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Archive for the ‘Corruption’ Category

Mega Lobbying Proves Crony Capitalism

Posted by Steve Markowitz on October 7, 2014

Mega Lobbying Proves Crony Capitalism

CNNMoney.com has reported on the company/organizations that spend the most on lobbying in Washington DC. The amount of money is staggering with the top 10 list below spending in excess of $800 million since 2009.

General Electric: $134 million

AT&T: $91 million

Boeing Co: $90 million

Northrop Grumman: $88 million

Comcast Corp: $86 million

Verizon Communications: $86 million

FedEx Corp: $86 million

Exxon Mobil: $85 million

Lockheed Martin: $79 million

Pfizer: $78 million

The lobbying funds are being spent in order to buy influence and it is successful. CNNMoney.com points to the following examples:

  • General Electric has been the biggest lobbyist during Obama’s presidency. This is the same GE that paid no US corporate taxes in 2010 even though it made nearly $11 billion in worldwide profits that year. And yes its CEO Jeffrey Immelt, was named Obama’s Jobs Czar during the President’s first term.
  • Comcast spent $86 million lobbying since 2009. Comcast is looking for governmental for its $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable even though some complain the merger is anti-competitive. This is in addition to the government’s 2011 approval of a $30 billion acquisition of NBC Universal.
  • Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin, as defense contractors, are dependent on the government purchasing their military hardware. These three firms spent a total of nearly $280 million since 2009.

It is hard to fathom how $800 million can be spent on lobbying efforts by only 10 companies. It would be naïve to believe that the political elites do not receive significant benefits from the corruptive effects of so much money. Crony capitalism is alive and well in Washington DC. Barack Obama did not bring his promise change to the way Washington/the government operates.

Posted in Corruption | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Jesse Jackson Jr. Signs Plea Deal

Posted by Steve Markowitz on February 25, 2013

Jesse Jackson Jr.Jesse Jackson Junior, former Democratic Congressman from Illinois, signed a plea deal with the federal government relating to corruption charges.  Under the terms of the deal, Jackson will repay the government for hundreds of thousands of dollars he illegally received from campaign contributions then used for his personal benefit.  This includes a $40,000 Rolex watch and travel expenses for a female friend.  Jackson’s fate is now in the hands of a federal judge and it is likely he will do prison time.

Jackson’s guilty plea in US District Court included: “I used monies that should have been used for campaign purposes”.

Remarkably, Jackson was reelected to his congressional seat this past November by a landslide.  A few weeks later he resigned after feigning health issues.

Politician corruption with is not a new phenomenon nor is it limited to any one political party.  However, over the year Chicago politicians have taken corruption to new heights.  So the Progressives would have us turn even more power over to the government that steals from the People in direct and indirect ways.

 

Posted in Corruption | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

S&P to be Sued by US Over Bond Ratings

Posted by Steve Markowitz on February 20, 2013

The New York Times reported that the US Justice Department will file a civil suit against Standard & Poor’s Rating Service.  According to the report, the Justice Department claims that S&P fraudulently rated mortgage bonds that played a role in creating the financial meltdown of 2008.  The Justice Department indicated it will seek in excess of $1 billion in damages.

In submitting this story, a Blog reader said:

“Let’s see if I’ve got this right: The banks that made the bad loans got bailed out and no bankers went to jail.  But, now the government now wants to put the rating agency on the hook for $1 billion.  In other words, failure to report a crime is worse than committing the crime itself.  Makes sense to me!”

To the comment above this Blog adds that when it comes to government, logic is irrelevant.  Is it possible that the US government is threatening S&P to keep it from downgrading US debt in the future?

Posted in Corruption, Debt | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bill Clinton’s and MF Global; More Crony Capitalism

Posted by Steve Markowitz on December 7, 2011

MF Global was a specialized investment bank that declared bankruptcy on Halloween.  This was more than a story of a business gone bad due to the involvement of politically connected former Senator and New Jersey Governor, Jon Corzine.  Additional intrigue was added with $1.2 billion of customer funds have gone missing.  This tale was the subject of two previous postings on this Blog, Jon Corzine’s Association with Obama and Biden, and Progressive Banker Jon Corzine’s MF Global in Trouble.

The New York Post yesterday published an article that ties former President Bill Clinton into the MF Global scandal.  According to reports emanating from MF Global employees, Teneo, a company that includes on its advisory board Bill Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was hired by Corzine at $125,000 per month for five months with $50,000 per month going to Clinton.  Teneo was hired for public-relations work and to offer ” advice on European financial investments – like the ones that ultimately led to MF’s collapse in October”, according to the New York Post.  The Post quoted an MF Global employee stating:  “I don’t know what they (MF Global) did.  It was always unclear.

It is likely that Clinton and Teneo were hired for one reason; to gain insider information.  Clinton, like many politicians, after leaving office cashed in his public service.  Clinton is not only well-connected because of his prior role as president, but also due to his wife’s current position as Secretary of State.

Jon Corzine bet on risky European bonds because he believed that international banks would bail out the troubled European countries.  His payments to Clinton and Teneo were made in the belief that he would have access to insider information through these contacts.  While this strategy failed, the huge payment was authorized by Corzine because of his understanding of how the “system” works.

The growing MF Global scandal is another example of crony capitalism and the unholy relationship that exists between government and business.  As long as politicians, active and retired, are allowed to profit on their public “service”, the system will remain corrupted.

