Feeling like you want to get away out of this world? Here’s a little trip…
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Feeling like you want to get away out of this world? Here’s a little trip…
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
What better way to end 2009 with a snappy overview of the “top ten” ethics scandals of the year!
Citizens for Responsiblity and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has put together a review of some of some of the high points, along with CREW’s wishes for the new year.
Of course, there’s the TARP/executive pay bonuses, the SEC’s failure to catch Madoff as he ripped off clients (starting way back in 1992), and a few sex scandals involving the likes of Gov. Mark Sanford and Senator John Ensign. Then there was the political corruption of Reps. Charlie Rangel and John Murtha with transgressions ranging from failing to pay taxes to shady pay-to-play schemes.
But there a few other items that may have slipped under your radar.
Here’s a sampling (the report is in PDF format):
Public Corruption Prosecutions Were So 2009.
In 2009, the Supreme Court accepted three cases challenging honest services law, a provision in the federal mail-fraud statute making it illegal for public or private employees to “deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.” This statute is a critical prosecutorial tool for fighting public corruption, having been used to convict former Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) and a large number of those involved in the Jack Abramoff scandal. During oral arguments, the Supreme Court justices focused on all the ways the statute can misapplied, strongly suggesting they plan to limit the statute’s breadth, if not hold it unconstitutional. Already, the prosecutors
handling the case of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich have indicated they will re-indict the governor to delete the honest services fraud counts. In addition, Rep. Jefferson plans to ask a court to give him a new trial, though he was convicted of other charges in addition to honest services fraud.
CREW’s holiday wish: For the honest services fraud statute to remain intact so the law can continue to be used to convict the likes of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Rep. Jefferson.
Ah, what would the year be like with the Roberts Supreme Court pulling some sort of crap?
And then there’s this:
What, The FEC Is Supposed to Enforce (Not Gut) Campaign Finance Laws?
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is failing in its mandated mission to administer and enforce regulations governing the financing of federal elections. Violations of federal campaign finance law are likely to go unpunished thanks to the partisan deadlock that has rendered the FEC ineffectual. With three Republican and three Democratic appointees, the FEC consistently fails to take action against even the most egregious violations. As The Washington Post said in an op-ed on June 15th: “The three Republican appointees are turning the commission into The Little Agency That Wouldn’t: wouldn’t launch investigations, wouldn’t bring cases, wouldn’t even accept settlements that the staff had already negotiated.”
By not taking action against federal candidates who break the rules, the FEC is encouraging unethical campaign tactics that privilege money over principle. The FEC commissioners’ failure to take their oversight mission seriously threatens to undermine campaign finance laws and further flood the electoral process with money. With a lack of campaign finance oversight, political influence on Capitol Hill will be bought by the highest bidder and the common good will be sacrificed to special interests.
CREW’s holiday wish: A restructured FEC with an odd number of commissioners, as opposed to he current even number of six, would go a long way to ending the deadlock and allow the FEC to effectively enforce campaign finance laws.
Gee, where’s all that “bipartisanship” when you need it??
All in all, it was a banner year for scandals, but it looks like the stage is set for some of them to staying around as the “gifts that keep on giving.”
…including one that’s just revving up! Ever hear of the “Caribbean Caucus?” From the Miami Herald:
The ties between indicted banker Allen Stanford and members of Congress — including millions in contributions and weekends in five-star Caribbean resorts — are now the subject of a sweeping federal investigation.
Lots of money floating around over the years to some familiar names: the powerful Republican Pete Sessions, John Sweeney, Gregory Meeks, Donald Payne, Phil Crane, the Republican National Committee, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, the G.W. Bush inaugural committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and more…
Won’t that make a great start to 2010??
