeup also left Pedro Espada Jr., a Bronx Democrat, as president of the Senate….
Tom Golisano, the Rochester billionaire who recently announced he was moving to Florida because of New York’s high taxes, played a major role in brokering the deal.
Nothing like a little bribery to liven up your day. Or some pressure from a pissed off billionaire who thinks his taxes are too high. Never mind that he thinks the fact that he has to pay any taxes at all is a shame and a disgrace because he’s so special.
Bush Lobbyist Caught Selling Access to VP Cheney in Return for Donations to Bush Library/Propaganda Center (Updated)
Well, I’m not surprised.
The Sunday London Times is reporting that big-time Bush lobbyist Stephen Payne is busy these days selling access to Dick Cheney in return for (sizable) donations to the Bush Library and Propaganda Center.
The images on the tiny screen of Stephen Payne’s personal organiser told a clear story: this was a man with connections at the highest level.
One showed Payne uprooting dead trees side by side with George W Bush on the US president’s Texas ranch. Another depicted him skeet shooting next to Dick Cheney, the vice-president, and a third grinning for the camera alongside Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state.
The man on the other side of the table from Payne at the Lanesborough hotel in central London last week appeared impressed by the contents of the BlackBerry. He was a familiar figure, a Kazakh politician Payne knew as Eric Dos.
Dos, whose full name is Yerzhan Dosmukhamedov, told Payne that he was representing another foreign political figure who was looking to meet the top people in the US government.
Dos had good reason for believing that Payne could make it happen. Payne has accompanied Bush and Cheney on foreign trips to the Middle East and Asia, and he sits on the influential advisory council to the Department of Homeland Security. Payne is also president of a lobbying company, Worldwide Strategic Partners (WSP), which specialises in connecting business and political interests with the US government.
Dos told Payne that the politician needing help was Askar Akayev, the former president of the central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan.
Akayev, who is in exile in Moscow after being ousted from power three years ago in a people’s revolt, was seeking an endorsement from senior US figures in order to help rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the world, Dos told Payne.
“Who does he want to meet with in Washington?” asked the American. Dos replied: “Well of course, maybe the president of the United States, vice-president Cheney, to speak maybe directly to explain the situation in central Asia . . . To give his side of the story. These kind of things.”
“I think that some things could be done,” said Payne, adding that seeing Bush himself might be more difficult. With barely a pause, he continued:
“I think that the family, children, whatever [of Akayev], should probably look at making a contribution to the Bush library.
“It would be like, maybe a couple of hundred thousand dollars, or something like that, not a huge amount but enough to show that they’re serious.”
Whew! That’s a relief. For a minute there I thought we were talking about real money. $200K for a visit with L’il Dick so a deposed dictator could have a sympathetic audience listen to “his side of the story”? Cheap at twice the price. And who knows? L’il Dick can understand the pain of autocrats slung out of their country for torture, theft (isn’t Akayev the one who boiled his political opponents in oil?). He might be looking at something similar himself one of these days. Maybe he’ll invade Kyrgyzstan and give the guy back his country if he promises to join the worldwide WOT and turn Kyrgyzstan’s oil fields over to Halliburton and Chevron for management/sale.
Hey, it’s doable. Disgusting but doable.
I wish I could say this means the Bushies have struck rock bottom but selling access for $$$ is what they do. what they’ve been doing for years.
The scandal isn’t that a BushBaby is breaking the law. This is minor for these guys. The scandal is that I have to read about it in the foreign press. The reporter was undercover – a concept the US press abandoned after the Food Lion fiasco because it wasn’t fair to corporate pirates and their willingness to poison us for a buck or two – and he recorded the conversation (legal, despite conservative howling to the contrary). Who these days in the US could imagine such a thing happening? Not me.
Dos said that in the autumn of 2005 he had been asked by the Kazakh government, via Kulibayev, to arrange a visit by Cheney. The intention was to improve the country’s international standing.
Dos had spent several days negotiating with Payne. A deal was eventually agreed, he said, and he understood that a payment of $2m was passed, via a Kazakh oil and gas company, to Payne’s firm.
The following May, Cheney made a brief trip to Kazakhstan. His visit was remarked upon in the media at the time, both for the lavish praise which he publicly heaped on Nazarbayev and for the stark contrast between this and a speech he had made just a day earlier at a conference in Lithuania in which he had lambasted Russia for being insufficiently democratic. Now he was lauding Nazarbayev, who has effectively made himself president for life and in whose country it is an offence to criticise him.
