Archive for the ‘Cronie-ism’ Category
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.
BILL MOYERS:Welcome to the Journal.
You are not alone if you are worried about the financial melt down. So is my guest George Soros, one of the world’s best known and successful investors, making billions in times of boom or bust. He’s been warning for years of a financial melt down fueled by easy credit and sleepy regulation. Now he’s out with this timely book, “The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What It Means.”
In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I served three years on the board of George Soros’ foundation, the Open Society Institute, dealing with such issues as a free press, the rule of law, and human rights. But I’ve had no involvement in his political activities and nothing to do, with his business interests unfortunately. It’s good to see you.
GEORGE SOROS:Same here.
BILL MOYERS:Let’s imagine for a moment that we’re not in a New York studio but we are in Neely’s Barbecue Stand in Marshall, Texas, my hometown, and we’re surrounded by people I know, people who have lost half of their 401(k)s in the last three or four weeks, and what they want to know is does this financial meltdown represent the end of the American dream as they have known it.
GEORGE SOROS:No. No. I think it’s got nothing to do with the American dream as such. There has been some kind of an ideological excess; namely, market fundamentalism for the last 25 or so years. And now that world is collapsing…
BILL MOYERS:What do you mean “market fundamentalism”?
GEORGE SOROS:It’s that markets will correct themselves, that you should leave it to the markets, and there is no need for government intervention in financial affairs. Letting markets run rampant. And that doesn’t work.
Markets have the ability to adjust and they’re very flexible. There is this invisible hand. But it is also prone to be mistaken. In other words, markets instead are reflecting reality. They always look at reality with a bias. There is always a prevailing bias. I’ll call it, you know, optimism/pessimism.
And sometimes those moods actually can reinforce themselves so that there are these initially self-reinforcing but eventually unsustainable and self-defeating boom/bust sequences or bubbles. And this is what has happened now.
This current economic disaster is self-generated. It was generated by the market itself, by getting too cocky, using leverage too much, too much credit. And it got excessive.
BILL MOYERS:You used the word “disaster.”
GEORGE SOROS:The financial system is teetering on the edge of disaster. Hopefully, it will not go over the brink because it very rarely does. It only did in the 1930s. Since then, whenever you had a financial crisis, you were able to resolve it. This is the most serious one since the 1930s, there hasn’t been one as serious as this.
Unfortunately, the authorities are behind the curve. They are reacting to these crises as they emerge. One thing leads to another, one market after another gets into difficulty. And they react to it. And they don’t quite understand what’s hitting them. So they are not anticipating and not gaining control of the situation.
BILL MOYERS:This is what’s interesting, why wouldn’t the government be able to look at what you looked at and see what’s coming?
GEORGE SOROS:Because actually they have been working on false premises. This sounds very strange, but there’s been this development of, this belief of market fundamentalism. And particularly the idea that markets always revert to the mean and deviations from the mean occur in a random fashion. And you can calculate it.
And you will get a nice distribution and you can anticipate it. And based on that, you can manage your risk. And that actually was based on a false idea. This namely, the markets self-correcting because the market moods have a way of affecting the fundamentals the markets are supposed to reflect.
And there’s always a divergence between our perception and what actually exists. For instance, take the simplest situation, namely housing.
Banks give you credit based on the value of the houses. But they don’t seem to somehow understand that the value of the houses can be affected by the amount of credit they are willing to give. Now, we’ve developed these fabulous new ways of securitizing mortgages, which has made credit much more amply available.
And we’ve been able to calculate risk. And, therefore, we were willing to give more and more credit. And that has pushed up the value of the houses. Also, of course Greenspan kept interest rates too low, too long. And so you had very low interest rates, easy credit, and house prices have been appreciating at more than ten percent a year for a number of years. And the willingness to lend actually increased. There was an insatiable appetite for these new fangled securities.
BILL MOYERS:Yeah. Nobody understood, really.
GEORGE SOROS:Which they didn’t properly understand. And there was always a separation between the people who generated the mortgages and packaged them and sold them to you and the people who owned them. So nobody was paying attention to the quality of the mortgages because they didn’t have an interest. They — all day collecting fees. And then there were other people holding the mortgages.
