Archive for October, 2008

Yours for a mere $780,000,000! (Just a tenth of the bailout money!)

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…Elisabeth Hasselbeck introducing the Governor at her rallies this weekend. We’re sorry to inform our readers in Florida – we will not be anywhere NEAR all y’all Saturday or Sunday. We’re not interested in a “Survivor” cast-off holding forth with a candidate who has no relationship with the Constitution of the United States.

That’s just too much smirking and winking and condescension than we can take at one time.

(CNN) – Elizabeth Hasselbeck, the lone conservative on the daytime talk-show “The View,” is set to campaign with Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin this weekend.

Hasselbeck, who often clashes with her co-hosts over the presidential election, said Thursday the Alaska governor had asked her to participate in a weekend rally in Florida.

“Governor Palin asked me to be with her this Sunday to introduce her at the rallies in Florida and I am more than honored to be there,” Hasselbeck said. “So I will be flying there to travel with her and meet some pretty interesting people, I have a feeling. So that’s an honor, I am excited to do it, and I’ll have some stories on Monday.”

Palin is set to campaign in Iowa, Indiana, and Florida this weekend.

Hasselbeck has engaged in repeated arguments with co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, and Sherri Shepherd on-air over the presidential candidates, especially after the show’s unexpectedly hard-hitting interview with John McCain last month

Gosh – if they’d sent her to “TLC’s What Not to Wear” it would have only cost them $5,000!

From The NY Times

Published: October 22, 2008

Sarah Palin’s wardrobe joined the ranks of symbolic political excess on Wednesday, alongside John McCain’s multiple houses and John Edwards’s $400 haircut, as Republicans expressed fear that weeks of tailoring Ms. Palin as an average “hockey mom” would fray amid revelations that the Republican Party outfitted her with expensive clothing from high-end stores.

Cable television, talk radio and even shows like “Access Hollywood” seemed gripped with sartorial fever after campaign finance reports confirmed that the Republican National Committee spent $75,062 at Neiman Marcus and $49,425 at Saks Fifth Avenue in September for Ms. Palin and her family.

Advisers to Ms. Palin said on Wednesday that the purchases — which totaled about $150,000 and were classified as “campaign accessories” — were made on the fly after Ms. Palin, the governor of Alaska, was chosen as the Republican vice-presidential candidate on Aug. 29 and needed new clothes to match climates across the 50 states. They emphasized, too, that Ms. Palin did not spend time on the shopping, and that other people made the decision to buy such an array of clothes.

Yet Republicans expressed consternation publicly and privately that the shopping sprees on her behalf, which were first reported by Politico, would compromise Ms. Palin’s standing as Senator McCain’s chief emissary to working-class voters whose salvos at the so-called cultural elite often delight audiences at Republican rallies.

That possibility was brought to life, for instance, on “The View” on ABC, as Joy Behar, a co-host, noted the McCain campaign’s outreach to blue-collar workers — like an Ohio plumber who recently chided Senator Barack Obama over taxes — after another co-host, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, defended the expenditures.

“I don’t think Joe the Plumber wears Manolo Blahniks,” Ms. Behar said.

Advisers to Mr. Obama — as well as those of his rival in the Democratic primaries, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton — said that campaign money was never spent on personal clothing but that potentially embarrassing purchases could be blended into advertising budgets.

Mr. Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, however, listed two $400 haircuts as a campaign expense, and after they were detected he struggled to shake an elitist image in his failed Democratic presidential bid.

Such an image is unhelpful at this late stage of the general election, Republicans said, especially when many families are experiencing economic pain, and when the image applies to a candidate, like Ms. Palin, who has run for office in part on her appeal as an outdoors enthusiast and former small-town mayor who scorns pretensions.

“It looks like nobody with a political antenna was working on this,” said Ed Rollins, a Republican political consultant who ran President Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984. “It just undercuts Palin’s whole image as a hockey mom, a ‘one-of-us’ kind of candidate.”

Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, have been described as elitist by both Republicans and Democrats at times, and so much was made when she appeared on “The View” in June in a black-and-white patterned dress. Turns out it sold for $148 at an off-the-rack store.

Few Republican operatives or politicians, even those critical of the McCain-Palin campaign, were publicly criticizing the ticket on Wednesday over the clothing purchases. Some said privately that doing so would be akin to kicking a campaign while it was down.