“Why did Cheney castigate Russia’s imperfect democracy while saying not a word about Kazakhstan’s shameless travesty of the democratic system?” said one newspaper following the visit. “Cheney’s flattery of the Kazakh regime was sickening,” said another.
Hey! Cheney is an honorable man. If he takes money to fluff a country, bigod, he fluffs that country! No matter what kind of hellish conditions he has to ignore. He lives up to his contracts.
Some of them…
I don’t imagine this is serious enough to get much attention as a scandal. It’s pretty small potatoes for the Bushies. So maybe SMU doesn’t really have to worry very much about the soiling of its reputation that bribery on behalf of the school will inevitably bring about. Maybe they don’t think it’s any big deal considering they’re willing to look past torture. Maybe they think John Wesley would take a laissez-faire approach to White House corruption, spying, theft, and contempt for the law. Maybe that’s all OK with Methodists now.
Apparently it must be, because the Bishops have been perfectly willing to bow to Bush pressure and overlook all of it. What’s one more crime more or less? Bribery? Fagh. Who cares?
Clearly the Methodist bishops don’t.
UPDATE: (7/15/08) Lindsay Beyerstein has dug up a lot more at Majikthese.
In a surprise move, the Democratically-controlled Senate decided this week not to ignore HUD Sec Alphonso Jackson’s unethical (if not criminal) behavior in punishing Philly’s housing director because he wouldn’t turn a piece of property over to one of Alphonso’s buds. In a move that was anything but a surprise coming from a Bush appointee, Jackson ducked the Senators’ questions.
Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson twice last week declined to directly answer senators’ questions about allegations that he and his agency sought to punish a housing authority for refusing to help one of Jackson’s friends.Senators were focused on a January 2007 e-mail exchange, first reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday, in which two of Jackson’s assistant secretaries discussed how they could make the Philadelphia Housing Authority director’s life “less happy” by taking away the authority’s federal funds.In a recent lawsuit against the Department of Housing and Urban Development, authority director Carl R. Greene accused the agency of moving to strip his office of about $50 million based on exaggerated claims that the authority was not providing enough accessible housing. He asserts that it was retaliation for rebuffing Jackson’s earlier demands that Greene give a $2 million vacant authority property to developer Kenny Gamble, a friend of Jackson’s.Jackson, when asked about retaliation accusations by Senate banking committee members Wednesday, said he could not discuss the matter because it is the subject of a lawsuit against his agency. He said a gag order prevented him from commenting.
But when Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said he had learned that the judge’s gag order did not prohibit Jackson from answering senators’ questions, Jackson acknowledged Thursday at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing that he had learned he could discuss the matter. Reading from a written statement, however, Jackson said he did not have any firsthand information about the e-mails and learned of them the day before they were published. He later sidestepped several questions about any personal role he played in the dispute with the Philadelphia agency.
Does this guy fit right in, or what?
In the wake of a sex scandal that, for once, features a Democrat (we thought the GOP had a trademark on those for awhile), the bruhaha over what Eliot Spitzer does in his off-hours and the predictable outrage over his hypocrisy (a facility Pubs lack when it comes to condemning their own) has acted as an effective blockade to keeping out of the public’s awareness two other GOP scandals that would otherwise be grabbing headlines and blogs everywhere – scandals that are far more important to the safety and welfare of the country than what the NY Gov does with his dick.
The first is brought to us courtesy of Thomas Nephew at newsrack:
There’s a storm brewing out in Nevada that ought to be much bigger than the one surrounding Eliot Spitzer: people’s health and lives are at risk because of shoddy medical practices — and neglectful oversight.
As the Wall Street Journal’s Scott Hensley explains, a Las Vegas endoscopy clinic has been reusing syringes; everyone subsequently tested with reused syringes is potentially exposed to infected equipment (see here for a graphic). Six cases of acute hepatitis C have been traced to the clinic, and as many as 40,000 people are at risk for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV according to the Las Vegas Sun.
What does this have to do with Nevada’s GOP Gov Jim Gibbons? Well, he cut 10 inspectors from his budget and threatened to veto any bill that funded them. Plus:
[T]he doctor involved is close enough with Governor Gibbons to have been on his health care working group transition team — and was the head of the state board of medical examiners until 2003.
It’s all too familiar: a conservative ideologue hires one of his buddies to protect corporate interests rather than ours. It’s an old familiar story.