GEORGE SOROS:And that was not factored into those instruments. The idea was that by distributing risk, you actually reduce risk. But by separating the principal from the agent, you actually greatly increase the risk. And that was not reflected. And the rating agencies didn’t realize it. So they gave triple-A ratings. And then a few weeks later, those triple-A bonds became practically valueless. And that’s what has happened.
BILL MOYERS:But how does the system become deranged like that? So separated from reality like an individual who goes insane because he or she is separated.
GEORGE SOROS:Well sometimes we get carried away. I mean, you know, let’s say in the Middle Ages, people were religious. And so they had tremendous discussions about how many angels can dance on the eye of a needle. Now, if you believe that angels can dance then that’s a legitimate question. And this is exactly what has happened here. You thought that you could slice and dice and engage in this kind of financial engineering. And it became very, very sophisticated and got carried away.
BILL MOYERS:What happened that we lost control?
GEORGE SOROS:There was a failure of regulations because they couldn’t understand these new instruments. But they said, “Oh, well, the banks have very good risk management techniques. So we leave it to them to calculate their own risks.”
And, you see, it wasn’t only in the housing market. There were all kinds of other financial instruments. So there was not just one bubble. I describe in my book there is the housing bubble. But this housing bubble, when that burst, it was only the detonator that exploded the bigger bubble, the super bubble.
Which is this 25 years of constant credit expansion using greater and greater leverage. The amount of credit in the economy has been growing at, I don’t know, I don’t know the exact figure, but maybe at least twice as fast as the economy itself. I think it’s more like three.
And now, suddenly, you have a contraction of credit. And it’s a sudden thing. And it’s a period of great wealth destruction. And that’s how these poor people in Texas suddenly find that their 401(k) is worthless.
BILL MOYERS:So as we talk, Secretary Paulson and the government seem to be coming around to what you’ve been advocating and that is taking taxpayer money, public capital, and injecting it directly into the banks — in effect, nationalizing some of these banks. Why do you think that will work when everything else has failed?
GEORGE SOROS:Well unfortunately because they are delaying it, it may not work so well because there’s a certain dynamism. And they’re always behind the curve. So there are many things that they’re doing now if they had done several months ago, it would have turned things around.
BILL MOYERS:That’s a very gloomy assessment. You’re saying that everything they’re doing is coming too late? How does that ultimately play out?
GEORGE SOROS:Unfortunately, that is the case. I’m quite distressed about it. I hope that you know, eventually they’ll catch up.
We are determined to put the money in, not to allow the financial system to collapse. And that’s the lesson we learned in the 1930s. It’s an important lesson. But because we are behind the curve, the amounts get bigger and bigger. If we understood it earlier, we could have brought it to a halt perhaps sooner. But they’ve got still a number of things to do. And this idea, you see, of just buying noxious instruments of you know, off the balance sheet of the banks was a non-starter.
BILL MOYERS:But that was the idea.
GEORGE SOROS:But it was the wrong idea.
BILL MOYERS:But this is disturbing, George. If everything we’re doing keeps accelerating the downward negative feedback and isn’t working, are you suggesting, can one insinuate from what you say that we’re heading for 1930?
GEORGE SOROS:Hopefully not. But we are heading for undoubtedly very difficult times. This is the end of an era. And this is a fact.
BILL MOYERS:End of an era?
GEORGE SOROS:At the end of an era.
BILL MOYERS:Capitalism as we have known it?
GEORGE SOROS:No. No, no, no. Hopefully, capitalism will survive. But the sort of period where America could actually, for instance, run ever increasing current account deficits. We could consume, at the end, six and a half percent more than we are producing. That has come to an end.
BILL MOYERS:So what do we do now?
GEORGE SOROS:We are probably at the height of the financial crisis. I think it can’t get much worse. I think it could get a bit worse yet. But then you have the fallout in the real economy.
BILL MOYERS:We’re in a downward spiral.
GEORGE SOROS:We are in a downward spiral.
BILL MOYERS:How long will it go on?
GEORGE SOROS:Look the one thing that my theory says is that you can’t predict the future because the future depends on how you react to it. So if we do the right things then things will not — will be less painful. If you do the wrong things, they’ll be more painful. Now, so far we’ve been doing the wrong things. I very much hope that we’ll have a different government in a few months and they’ll be doing the right things.
BILL MOYERS:Well, don’t be shy. What do you think the new government should do?