Others said the issue was tainted with sexism, given that male politicians often spend thousands of dollars on suits.

“She had a legitimate need to purchase clothing to get her through three months of grueling campaigning in the constant spotlight of television cameras,” said William F. B. O’Reilly, a Republican consultant in New York. “No one would blink if this was a male candidate buying Brooks Brothers suits.”

Other Republicans said the focus on Ms. Palin’s clothing did not fairly reflect the challenge she faced: Neither she nor her Republican allies expected that she would be tapped as Mr. McCain’s running mate until the last minute, when she was elevated from her comfort zone in Alaska and presented to the nation as the first female Republican vice-presidential nominee.

“If they hadn’t done this, ‘Saturday Night Live’ would be doing jokes where Governor Palin would be dressed in elk skin,” said Rich Galen, a Republican consultant not associated with the McCain campaign.

Party officials, who said they had discussed the matter with McCain and Palin advisers, said all concerned wanted Ms. Palin to present herself as a fashionable-but-sensible on-the-go working mother — a multilayered sartorial strategy, in other words, that has yielded an array of well-cut jackets and skirts, suitable for the different seasons and state climates.

More than $130,000 of the charges used to outfit Ms. Palin and her family were initially footed by Jeff Larson, a prominent Republican consultant in St. Paul whose firm has been tied to the onslaught of negative robocalls about Mr. Obama from Mr. McCain’s campaign. Mr. Larson was also the chief executive of the local host committee for the Republican National Convention, in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Federal Election Commission records showed Mr. Larson was reimbursed by the Republican National Committee for charges at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Barneys New York and Atelier New York, a men’s clothing store.

Other purchases by the R.N.C. included $98 from Pacifier, a children’s boutique in Minneapolis.

Hours before Ms. Palin was to speak at the convention on Sept. 3, a woman burst into the store, said Jon Witthuhn, an owner. After she said she needed something for a 6-month-old boy and was doing shopping related to the convention, it began to dawn on him that he might be outfitting Trig Palin, Ms. Palin’s youngest.

The woman paid for a blue striped convertible romper, a matching monkey-ear hat and socks. Trig Palin appeared on television that night wearing the outfit — without the hat.

Republican officials said all the clothes would be given to charity after the campaign is over. If Ms. Palin kept the clothes, the $150,000 would have to be taxed as income, tax experts said.

Had the purchases been made by the McCain campaign, it would be a conversion of campaign money into personal use, which is prohibited. The same rule does not apply to money from party committees.

“The R.N.C. cleverly used the party committee’s money to avoid the liability that would have occurred if campaigns funds were used,” said Kenneth Gross, a lawyer who is an expert in campaign finance.

Under disclosure requirements of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, Ms. Palin would need to report any gifts valued at over $250 from a single giver.

Elisabeth Bumiller and Leslie Wayne contributed reporting.

TOP – John McCain’s Presidential Campaign

BOTTOM – McCain Food Company

Stumped by an 8-year-old – can you spell “Potato(e)?”

Wednesday, October 22nd 2008, 2:54 PM

She’s contending for arguably the second most powerful title in the country – if not the world. But it seems Sarah Palin could use a brush-up on the vice-president’s job description.

Asked by an elementary school student what a vice president does, Republican candidate Sarah Palin responded that the vice president is the president’s “team mate” but also “runs the Senate” and “can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes.”

While aimed at a typical 8-year-old, Palin’s explanations oversimplify the U.S. Constitution’s definition of the duties of the vice president and don’t match the office’s traditional role in Senate activities.

The vice president’s main duty is to replace the president if the president dies, resigns, is removed from office or can no longer carry out his or her duties for other reasons. The Constitution names the vice president as the president of the Senate but allows the vice president to cast a vote only to break a tie.

The vice president, as a member of the executive branch of the government, has no official role in developing legislation or determining how it is presented to or debated by the Senate, which is part of the legislative branch. In all meaningful ways, the leader of the majority party runs the Senate.

Traditionally, the vice president appears in the Senate for ceremonial events and in case of a tie vote. Although the vice president can preside over the Senate, vice presidents have left that day-to-day chore to senators themselves. In the past, each president has determined the role of the vice president in an administration.