We’ve seen this before, of course: a pattern of deliberate neglect of safety, levees, infrastructure, or anything else that might be worthwhile government functions by ideologues more interested in cutting government than in protecting the public welfare. Rick Perlstein has been writing about what he calls “E. coli conservatism” ever since the incidents of tainted spinach and other produce of last year.
The other comes via a WaPo report detailing how upper level management at Alphonso Jackson’s HUD deliberately targeted Philadelphia Housing Director Carl Greene after he refused to do a very suspicious and most likely unethical (if not outright illegal) favor for one of Jackson’s buds.
After Philadelphia‘s housing director refused a demand by President Bush‘s housing secretary to transfer a piece of city property to a business friend, two top political appointees at the department exchanged e-mails discussing the pain they could cause the Philadelphia director.“Would you like me to make his life less happy? If so, how?” Orlando J. Cabrera, then-assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, wrote about Philadelphia housing director Carl R. Greene.”Take away all of his Federal dollars?” responded Kim Kendrick, an assistant secretary who oversaw accessible housing. She typed symbols for a smiley-face, “:-D,” at the end of her January 2007 note.
Cabrera wrote back a few minutes later: “Let me look into that possibility.”
The e-mails, obtained by The Washington Post, came to light as a result of a lawsuit provoked by HUD’s decision last September to strip the Philadelphia Housing Authority of as much as $50 million in federal funds. In December, it declared the agency in violation of rules that underpin its ability to decide precisely how it will spend federal housing funds. Kendrick was the official who formally notified the authority that she had found it in violation.
Alphonso is the guy who has held up Katrina Relief funds for 3 years on Bush’s orders and refused to allow former New Orleans residents to return to their homes even though those homes were not damaged by the storm and are perfectly livable. A real sweetheart, that boy. Apparently his closest aides share his questionable values – and tactics.
But don’t expect either Gibbons or Cabrera to pop up on your favorite news show. After all, NY’s Democratic Gov fucked a woman he wasn’t married to, and in the GOP-controlled conservative media, that’s a BIG story. Gibbons’ exposing Nevadans to potential death to save a few bucks? Ho hum. The Asst Sec of HUD taking housing away from thousands in Philly because the director wouldn’t play ball with the Bush Admin’s rampant corruption regimen? *YAWN*
It’s life as usual in the GOP Monkey House, and neither Roger Ailes nor Matt Drudge is interested. Ergo, no scandal, no reports, no story.
Last month, the Rev Andrew Weaver, one of the leaders of the opposition to the Bush propaganda center masquerading as a presidential “library” that’s proposed for the campus of Southern Methodist University, sent me a link to an article he’d written for Media Transparency. It’s an astounding piece detailing conflicts of interest on the part of the SMU Board so serious that they approach corruption. Rev Weaver begins by noting that the campaign to site the library at SMU has been years in the making.
To convince the United Methodist Church (UMC) to stain its good name and a major university to give away its academic respectability by linking itself with a president that much of the world views as an authoritarian bully (Public Diplomacy, 2005; World Public Opinion, 2007) who has authorized and advocated for torture and international kidnapping is one nifty trick (Miles, 2006; Grey, 2006). Such an endeavor required skilled operators and years of stealth planning (Schutze, 2006), which according to SMU President R. Gerald Turner began in 2001, shortly after Bush became president. It required that the SMU administration hide its intentions from its faculty and from church leaders who would understand that a partisan institute lacking standard academic controls, whose mission undoubtedly will include justifying crimes against humanity, would be a bad idea (Weaver and Crawford, 2007). To achieve these goals Bush needs powerful friends in high places and he has them in the SMU Trustees.
He sure does. The Board is packed with family friends.
At least 25 of the 41 trustees (61 percent) have personal, financial, and/or political relationships with Bush, and many have been major fundraisers and contributors to his political campaigns. Furthermore, one of the three United Methodist bishops who serve as SMU trustees, Scott Jones, publicly endorsed the Bush project months before a formal proposal was even presented to the Board (Tooley, 2007).
Twenty-two of the trustees have donated to one or more of the Bush political campaigns and/or the Republican National Committee in support of Bush….
Whoosh. So a comfortable majority of the Board are Bush Babies and the vast majority of them are actual Bush donors. “Conflict of interest” is putting it mildly.
This is almost too perfect.