GEORGE SOROS:Well, first of all you have to prevent housing crisis from overshooting on the downside the way they overshot on the upside. You can’t arrest the decline, but you can definitely slow it down by minimizing the number of foreclosures and readjusting the mortgages to reflect the ability of people to pay. So you have to renegotiate mortgages rather than foreclose.
And you provide the government guarantee. But the loss has to be taken by those who hold the mortgages, not by the taxpayer.
BILL MOYERS:You mean the homeowner doesn’t take the loss. The lender.
GEORGE SOROS:The homeowner needs to get relief so that he pays less because he can’t afford to pay. And the value of the mortgage should not exceed the value of the house. Right now you already have 10 million homes where you have negative equity. And before you are over, it will be more than 20 million.
BILL MOYERS:But, you’re talking about taking action three months from now, whether it’s a McCain administration or an Obama administration. What happens in these next three months? And I’m serious about that.
GEORGE SOROS:I am very worried about it. And I hope that they will have a new secretary of treasury, somebody else.
BILL MOYERS:Sooner than later?
BILL MOYERS:You don’t think…
GEORGE SOROS:It would be very helpful if…
BILL MOYERS:You don’t think Paulson’s up to it?
GEORGE SOROS:Unfortunately, I have a negative view of his performance.
GEORGE SOROS:Because he represents the very kind of financial engineering that has gotten us into the trouble. And this buying off the noxious things was a…
BILL MOYERS:Buying the bad assets, that was his…
BILL MOYERS:First idea.
GEORGE SOROS:Yeah, and before that, he wanted to create a super SIV, special investment vehicle, to take care of the other special investment vehicles. That didn’t fly. And they are now within a week recognizing that they have to change and inject money into the banks to make up for the whole in the equity because those banks lost money. And they can’t make it up by taking their assets off their hands. You have to recognize the losses and replenish the equity.
BILL MOYERS:Is that what you would do with the bailout money now? Right now?
GEORGE SOROS:Yes, yes, yeah.
BILL MOYERS:You would put it where?
GEORGE SOROS:Into the capital of the bank so that the capital equity can sustain at least 12 times the amount of lending. So that’s an obvious thing. And every economist agrees with this.
You see, what is needed now the bank examiners know how those banks stand. And they can say how much capital they need. And they could then raise that capital from the private market. Or they could turn to this new organization and get the money from there. That would dilute the shareholders. It would hurt the shareholders.
BILL MOYERS:Of the bank?
GEORGE SOROS:Of the banks. Which I think Paulson wanted to avoid. He didn’t want to go there. But it has to be done. But then, the shareholders could be offered the right to provide the new capital. If they provide the new capital then there’s no dilution. And the rights could be traded. So if they don’t have the money, other people could, the private sector could put in the money. And if the private sector is not willing to do it then the government does it.
BILL MOYERS:The assumption of everything you say is that the government is going to be a big player now in the economy and in the financial markets. But what assurance do we have that the government will do a better job?
GEORGE SOROS:We don’t. Right now they are doing a bad job. So you want to use the government as little as possible. The government should play a smaller role. In that sense, people who believe in markets, I believe in markets. I just want them to function properly. To the extent you can use the market, you should use the market.
Governments are also human. They’re also bound to be wrong. Moreover, they are bureaucratic. So they are slow and they are subject to political influence. So you want to use them as little as possible. But to not to use them, see, assumes that markets are perfect. And that is a false belief.
BILL MOYERS:Has the whole global system become so complex with such gargantuan forces interlocked with each other, driving it forward, that it doesn’t know how to obey Adam Smith’s natural laws?
GEORGE SOROS:No, I think our ability to govern ourselves doesn’t keep pace with our ability to exercise power over nature, control over nature. So we are very complicated civilization. And we could actually destroy our civilization because of our inability to govern ourselves.
BILL MOYERS:Would this all be happening if we still had a strong sense of the social compact? I mean, our social safety net has been greatly reduced. The people have a real sense that the gods of capital have left little space for anyone else. People at the top don’t have much empathy for people at the bottom.
GEORGE SOROS:There is a common interest. And this belief that everybody pursuing his self-interests will maximize the common interests or will take care of the common interests is a false idea. It’s a suitable idea for those who are rich, who are successful, who are powerful. It suits them to justify you know, enjoying the fruits without paying taxes. The idea of paying taxes is an absolute no-no, right?