The subject of the vice president’s duties came up as Palin sat for an interview with KUSA-TV in Denver, which has a feature called “Question from the Third Grade.” The interviewer asked, “Brandon Garcia wants to know, ‘What does the vice president do?'”

“That’s a great question, Brandon, and a vice president has a really great job, because not only are they there to support the president’s agenda, they’re like the team member, the team mate to that president,” Palin said.

“But also, they’re in charge of the United States Senate, so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom. And it’s a great job and I look forward to having that job,” she said.

On August 17, 2007 – we posted the article below. In light of the events of the past few weeks, please take a few minutes and re-read this amazing piece of information.

Countrywide Financial

There have been many harsh words in this campaign – on both sides. PLEASE – set aside your politics and take 20 minutes out of your day to watch these three videos. They made us laugh out loud – primarily because both candidates say what everyone around here has wanted to say for WEEKS!

John McCain – Part 1

John McCain – Part 2

Barack Obama

Poor John McCain – not only did he look crazy during the debate Wednesday night, the man he referenced more than 20 times and applauded for being “rich” – IS! If you are going to build your entire debate platform on one man, wouldn’t you find out everything there is about him? Well…

“Joe the Plumber” is related to Charles Keating! (Remember “The Keating 5” – John and his cronies?!)

From The Huffington Post

Robert J. Elisberg of The Huffington Post writes:

You see, Joe Wurzelbacher is apparently related to Robert Wurzelbacher. Who is the son-in-law of (are you ready…?) Charles Keating!

Yes, that Charles Keating. The Charles Keating of the Keating 5 Scandal. For which John McCain was reprimanded by the United States Senate, for his involvement in attempting to illegally influence government regulators. The Charles Keating who John McCain has been trying to avoid have mentioned. So, he basically mentioned it 24 times.

Anyway, back to Robert Wurzelbacher, Joe the Plumber’s father. You see, Robert Wurzelbacher was an executive of American Continental Corporation, the parent company of Charles Keating’s Lincoln Savings. That’s the bank which caused citizens to lose their life savings and cost U.S. taxpayers $3.4 billion. As part of that scandal, Robert Wurzelbacher pleaded guilty to three counts of misapplying $14 million and served 40 months in prison.

And now, Lincoln Savings, Robert Wurzelbacher and Joe the Plumber are back with John McCain.

“Congratulations! You’re rich!,” indeed.

Smaller Banks Resist Federal Cash Infusions

By Binyamin Appelbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 15, 2008; A01

Community banking executives around the country responded with anger yesterday to the Bush administration’s strategy of investing $250 billion in financial firms, saying they don’t need the money, resent the intrusion and feel it’s unfair to rescue companies from their own mistakes.

But regulators said some banks will be pressed to take the taxpayer dollars anyway. Others banks judged too sick to save will be allowed to fail.

The government also said yesterday that it will guarantee up to $1.4 trillion of private investment in banks. The combination of public and private investment is intended to refill coffers emptied by losses on real estate lending. With the additional money, the government expects, banks would be able to start making additional loans, boosting the economy.

President Bush, in introducing the plan, described the interventions as “limited and temporary.”

“These measures are not intended to take over the free market but to preserve it,” Bush said.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers from both parties praised the plan and scrambled to take credit for writing provisions into the law passed almost two weeks ago that allowed the government to switch from buying bad loans to buying ownership stakes in banks.

On Wall Street, bank stocks soared even as the broader market stayed flat while investors grappled with economic concerns. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.82 percent, or 76.62 points, to close at 9310.99 one day after its largest percentage gain in more than half a century.

And in offices around the country, bankers simmered.

Peter Fitzgerald, chairman of Chain Bridge Bank in McLean, said he was “much chagrined that we will be punished for behaving prudently by now having to face reckless competitors who all of a sudden are subsidized by the federal government.”

At Evergreen Federal Bank in Grants Pass, Ore., chief executive Brady Adams said he has more than 2,000 loans outstanding and only three borrowers behind on payments. “We don’t need a bailout, and if other banks had run their banks like we ran our bank, they wouldn’t have needed a bailout, either,” Adams said.

The opposition suggested that the government may have to continue to press banks to participate in the plan. The first $125 billion will be divided among nine of the largest U.S. banks, which were forced to accept the investment to help destigmatize the program in the eyes of other institutions.