Paul Wolfowitz (AP photo by Yves Logghe), along with Richard Perle one of the main architects of the Iraq invasion and shoved upstairs to be President of the World Bank, may be about to lose his job for using his influence to get his girlfriend a job in the Bush Administration for which she was, shall we say, marginally qualified. Brought before a World Bank investigating committee, Wolfie promptly blamed…the World Bank.
In a 10-page statement addressed to the chairman of the investigating committee, Wolfowitz reiterated his assertion that he was merely following the instructions of the bank’s ethics committee when he arranged a job transfer and substantial pay raise for his companion, Shaha Riza, shortly after arriving at the bank.
But in a new characterization, Wolfowitz asserted that the ethics dispute, far from an indictment of him personally, amounts to a shared institutional breakdown. He portrayed the crisis as a misunderstanding — the product of decent intentions gone awry, combined with vague and dubious bank rules.
“While I am prepared to acknowledge that we all acted in good faith at the time and there was perhaps some confusion and miscommunication among us, it is grossly unfair and wrong to suggest that I intended to mislead anyone, and I urge the committee to reject the allegation that I lack credibility,” Wolfowitz wrote. “Rather than attempt to adjudicate between our conflicting interpretations of the events that occurred here, the board should recognize that this situation is the product of ambiguous bank rules and unclear governance mechanisms.”
Amazing, isn’t it? The president of one of the most complex financial organizations in the world didn’t realize that nepotism was wrong because the WB’s ethics rules confused him.
There are two things you can say about the conservative American oligarchy and their elitist enablers that are undeniably true.
- There is no bottom to their greed. They want it all, and they want it without so much as a smell of accompanying responsibility or risk.
- They can’t tell right from wrong without a scorecard.
Maybe that’s why corporations and the out-of-control rich don’t like rules: they don’t understand them.
When it became obvious last week that the Democratic-controlled Foreign Relations Committee was unlikely to confirm big Republic donor and bankroller of the SwiftBoatLiars Sam Fox to the Ambassadorship in Belgium, Bush pulled one of his usual tricks and sidestepped the Congress by making Fox’s an interim appointment.
President Bush used the Congressional recess on Wednesday to push through his choice to be ambassador to Belgium and to fill two domestic policy positions, provoking Democratic ire with all three appointments.
The ambassadorship will be filled by Sam Fox, a major Republican donor who had withdrawn his name for the job in late March when it became clear that Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee were lining up against him.
Mr. Fox donated $50,000 to the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that opposed Senator John Kerry during his 2004 presidential campaign. The group attacked Mr. Kerry’s record in the Vietnam War with advertising that included unsubstantiated accusations that he had not earned his war medals.
“It’s sad but not surprising that this White House would abuse the power of the presidency to reward a donor over the objections of the Senate,” Mr. Kerry said Wednesday in a statement. “Unfortunately, when this White House can’t win the game, they just change the rules, and America loses.”
Kerry is, of course, absolutely right. Rewarding campaign contributors and acting like a monarch rather than a democratically-elected president is what Bush does. No surprise there. Fox paid for an Ambassadorship and by gawd, Bush is making sure he gets what he paid for. They might as well tack the sign up on the White House door and be done with it:
For Sale to the Highest Bidder
(See Karl Rove for details)
Update: More on the legalities of the Fox appointment at dKos.
This one appears headed to the courts.
First of all, there’s a question whether a recess appointment can be made with someone who doesn’t even have a pending confirmation in the Senate. Sam Fox’s nomination had been pulled from the Senate by Bush.
But that’s not the only legal problem with the recess appointment….
(Link via Norwegianity)
Tom DeLay, the Cockroach King, who has effortlessly made everybody’s list of the Top Ten Most Corrupt Republican Officials against pretty stiff competition from the likes of Dick ‘Halliburton’s still paying me and you can go fuck yourself if you don’t like it’ Cheney and Junior ‘Sure that government agency is for sale, Kenny-Boy, the prices are pinned to the bulletin board’ Bush, is once again up to his ear-holes in a scheme to break the only campaign financing law Texas has (not a joke–literally true).
In May 2001, Enron’s top lobbyists in Washington advised the company chairman that then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was pressing for a $100,000 contribution to his political action committee, in addition to the $250,000 the company had already pledged to the Republican Party that year.DeLay requested that the new donation come from “a combination of corporate and personal money from Enron’s executives,” with the understanding that it would be partly spent on “the redistricting effort in Texas,” said the e-mail to Kenneth L. Lay from lobbyists Rick Shapiro and Linda Robertson.