Filed under: Current Politics | Tagged: Allen Sanford's ties to Congress, Bernie Madoff, Charlie John Murtha, Chief Justice John Roberts, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), executive pay bonuses, federal campaign finance law, Federal Election Commission (FEC), federal mail-fraud statute, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Gov. Mark Sanford, honest services law, indicted-banker Allen Sanford, Jack Abramoff scandal, pay-to-play schemes, political influence, political sex scandals, Rep. Charlie Rangel, Rep. William Jefferson, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Senator John Ensigh, special interests, Supreme Court, TARP, unethical campaign tactics | 7 Comments »
The irony is just too much to ignore! In this season of “joy” and “love” many of us are pissed off, including the jerks in the U.S. Senate. Of course, the bigger irony is Mr. Hope and Change, who ran against all that nasty partisan rancor, has exhibited such a lack of leadership that the crap has mushroomed into a state of more partisanship than ever!
And it’s clear enough even for The New York Times, which published this story a couple of days ago:
WASHINGTON — Nasty charges of bribery. Senators cut off midspeech. Accusations of politics put over patriotism. Talk of double-crosses. A nonagenarian forced to the floor after midnight for multiple procedural votes.
In the heart of the holiday season, Senate Republicans and Democrats are at one another’s throats as the health care overhaul reaches its climactic votes. A year that began with hopes of new post-partisanship has indeed produced change: Things have gotten worse.
Enmity and acrimony are coursing through a debate with tremendous consequences for both sides as well as for the legislative agenda in the months ahead.
Should Democrats prevail, it will put an exclamation point on an eventful first year of their control of Congress and the White House and leave Republicans on the Napoleonic side of what one predicted could be President Obama’s Waterloo. A Republican victory would invigorate an opposition party that was back on its heels at the beginning of 2009 and would strike a crushing blow to Democrats and their claims to governing.
The toxic atmosphere is evident on the floor, on television talk shows and in the hallways of the Capitol.
Poor Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter is lamenting the horrible atmosphere (as well as his own probable regrets that he didn’t stay a Republican?)…
Obama has let the whole affair turn into a food fight. Aloof through months of this unfolding mess, probably really crapping in his pants now about the state of his Presidency.
So, we’re all just plain stuck in the morass of a country that is a shell of what it was.
On the subject of leadership, Robert Samuelson has a column excoriating our beloved leader. From The Washington Post (my bolding):
By Robert Samuelson
Monday, December 21, 2009
Barack Obama’s quest for historic health-care legislation has turned into a parody of leadership. We usually associate presidential leadership with the pursuit of goals that, though initially unpopular, serve America’s long-term interests. Obama has reversed this. He’s championing increasingly unpopular legislation that threatens the country’s long-term interests. “This isn’t about me,” he likes to say, “I have great health insurance.” But of course, it is about him: about the legacy he covets as the president who achieved “universal” health insurance. He’ll be disappointed.
So Obama’s plan amounts to this: partial coverage of the uninsured; modest improvements (possibly) in their health; sizable budgetary costs worsening a bleak outlook; significant, unpredictable changes in insurance markets; weak spending control. This is a bad bargain. Health benefits are overstated, long-term economic costs understated. The country would be the worse for this legislation’s passage. What it’s become is an exercise in political symbolism: Obama’s self-indulgent crusade to seize the liberal holy grail of “universal coverage.” What it’s not is leadership.
Not just a “nightmare” for Obama, Mr. Samuelson. I don’t know what you would put in it’s place, but I agree, this is just a load of crap.
Well, “he’ll be disappointed.” He won’t be any more disappointed that all of us who watched this fiasco in it’s nascent stages during the 2008 primaries and on to the White House. His and the Democrats’ “goals” basically boil down to further entrenching our “business-oriented, non-system,” with a stamp of approval on crapping on women thrown in for good measure, and who the hell cares about health care?? Republicans see it as a great way to win back power, but you think they would change much for YOUR benefit??? HAH!! (See what’s going on in New Jersey with Republican governor-elect Christie? Sounds EXACTLY like Bush…)
What a complete waste of a golden opportunity, post-Bush.
Do Democrats ALWAYS have to screw it up??