In rolling out the program, Treasury said it would make the rest of the money available to banks that requested it. Officials said they expected thousands of banks to participate.

But both the American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America said that they knew of few banks that planned to participate.

“I’m not sure we’ve heard from any that want to participate,” said Karen Thomas, vice president for government relations at the community bankers group, which represents about 5,000 banks. “That said, if any community banks do enroll, we anticipate it will be just a small minority.”

Federal regulators said they did expect some banks to volunteer, though none stepped forward yesterday. But they added that they would not rely on volunteers. Treasury will set standards for deciding which banks can be helped, and the regulatory agencies will triage the banks they oversee: The institutions faring best and worst will not receive investments. The institutions in the middle, whose fortunes could be improved by putting a little more money in the bank, will be pushed to accept the money from the government.

“We will encourage institutions to apply,” said John C. Dugan, the comptroller of the currency, who oversees most of the nation’s largest banks.

In return for its investments, Treasury will receive preferred shares of bank stock that pay 5 percent interest for up to five years. After that, if the companies haven’t repaid the government’s initial investment, the interest rate goes up to 9 percent.

Participating banks cannot increase the dividends they pay to shareholders without federal permission, they must accept some limitations on compensation for their executives, and Paulson said the government would press companies to limit mortgage foreclosures.

The government decided not to impose an explicit requirement that banks use their taxpayer dollars to increase lending. But regulators said they will watch banks closely. They also noted that banks have less reason to hoard money now that they can borrow more easily. Most important, however, they said, banks want to make money.

“And the way that banks make money is by lending,” Dugan said.

Also yesterday, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said it will create, essentially, two new insurance programs.

The basic insurance program still guarantees all bank deposits up to $250,000. A new supplemental program guarantees all deposits above $250,000 in accounts that don’t pay interest. The program basically covers accounts used by small businesses.

Some European governments had already guaranteed deposits, creating a competitive advantage for banks in those countries. Banking regulators also were concerned that small businesses were transferring deposits from community banks to larger institutions perceived as less likely to fail. Finally, small businesses contributed to the failure of Washington Mutual and the collapse of Wachovia by pulling uninsured deposits from those banks.

The FDIC estimates that this new guarantee could cover up to $500 billion in deposits. Banks that sign up for the insurance — and bankers agree that everyone will participate, for fear of ceding an advantage to rivals — will pay a premium of 10 cents on every $100 in deposits.

The combination of the existing and new guarantees will cover about 80 percent of the $7 trillion in deposits at the nation’s banks. The bulk of the uninsured deposits are held in interest-bearing accounts, such as certificates of deposit, that tend to be marketed and regarded as investment products.

Sheila C. Bair, chairman of the FDIC, said the agency considered guaranteeing all bank deposits but decided that any potential benefit was outweighed by the risk that a guarantee on interest-bearing accounts would attract a huge inflow of deposits currently held in money-market mutual funds.

“We’re trying not to stabilize one part” of the financial system “and destabilize another part,” she said.

Separately, the FDIC is creating an insurance program to encourage investment in banks by guaranteeing that investors won’t lose money. Participating banks will pay the FDIC a fee of 75 cents on each $100 in debt that they sell to investors. The FDIC will guarantee through June 2012 the debt issued by participating banks before the end of June 2009. If the bank goes bankrupt, or defaults on its debt, the FDIC will pay the investors.

To prevent banks from running up massive debts on the government’s tab, the program limits banks to a 25 percent increase from their current level of borrowing. The FDIC estimates that the maximum amount of debt that banks could issue under the program is about $1.4 trillion.

Bair also said that the FDIC may refuse to guarantee debt issued by banks with financial problems, though she declined to discuss specific criteria.

Bair acknowledged that the new guarantees shelter banks from the immediate consequences of misbehavior because depositors and investors have no incentive to remove their money from an institution if they know that the government stands behind it.

But Bair said the government’s first priority was to stabilize the industry.

“The risks of moral hazard were simply outweighed by the need to act and act dramatically and act quickly,” Bair said.

Dugan offered a slightly different perspective.

“It just means we’ve lost one tool and we’re going to have make sure that we compensate,” he said.

Staff writers Paul Kane, Lori Montgomery and Peter Whoriskey contributed to this report.