GEORGE SOROS:Unpatriotic. So, yes, you must have, in my opinion, you need, for instance, a tax on carbon emissions. But that is unacceptable politically. So we are going to have cap and trade. And the trading will have all kinds of loopholes and misuse of the regulations and all kinds of ways of making money without actually dealing with the problem that it’s designed to cure. So that’s how the political process distorts things.
BILL MOYERS:So let’s think about those people down at Neely’s Barbecue going home tonight having heard you. What they’ve heard you say is the system is really disfunctioning right now. It’s out of control. Nobody’s in charge. They’ve heard you express your own worry that in the next three months it could get much, much worse.
And they’ve heard you say that you don’t see much good news immediately on the horizon. So let’s leave them something to think about as they go home. Let them go home and say, “Mr. Soros said here are three things we can do, simply.” One?
GEORGE SOROS:Well, deal with the mortgage problem. Reduce foreclosures. Recapitalize the banks. And then work on a better world order where we work together to resolve problems that confront humanity like global warming. And I think that dealing with global warming will require a lot of investment.
You see, for the last 25 years the world economy, the motor of the world economy that has been driving it was consumption by the American consumer who has been spending more than he has been saving, all right? Than he’s been producing. So that motor is now switched off. It’s finished. It’s run out of — can’t continue. You need a new motor. And we have a big problem. Global warming. It requires big investment. And that could be the motor of the world economy in the years to come.
BILL MOYERS:Putting more money in, building infrastructure, converting to green technology.
GEORGE SOROS:Instead of consuming, building an electricity grid, saving on energy, rewiring the houses, adjusting your lifestyle where energy has got to cost more until it you introduce those new things. So it will be painful. But at least we will survive and not cook.
BILL MOYERS:You’re talking about this being the end of an era and needing to create a whole new paradigm for the economic model of the country, of the world, right?
BILL MOYERS:One of the British newspapers this morning had a headline, “Welcome to Socialism.” It’s not going that way, is it?
GEORGE SOROS:Well, you know, it’s very interesting. Actually, these market fundamentalists are making the same mistake as Marx did. You see, socialism would have worked very well if the rulers had the interests of the people really at heart. But they were pursuing their self-interests. Now, in the housing market, the people who originated the houses earned the fee.
And the people who then owned the mortgages their interests were not actually looked after by the agents that were selling them the mortgages. So you have a, what is called an agent principle problem in socialism. And you have the same agent principle problem in this free market fundamentalism.
BILL MOYERS:The agent is concerned only with his own interests.
GEORGE SOROS:That’s right.
BILL MOYERS:Not with…
GEORGE SOROS:That’s right.
BILL MOYERS:The interest of…
GEORGE SOROS:Of the people who they’re supposed to represent.
BILL MOYERS:But in both socialism and capitalism, you get the rhetoric of empathy for people.
GEORGE SOROS:And it’s a false ideology. Both Marxism and market fundamentalism are false ideologies.
BILL MOYERS:Is there an ideology that…
GEORGE SOROS:Is not false?
GEORGE SOROS:I think the only one is the one that I’m proposing; namely, the recognition that all our ideas, all our human constructs have a flaw in it. And perfection is not attainable. And we must engage in critical thinking and correct our mistakes.
BILL MOYERS:And that’s one…
GEORGE SOROS:That’s my ideology. As a child, I experienced Fascism, the Nazi occupation and then Communism, two false ideologies. And I learned that both of those ideologies are false. And now I was shocked when I found that even in a democracy people can be misled to the extent that we’ve been misled in the last few years.
BILL MOYERS:The book is “The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What It Means”. George Soros, thank you for being with me.
In an e-mail received tonight –
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I propose to demonstrate that in accordance with Constitutional Law the Senate of the United States of America did tonight perpetrate an unlawful and illegal act to abrogate the right of citizens of the United States to vote as guaranteed in Article 15 Clause I of the Constitution. The Congress has revealed itself, our Constitution cannot be interpreted, as it took over ten years to pass and is written in the plain language which can be amended but not abridged. Currently, the United States Senators who voted yes to an amendment of House Resolution 1424 defeated in the house, never sent to the Senate, and overwhelmingly not approved by the constituency is an act of authority made “Under Color of Law”, a crime against the country – “Under Color of Representative Authority” – not condoned in title 42 and publishable as a treasonous offense and any such law is null and of no effect.