The e-mail, which surfaced in a subsequent federal probe of Houston-based Enron, is one of at least a dozen documents obtained by The Washington Post that show DeLay and his associates directed money from corporations and Washington lobbyists to Republican campaign coffers in Texas in 2001 and 2002 as part of a plan to redraw the state’s congressional districts.
DeLay and his colleagues…face serious legal challenges: Texas law bars corporate financing of state legislature campaigns, and a Texas criminal prosecutor is in the 20th month of digging through records of the fundraising, looking at possible violations of at least three statutes. A parallel lawsuit, also in the midst of discovery, is seeking $1.5 million in damages from DeLay’s aides and one of his political action committees — Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC) — on behalf of four defeated Democratic lawmakers.
So DeLay financed an unethical, immoral, and anti-democratic re-districting maneuver with illegal corporate money. Actually, for the guy who made a children’s charity a Republican fund-raising front and pioneered the tactic of having state’s AG’s threaten corporations with investigations if they didn’t donate enough scratch, this is pretty tame stuff. A mere technicality, comparatively.
It’s instructive, though, that the top of the Republican House leadership totem pole can’t even manage to obey the one, tiny anti-corruption law on the Texas books. I guess one is too many for Tom. Either he can’t count that high or else his greed is so boundless he can brook no restraints on his collections no matter how minor they are.
Interestingly, even though his name is all over the documents which show that he was clearly behind the whole scam, DeLay himself ‘has not been named as a target of the investigation’.
The prosecutor has said he is focused on the activities of political action committees linked to DeLay and the redistricting effort. But officials in the prosecutor’s office say anyone involved in raising, collecting or spending the corporate money, who also knew of its intended use in Texas elections, is vulnerable.Documents unearthed in the probe make clear that DeLay was central to creating and overseeing the fundraising. What the prosecutors are still assessing is who knew about the day-to-day operations of TRMPAC and how its money was used to benefit Texas House candidates.
Um, Tom DeLay. TRMPAC is his baby. He formed it, defined it, chose who would be involved in it, and ran the show from Washington. That’s no secret, it all came out during the re-districting fight when Delay tried to use the Texas State Police to arrest the Democrats who fled to Oklahoma rather than be forced to officiate at the signing of their own Death Warrant.
But TRMPAC is a ‘target’ and he’s not. Must be nice to have friends in high places.
Viceroy Bremer will soon be signing an order that says US military, officials, and civilian contractors are ‘immune from prosecution’ for crimes they may have committed in Iraq while ‘acting on behalf of their parent states.’
U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer is expected to extend Order 17 as one of his last acts before shutting down the occupation next week, U.S. officials said. The order is expected to last an additional six or seven months, until the first national elections are held.The United States would draw legal authority from Iraq’s Transitional Administrative Law and the recent U.N. resolution recognizing the new government and approving a multinational force, but some U.S. officials and countries in the multinational force still want greater reassurances on immunity, U.S. officials said.
Bush’s top foreign policy advisers, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, are still debating the scope of immunity to be granted. “The debate is on the extent or parameters of coverage — should it be sweeping, as it is now, or more limited,” said a senior U.S. official familiar with discussions, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue.
‘Sensitivity’, that’s a good one. But of course, Bush didn’t order torture, so presumably that won’t be covered by Order 17, right? For some reason, I doubt the defense attorneys are going to see it that way…
The House ethics committee has developed cobwebs in recent years as Republicans and Democrats have carefully avoided filing corruption complaints against each other, lest a mutual blood bath break out. But now comes a bit of “Solon Bites Solon” news: Representative Chris Bell, a Texas Democrat who was defeated in his party primary and has little left to lose, is taking a parting shot at the Republican majority leader, Tom DeLay of Texas. Mr. Bell is going before the ethics committee to accuse Mr. DeLay, one of Washington’s major powers, of misusing campaign funds and favoring donors with legislative favors.Mr. DeLay firmly denies the charges as his defenders ascribe sour grapes to Mr. Bell. It was Mr. DeLay who intruded into the Texas Statehouse to engineer brazenly pro-Republican gerrymandering that helped unhorse Mr. Bell. Republicans, sensing a campaign tactic to demonize Mr. DeLay, are already warning they will respond in kind to Mr. Bell and go after questionable ethical practices among Democrats. “You kill my dog, I’ll kill your cat,” said Representative John Doolittle, a California Republican, in a comment to The Washington Post.