Filed under: Current Politics | Tagged: 2008 Democratic primaries, Arlen Specter, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, health-care legislation, leadership, New Jersey governor-elect Christie, partisan rancor, partisanship, presidential leadership, Republican comeback, Republicans, Robert Samuelson, The New York Times, The Washington Post, U.S. Senate | 6 Comments »
Oops. Looks like some more movement in the “let’s-dump-the-dollar” game.
Seems like the oil-producing states of the Middle East have made some moves. According to the Telegraph (U.K.):
“The Gulf monetary union pact has come into effect,” said Kuwait’s finance minister, Mustafa al-Shamali, speaking at a Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) summit in Kuwait.
The move will give the hyper-rich club of oil exporters a petro-currency of their own, greatly increasing their influence in the global exchange and capital markets and potentially displacing the US dollar as the pricing currency for oil contracts. Between them they amount to regional superpower with a GDP of $1.2 trillion (£739bn), some 40pc of the world’s proven oil reserves, and financial clout equal to that of China.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar are to launch the first phase next year, creating a Gulf Monetary Council that will evolve quickly into a full-fledged central bank.
The Emirates are staying out for now – irked that the bank will be located in Riyadh at the insistence of Saudi King Abdullah rather than in Abu Dhabi. They are expected join later, along with Oman.
Earlier in the year, we posted about other moves to dump the dollar. See below for some relevant posts.
The Gulf pact faces hurdles internally (Saudia Arabia will dominate and Saudi needs will come first and may leave the other states on the short end) as well as from the outside:
Ben Simpfendorfer, Asia economist for RBS and an expert on the Middle East, told the FIKR conference that the rise of China had paradoxically disrupted the case for pan-Arab economic integration.
There was a natural fit ten years ago between rich oil state and low-wage manufacturers in Egypt and Syria, but cheap exports from China have forced poorer Arab states to retreat behind barriers to shelter their industries. “The rationale for a single currency has become weaker,” he said.
We’ll have to see what transpires. Just wanted to bring you up to date on the latest rumblings.
Filed under: Current Politics | Tagged: Bahrain, Ben Simpendorfer RBS Asica economist, China, Culf Co-operation COuncil (GCC), Egypt Syria, Gulf monetary union pact, Kuwait, Middle East oil reserves, Middle East single currency, Oman, pan-Arab economic integration, petro-currency, pricing oil contracts, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, Telegraph (U.K.), U.S. dollar hegemony, United Arab Emirates | Leave a Comment »
As if things couldn’t get even MORE bizarre…
The Guardian/Observer is reporting that the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime suspects that “$352bn in criminal proceeds was effectively laundered by financial institutions” during the 2008 banking crisis:
Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said he has seen evidence that the proceeds of organised crime were “the only liquid investment capital” available to some banks on the brink of collapse last year. He said that a majority of the $352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result.
This will raise questions about crime’s influence on the economic system at times of crisis. It will also prompt further examination of the banking sector as world leaders, including Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, call for new International Monetary Fund regulations. Speaking from his office in Vienna, Costa said evidence that illegal money was being absorbed into the financial system was first drawn to his attention by intelligence agencies and prosecutors around 18 months ago. “In many instances, the money from drugs was the only liquid investment capital. In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system’s main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor,” he said.
Some of the evidence put before his office indicated that gang money was used to save some banks from collapse when lending seized up, he said.
Apparently, evidence of the drug money going to banks has come from officials in Britain, Switzerland, Italy and the US.
The British Bankers’ Association wants to see the evidence and maintains that central banks provided the liquidity to keep the system afloat.
It will be interesting to see if Costa’s suspicions get any attention here in the U.S.
Imagine, “money laundering” to save the economic system…
Who pays back THOSE “loans”??
Filed under: Current Politics | Tagged: Antonio Maria Costa, Barack Obama, British Bankers' Association, central banks, crime's influence on the economic system, drug profits, global banking crisis, Gordon Brown, International Monetary Fund (IMF), organized crime, The Guardian/Observer, U.N., UN Office on Drugs and CRime, United Nations | 8 Comments »