In accordance with Article I Section no money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in Consequence of Appropriations made by law under Article I Section 9 of the Constitution. Unless they have the appropriation in hand an identified they cannot draw from the Treasury.
Additionally, each member of the Senate voting yes on this alleged Bill did in fact, with full knowledge execute an illegal act under “Color of Law” – to pass as piece of revenue legislation by amendment with full knowledge that the Bill had been defeated in the House of Representatives just two days earlier. They have complete legal understanding that only a Bill that has been properly submitted by first receiving a majority of votes in the House of Representatives could be amended and passed by the Senate. This unbelievable act of the Senate even attempts to circumvent Article I Section 7 of the Constitution, the “Origination Clause.”
Further, the yeah votes “Under Color of Representation” denied and deprived the American citizen of constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment Section 1 and the 19th Amendment Clause I which collectively protect all right reserved to the citizens and rights not to be denied or abridged which are guaranteed under Article 9 of the Constitution. These in the Congress of the United States are bound by oath under Article 6 to support the Constitution and any act not supported in the constitution is a felony lawfully considered void and of no effect.
However, we can see the silver lining in this egregious act of lawlessness. These criminals in the Senate who signed to pass this bill have a responsibility to understand the procedural requirements necessary to pass such an amendment. House Resolution 1424 is an Amendment. Clearly it is labeled as an amendment. Constitutional procedure dictates that you can Amend a Bill that has been passed. You cannot Amend a Bill which failed to pass and was therefore not properly submitted. These people have declared themselves as traitors before God and the Citizens of this country. They have attempted to sell out this country to the public corporations by assuming their private debt without the consent of the Citizens of this country. Article 15 Section 1 of the Constitution states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The rights of the citizens of this country to vote on this issue has clearly been abridged by this egregious act of the Senate.
To further state my interpretation of this act of the Senate, I refer to Amendment 14 Section 4 of the Constitution: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.”
I ask each of you to send this information to your representatives so that they can understand that their constituents will not tolerate this unlawful act and will seek to unseat every single Senator who voted to pass this fraudulent bill.
At about 3:25 in, this video shows how much some of these folks have taken – BOTH of our “choices” for President are part of this.
They think you don’t get it. We think they’re wrong. Keep calling and e-mailing!
Still Million Dollar a Month Salaries…
Still Tens of Billions to the Bank of China…
Be Skeptical of Senate Bailout Bill
All the Old Problems Remain
A Single Comprehensive Updated Article by Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA)
October 1, 2008
• Taxpayers highly unlikely to recoup any of the costs under revenue provision
added last Sunday (page 2)
• Treasury will not use the new insurance powers added to the Bill last Sunday
• Tens of billions will go to foreign investors (page 3)
• Million-Dollar a month salaries will continue (page 4)
• Oversight Board can critique, not halt, any action (page 4)
• Few if any homeowners will get mortgage relief (page 4)
• All $700 billion can be spent by January 20, 2009 (page 5)
• Taxpayers will get little or no equity upside (page 6)
• Meaningful regulatory reform proposals will be subject to filibuster, delay, and
dilution (page 6)
• We have time to write a good bill (page 6)
Read Rep. Sherman’s full article here. (It’s a PDF so you can download and save it if you like. We did.)
Also – here’s Rep. Sherman discussing the fear tactics used to push this bill through –
This is scandalous! They are assuming you are too tired and beaten down to care. A lot of these people are up for re-election – continue to let them know what you think!
This is a conference call place BY THE TREASURY DEPARTMENT – it’s too long to post here in its entirety – so read and listen at NakedCapitalism.com.
We certainly are glad we are NOT in Washington D.C. – the stench must be horrible!
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has directed nearly $100,000 from her political action committee to her husband’s real estate and investment firm over the past decade, a practice of paying a spouse with political donations that she supported banning last year.
Financial Leasing Services Inc. (FLS), owned by Paul F. Pelosi, has received $99,000 in rent, utilities and accounting fees from the speaker’s “PAC to the Future” over the PAC’s nine-year history.