Still, if the ethics panel is actually listening, we say let the chips fall where they may, and, more important, don’t stop here. Among the many things the House’s snoozing watchdogs have failed to act on is a G.O.P. member’s bribery complaint about the long night of arm-twisting required to pass the Medicare drug bill last year.
It has been seven years since the House changed its rules to deny outside interests the right to file ethics complaints. The reason is plain: House leaders, aware of how Newt Gingrich and Jim Wright were dethroned in past ethical fracases, have wanted to keep the process muted. But this should be a matter of professional integrity, not the subject of a mutually assured destruction pact. Far more scrutiny is needed in this area.
You can say that twice.
Democratic Texas Representative Chris Bell filed a 187-page complaint to the House Ethics Committee charging Majority Leader Tom DeLay with major crimes.
WASHINGTON, June 15 – A seven-year-old unofficial truce discouraging House members from filing ethics complaints against one another disintegrated Tuesday when a freshman Democrat accused one of the most powerful members of Congress, the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, of “bribery, extortion, fraud, money laundering and the abuse of power.”The Democrat, Representative Chris Bell of Texas, who is leaving Congress because he lost a primary election, filed a 187-page complaint against Mr. DeLay, also of Texas, with the House ethics committee. The complaint accuses the majority leader of illegally soliciting campaign contributions, laundering campaign contributions to influence state legislative races and improperly using his office to influence federal agencies.
Mr. DeLay said “there is no substance” to the accusations.
Sure there is. Delay has been involved in sleazy schemes from pyramiding to using a children’s charity as a front for political fund-raising. He’s a cockroach (name-calling again but I can’t help it, that’s what he is).
Separated at birth?
This will vanish, of course. The HEC will do nothing and the chicken press will drop it like the hot potato it is, but you and I know–it’s all true.
DeLay is claiming that it’s bound up with Texas politics and nothing but sour grapes.
Mr. Bell, who called Mr. DeLay “the most corrupt politician in America today,” said that he had been preparing the complaint for months and that his defeat at the polls had nothing to do with it.”Tom DeLay,” Mr. Bell said, “has created a climate of fear and retribution inside the people’s House, and it must come to an end.
What? ‘The Hammer’ did that? Bell is just accusing DeLay of the very behaviour DeLay has been bragging about for years.
The Republicans, of course are outraged by such ‘partisan’ behaviour. Hastert said, ‘The worry I have is that you again politicize the process, and it denigrates what ethics is all about.’ Yeah, protecting a creep like DeLay is the meaning if the word ‘ethics’, Denny. Meanwhile, Republican party flack Rep Ray LaHood said he’s ‘contemplating proposing a rule to prevent “lame-duck members” from filing ethics complaints and said Democratic leaders should tell Mr. Bell “to back off.” ‘ SOP for the Pubs: if you can’t stop criticism, make it illegal.
These guys just get worse every day.
FITE Newsletter #28
After suffering more than a decade of attacks for their belief that government services in private hands is bad for Americans, the tide is probably turning for liberals. That is a conclusion we draw from a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. (subscription only) More Americans now self identify as Democrats than Republicans after two years in which the opposite was true. But more astonishing, in only ONE MONTH the percentage of people self identifying as liberals has increased by nearly one third, from about 15% to 20%.
This is all the more astonishing given that the right wing has managed with relentless propaganda during the last 15 years make liberal into a curse word. It got so bad that even liberals themselves were afraid to call themselves that.
This reemergence of self described liberals together with the 2-years-long growth of self-described Democrats strongly suggests that Americans are getting fed up with right wing attempts to gut vital government services.
We can probably thank the fact that the right wing was given nearly dictatorial power in Washington to implement their radical program of privatizing all essential government functions. It is now possible for the public to clearly see that privatization of government services is mostly, maybe even always, is simply by another name.
It was, after all, a privatized security personnel that implemented the Abu Ghraib atrocities. In the interests of quickly fattening their bottom line, they recruited people with no experience in interrogation. They even hired a truck driver in one case who earned $1,000/day to “interrogate” prisoners who the Red Cross says were mostly innocent. (Coalition forces told Red Cross officials that 70% to 90% were innocent.)
On the home front CBS News broadcast this week an equally shocking revelation. It is now clear that Enron, a corporation that made billions privatizing the utility industry, knew it was actually savaging California grandmothers four years ago when its traders engineered astronomical increases in electric rates. Tapes from the trading room document the conversations of traders cursing the fact that they might have to give back the money they stole:
“They’re f——g taking all the money back from you guys?” complains one trader.