The payments have quadrupled since Mr. Pelosi took over as treasurer of his wife’s committee in 2007, Federal Election Commission records show. FLS is on track to take in $48,000 in payments this year alone – eight times as much as it received annually from 2000 to 2005, when the committee was run by another treasurer.
Lawmakers’ frequent use of campaign donations to pay relatives emerged as an issue in the 2006 election campaigns, when the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal gave Democrats fodder to criticize Republicans such as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and Rep. John T. Doolittle of California for putting their wives on their campaign and PAC payrolls for fundraising work.
Last year, Mrs. Pelosi supported a bill that would have banned members of Congress from putting spouses on their campaign staffs. The bill – which passed the House in a voice vote but did not get out of a Senate committee – banned not only direct payments by congressional campaign committees and PACs to spouses for services including consulting and fundraising, but also “indirect compensation,” such as payments to companies that employ spouses.
“Democrats are committed to reforming the way Washington does business,” Mrs. Pelosi said in a press release at the time. “Congressman [Adam] Schiff’s bill will help us accomplish that goal by increasing transparency in election campaigns and preventing the misuse of funds.”
Last week, Mrs. Pelosi’s office said the payments to her husband’s firm were perfectly legal, insisting she is compensating her husband at fair market value for the work his firm has performed for the PAC. But ethical watchdogs said the arrangement sends the wrong message.
“It’s problematic,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonprofit ethics and watchdog group. “From what I understand, Mr. Pelosi doesn’t need the money, but this isn’t the issue. … As speaker of the House, it sends the wrong message. She shouldn’t be putting family members on the payroll.”
A senior adviser to Mrs. Pelosi described the payments to FLS as “business expenses.”
“She’s followed all the appropriate rules and regulations in terms of records and paperwork,” said Brendan Daly, Mrs. Pelosi’s spokesman. “When [former treasurer] Leo McCarthy became ill, she thought that it was best that that firm did the accounting and she’s paid fair market value in San Francisco.”
Between 1999 and 2006, FLS collected $500 per month to cover rent, utilities and equipment for the leadership PAC, according to the FEC records. The PAC’s address is listed as a personal mailbox in San Francisco, across the street from FLS’s Montgomery Street office building, but the rent payments went to an office space.
In early 2007, the PAC’s treasurer, Leo T. McCarthy, former Democratic speaker of the state assembly and lieutenant governor in California, died. Mr. Pelosi took over as treasurer and his company’s PAC payouts rose.
At that point, FLS started charging the PAC $24,000 per year for accounting work. In January 2008, the PAC’s rent – paid to FLS – also quadrupled from $500 to $2,000 per month.
Mr. McCarthy, the previous treasurer, had done the work as a volunteer, according to FEC documents and Jennifer Crider, a senior adviser to Mrs. Pelosi and spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She said FLS’ accounting fees are in line with costs for other PACs.
The jump in rent was an adjustment to reflect San Francisco’s pricey real estate market, Miss Crider said. The rent was adjusted to $1,250 per month, with $750 in back rent to reflect that the rent should have been increased in mid-2007. This was the first increase since the PAC was established in mid-1999, records show.
Over the first six months of 2008, FLS was the largest vendor for Mrs. Pelosi’s PAC. Brian Wolff, a political consultant, is the second-largest vendor, bringing in $22,500 this year.
FLS’ payments represent 11 percent of the $213,900 the PAC raised over the first half of this year, according to the FEC documents.
PACs, which are designed to help politicians contribute to other candidates and build influence with colleagues, operate under lighter restrictions than traditional campaign committees.
Meredith McGehee, policy director at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, said putting family members on a PAC payroll is bound to raise questions and, in some cases, allow for abuse.
“The reality is that under the current system, PACs are rife with self-dealing transactions,” she said. “The laws and regulations could and should be strengthened.
“There is a point now that you’re starting to talk about real money,” she said of Mrs. Pelosi’s PAC. “This is not just a mom-and-pop operation and any self-dealing transaction by a member of Congress is going to get scrutiny, particularly with large amounts of money and prominent members.”
It is illegal for members of Congress to hire family members to work on their official staff, but hiring relatives to work on a campaign or PAC is legal.
To be sure, many political action committees employ or work with family businesses. Last year, CREW found that 19 members of Congress used campaign committees or PACs to purchase services from a family member between 2002 and 2006.