“All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?”
“Yeah, grandma Millie, man”
“Yeah, now she wants her f——g money back for all the power you’ve charged right up, jammed right up her a—— for f——g $250 a megawatt hour.”
And the tapes appear to link top Enron officials Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling to schemes that fueled the crisis.
It wasn’t just Enron. Citibank and others who funded Enron with endless millions knew – or should have known – the effects of Enron policies on the people of California. But quarterly profits took precedence.
The lesson Americans are now learning is that when private corporations perform public functions, corporate interest wins at the expense of the public good.
Re: corruption, taxes, and gas prices
Remember all those tax cuts that “benefited American families?” Most American families saved around $450. But the gains have been more than erased by the more than $500 extra paid annually for gasoline and heating oil. Then again, they were already erased by increases in local taxes and fees in the same time period.
We have explained in previous newsletters how Bush’s irresponsible tax cuts and profligate spending caused OPEC to increase oil prices. But the price of crude is only one part of the story. Refiners are making the biggest profits in a long time, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the Bush administration allowed 33 refinery mergers after the refineries dumped $3.5 million into Bush campaign coffers. The mergers translate into less competition and higher prices.
The refinery-Bush love fest will get even “better” if Bush is reelected because the new energy bill, providing some $25 billion in tax breaks, will likely pass after a Bush win.
Oil Company Profits Go Through the Roof–Arianna Huffington
At the same time car owners are having to consider taking out a second mortgage in order to fill up their tanks, oil companies are raking in record profits.ConocoPhillips, for example, the United States’ largest oil refiner, recently reported its largest first-quarter profits ever. And Exxon Mobil just posted its highest first-quarter refining earnings in 13 years.
Coincidentally, these companies and their oil and gas industry brethren have a highly profitable habit of greasing the receptive palms of their friend George Bush—doling out more than $3.5 million to his 2000 and 2004 presidential runs.
So for American consumers, payback is a bitch. And over two bucks a gallon at the gas pump.
NEW TAX CUT LAW USES GIMMICKS TO MASK COSTS;
ULTIMATE PRICE TAG LIKELY TO BE $800 BILLION TO $1 TRILLION–Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
The tax-cut package the President signed into law May 28 carries an “official” cost of $350 billion through 2013, but does so only through the massive use of budget gimmicks. Every provision in the bill but one expires between the end of 2004 and the end of 2008, and most or all of these provisions are nearly certain to be extended. If the provisions are extended, the cost of the legislation through 2013 will be $807 billion to $1.06 trillion.In addition, the bill is heavily tilted toward the upper end of the income scale, with households that make over $1 million a year receiving an average tax cut or $93,500 in 2003, while households in the middle of the income spectrum receive an average tax cut of $217. Some 36 percent of households will receive no tax cut at all; 53 percent will receive $100 or less. Because the bill provides the preponderance of its tax cuts to higher-income tax filers, a group more likely to save rather than spend its tax benefits than middle- or low-income households, the bill also is likely to be highly inefficient in boosting the economy in the near term.
Now that some, if not all, of the press has woken up to its responsibilities to the point that a few are actually doing their jobs, the Bush Administration has decided to punish them–and any other curious citizens–by…you’re not ready for this, I can tell you’re not ready for this…starting to sell off the govt’s databases to private ‘contractors’, effectively privatizing and outsourcing public information in one fell swoop. Read it and weep.
Established by an act of Congress in 1979, the Federal Procurement Data System was a rare island of public information, the only complete record of federal contracts. Using the database, journalists, auditors and federal investigators could review the million or so agreements with corporations Uncle Sam signed each year. They could find the companies reaping the largest awards, track the rise in no-bid deals, and measure the recent drive to replace federal employees with corporate employees. But under a new contract, the General Services Administration has now turned over responsibility for collecting and distributing information on government contracts to a beltway company called Global Computer Enterprises, Inc.In signing the $24 million deal, the Bush Administration has privatized not only the collection and distribution of the data, but the database itself. For the first time since the system was established, the information will not be available directly to the public or subject to the Freedom of Information Act, according to federal officials. “It’s a contractor owned and operated system,” explains Nancy Gunsauls, a project manager at GCE. “We have the data.”
So screw you.