Mrs. Pelosi’s PACs have been in trouble before. In 2004, one of her political action committees, Team Majority, was fined $21,000 by the FEC for accepting donations over federal limits. It was one of two PACs she operated at the same time. The Team Majority PAC was closed shortly after the fine was levied.
From a New York Times article of SEPTEMBER 11, 2003!
”These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis,” said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. ”The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.” — Barney Frank (D-MA) is the current Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
Read the rest of the article and what was proposed 5 years ago – here.
By Jonah Goldberg Sept. 30, 2008
On Sunday evening, Republican House Minority Leader John A. Boehner explained his considered opinion on the $700-billion Wall Street bailout plan: It’s a “crap sandwich,” he said, but he was going to eat it.
Well, it turned out he couldn’t shove it down his colleagues’ throats. The bill failed on a bipartisan basis, but it was the Republicans who failed to deliver the votes they promised. Some complained that Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi drove some of them to switch their votes with her needlessly partisan floor speech on the subject. Of course Pelosi’s needlessly partisan. This is news?
The Republican complaint is beyond childish. Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, a man saturated with guilt for this crisis, nonetheless was right to ridicule the GOP crybabies on Monday. “I’ll make an offer,” he added. “Give me [their] names and I will go talk uncharacteristically nicely to them and tell them what wonderful people they are and maybe they’ll now think about the country.”
Would that Frank had been imbued with such a spirit earlier. Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has spent the last few years ridiculing Alan Greenspan, John McCain and others who sought more regulation for Fannie Mae’s market-distorting schemes — the fons et origo of this financial crisis. Now he says “the private sector got us into this mess.” His partner in crime, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), a chief beneficiary of Fannie Mae lobbyists’ largesse, claims this mess is the result of poor oversight — without even hinting at the fact he is in charge of oversight of banks. They sound like pimps complaining about the prevalence of STDs among prostitutes.
And let us not forget that the Democrats, with a 31-seat majority, could not get 95 of their own to vote for the bailout, largely because it didn’t provide enough taxpayer money to their left-wing special interests. Would that they thought about the country.
The one man who truly tried to treat this crisis like a crisis — McCain — was ridiculed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who implored him to come to Washington to help in the first place. And the news media, which now treat any Republican action that threatens a Barack Obama victory as inherently dishonorable, uncritically accepted the bald Democratic lie that McCain ruined a bipartisan bailout deal last Friday.
This is not to say that McCain knows what to do. Faced with an unprecedented financial crisis involving frozen global credit markets and a maelstrom of moral hazard, his standard response is to talk about wiping out earmarks and eliminating waste, fraud and abuse. Memo to Mr. McCain: Waste, fraud and abuse are the only things holding the system together at this point.
Obama is no better. The man has spent two weeks irresponsibly excoriating his opponent for saying the fundamentals of the economy are strong — a perfectly leaderly thing for McCain to have said during a panic. Then, campaigning in Colorado on Monday, the day the market plunged 777.68 points, Obama proclaimed: “We’ve got the long-term fundamentals that will really make sure this economy grows.”
Perhaps after Al Qaeda seizes Baghdad, a President Obama would finally declare, “Hey, we can win this thing!”
Meanwhile, President Bush, his popularity ratings stuck at below-freezing numbers, has decided to cling to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson for warmth on the grounds that the vaunted former Goldman Sachs chair has the credibility to sell the solution to a problem he’s been exacerbating for 18 months. When a reporter for Forbes magazine asked a Treasury spokesman last week why Congress had to lay out $700 billion, the answer came back: “It’s not based on any particular data point.” Rather: “We just wanted to choose a really large number.”
There’s a confidence builder.
As for the reputedly free-market firebrands of the congressional GOP, with whom my sympathies generally lie, I cannot let pass without comment the fact that they controlled the legislative branch for most of the last eight years. Only now, when capitalism is in flames, does this fire brigade try to enforce the free-market fire codes without compromise.
I loathe populism. But if there ever has been a moment when reasonable men’s hands itch for the pitchfork, this must surely be it. No one is blameless. No one is pure. Two decades of crapulence by the political class has been prologue to the era of coprophagy that is now upon us. It is crap sandwiches for as far as the eye can see.