In a shrewd move you have to admire for its ruthless and far-reaching implications in protecting themselves from scrutiny in a way which will be totally under the radar, the Bush Administration has violated both the Congressionally-mandated charter of the General Services Admin and the whole concept of non-partisan govt accountability on almost any level, while at the same time taking the newest step in what is sure to be a profitable venture, for them if not for us: selling off the govt piece-by-piece. Yes indeed, boys and girls, they sold it. They sold our information for $$24Mil$$ and handed it to a private company who will now sell it back to us.
Tony Soprano would be proud. What a scam. And it’s all as legal as it is deplorably scummy. Even Bush partisans are a little discomposed over it. Angela Styles, Bush’s ex-procurement chief (she left a year ago), said in what has to go down as the understatement of the week, ‘It seems that something quite inappropriate has been done here.’ Well, duh. ‘They have ceded their responsibility.’ Wrong word, Angie. They didn’t ‘cede’ it, they ‘sold’ it.
Apart from effectively ‘insulat[ing] the process from inspection’, the deal is going to be so expensive for GCE that it would appear the prices for ‘their’ information are going to be hitting the ceiling right off the bat.
A federal official close to the contracting process admits that all users — even those seeking limited access — will probably pay more. Just how much more is unclear, as the pricing structure has yet to be established. Under the agreement, GCE can sell unlimited access to clients on an individual basis for “market value.” But Paul Murphy, president of the private consulting firm, Eagle Eye Publishers Inc., says a GCE representative told him he would have to pay $35,000 for data he once got for about $1,500.
What’s that, a 3000% increase? Not bad, ay? Why so much, besides the obvious and now standard excessive corporate greed? Well, because, as Murphy explains, the $24Mil is just a start.
“This is very troubling,” says Murphy…. Under the terms of the contract, GCE must split its revenue from selling access to the database with the federal government. “When does a partnership become a kickback?” Murphy asks.
About now, I would guess. I suspect Veep Cheney had something to do with this deal; the kickback scheme has ‘Halliburton’ written all over it in big neon-red letters a foot-high over the WH door. This is SOP for them; they’ve been indicted for it several times and convicted of it at least once. The Army is investigating their gasoline scheme in Iraq which involved kickbacks from a sub-contractor. This is the way they do business–on the slimy edge.
There are a lot of implications to this move, all of them nasty–read the rest of the article and pay particular attention to the GCE rep’s hilarious explanation of why this is actually, really, honestly, a Good Thing for the country, and his one-line comedy skit: ‘GCE doesn’t expect to make much money off the project’–but I want to mention two that MoJo doesn’t: the effect on the quality of information gathered and the fact that Kerry may not be able to kill this contract.
Reporter Michael Scherer doesn’t seem to think the information itself will be adversely affected–at least he doesn’t get around to bringing it up–but I’m not so sure. Presumably the same departments will be collecting the info the same way they always have. But then they’re going to turn it over to GCE who a) have the usual corporate hunger for cutting corners, thus threatening the viability of the amount and completeness of the information entered into the system, and b) could have as vested an interest in hiding info as in disclosing it. If GCE ‘owns’ the data, it would have as much right to accept payment to keep a certain company’s dealings with the govt out of the database as it would to accept payment to disclose them. And if you think an American corporation that has just paid $$Millions$$ for a product is going to overlook that little Golden Goose, you haven’t been paying attention.
Second, the inviolability of the contract–or the length of its term–isn’t known. Having signed it in the name of the US Govt, Bush may have effectively made it impossible for a different president to get out of it; we may be stuck with it until it comes up for renewal, or have to go through the courts to undo it–a long procedure that could easily leave the data in GCE’s hands for 7-10 years while the case winds its way through a clogged system.
At the rate these guys are selling it off, there may not be much govt left for Kerry to govern with by the time he takes over. But I suppose that must be the whole idea.
While you’re pondering that, I’ll leave you with this example of standard corporate practice with regard to sharing information.
When contacted by a Mother Jones reporter seeking a copy of the data, a GCE representative suggested a one-on-one meeting at the company’s offices in Reston, Virginia. “We like to meet with folks and find out how they are using the data to provide a real-time access to the database,” Gunsauls explained. She declined to discuss costs over the phone. The first available date she had for an in-person meeting, she said, was two weeks away.
So first they get to decide whether they think you’re the kind of person who deserves access to their precious product. Translation: ‘Are you going to use this against the President or any other office-holding Republican? or any corporation (like us)?’ *Annnh!* ‘Access Denied’.