Posted in Corruption | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Jon Corzine’s Association with Obama and Biden

Posted by Steve Markowitz on November 23, 2011

On November 1 this Blog posted an article titled Progressive Banker Jon Corzine’s MF Global in Trouble that reviewed the recently announced bankruptcy the investment firm.  At the time, MF Global’s CEO was Jon Corzine, former Democrat governor and senator from New Jersey.  Since then, what seemed like a story of bad business judgment has evolved into scandal with Corzine resigning from the firm.

As the investigators began looking into the MF Global books, they found irregularities, most significantly customer funds being used by the firm for its own purposes.  It is estimated that a whopping $1.7 billion of customer funds may be missing.

While this is yet another story of greed from the investment community, it also a tale of the incestuous relationship between bankers and powerful politicians.  In fact, the MF Global story has tentacles that point towards White House.  As evidenced in the videos below, both President Obama and Vice President Biden are not only political allies of Corzine, but both have looked to him for advice for advice in implementing the Obama Administration’s economic policies.

It is ironic that President Obama who ran for the White House on the promise of changing the way Washington did business, has become the quintessential insider.  Crony capitalism and a cozy association with bankers has become a hallmark of the this administration.  As this Blog has proffered in the past, should the Occupy Wall Street movement begin putting the dots together, their protests will quickly move from Wall Street to Washington, DC.

Obama on Jon Corzine

Biden on Jon Corzine

Posted in Corruption, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

GE’s 57,000-Page Tax Return

Posted by Steve Markowitz on November 19, 2011

To understand the corruption of American politics and taxes we could look to billionaire Warren Buffet.  While the disingenuous Buffet publically calls for higher income taxes on the rich, supposedly including himself, his companies including NetJets seek loopholes and even sues the U.S. government for more tax breaks.  It is obvious that Buffet’s public pronouncements for higher taxes are a rouge offered to seek favors from President Obama Administration, who he supports.

Another wealthy Obama supporter is General Electric Corporation (GE) whose CEO Jeffrey Immelt is also Obama’s Jobs Czar.  In 2010 GE made a whopping $14 billion in profits, including $5 billion in the United States.  Incredibly GE did not pay one penny in U.S. income taxes for that year.  GE avoided U.S. taxes by taking a myriad of legal deductions including tax breaks for green energy.

It is obvious why many wealthy businessman and corporations including Buffet, Immelt, GE and Solyndra are so friendly with the Obama Administration and his green energy policies.  The friendships are profitable for these elitist at the expense of average taxpayers.

The Weekly Standard reported that GE’s 2010 tax return, while filed electronically, would have been 57,000 pages long if filed via hard copy.  That’s 19 feet of a corrupted tax code.  This tax code has become so complicated only because politicians use it to dole out favors for their friends.  Unless this code is simplified to no more than a handful pages, it will remain a corruptive tool of politicians and those in power.

Posted in Corruption, Taxes | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sarah Palin Gets it Right on the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street and Political Corruption

Posted by Steve Markowitz on November 18, 2011

An American proverb states: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.  This is one of many that Progressives just don’t get.

She’s a woman, married to the same man for 20-plus years, a mother, attractive, not a graduate of an Ivy League school, religious and a political conservative.  To Liberals, that makes her unintelligent and fare game for attack.  She is Sarah Palin.  But Palin is more than some list adjectives.  She is a self-made success that should make her the poster women for the feminist movement.  However, that movement has degenerated into a mere puppet of the Radical Left.

Ms. Palin published an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journalthat correctly points to the major challenge facing America today; the corruption of the political and elitist class (How Congress Occupied Wall Street).  This corruption is supported by a Congress that is exempt from laws that apply to We the People for whom they are suppose to be working, including Whistleblowers statutes and Freedom of Information Act requests.

 

The Problem:

Palin simplifies the problem by asking a series of questions:

  • How do politicians who arrive in Washington, D.C. as men and women of modest means leave as millionaires?
  • How do they miraculously accumulate wealth at a rate faster than the rest of us?
  • How do politicians’ stock portfolios outperform even the best hedge-fund managers’?  I answered the question in that speech.

The Immoral Acts:

Palin the offers examples of inappropriate, but technically legal, actions of members of Congress in both political parties that include:

  • Accepting sweetheart gifts of IPO stock from companies seeking to influence legislation.
  • Insider trading with nonpublic government information.
  • Earmarking projects that benefit personal real estate holdings.
  • Subtly extorting campaign donations through the threat of legislation unfavorable to an industry.

The Solution:

In typical Palin, her proposed solutions are simple to understand and implement, which is why they are so opposed by mainstream politicians and elitists:

  • Congress should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act like everyone else.
  • We need more detailed financial disclosure reports, and members should submit reports much more often than once a year.  All stock transactions above $5,000 should be disclosed within five days.
  • From now on, laws that apply to the private sector must apply to Congress, including whistleblower, conflict-of-interest and insider-trading laws.
  • Trading on nonpublic government information should be illegal both for those who pass on the information and those who trade on it.  (This should close the loophole of the blind trusts that aren’t really blind because they’re managed by family members or friends.)
  • No more sweetheart land deals with campaign contributors.  No gifts of IPO shares.
  • No trading of stocks related to committee assignments.
  • No earmarks where the congressman receives a direct benefit.
  • No accepting campaign contributions while Congress is in session.
  • No lobbyists as family members, and no transitioning into a lobbying career after leaving office.

Palin’s conclusions are as transparent as her problem definition. “Politicians derive power from the authority of their office and their access to our tax dollars, and they use that power to enrich and shield themselves.  ……  This call for real reform must transcend political parties.  The grass-roots movements of the right and the left should embrace this.  The tea party’s mission has always been opposition to waste and crony capitalism, and the Occupy protesters must realize that Washington politicians have been “Occupying Wall Street” long before anyone pitched a tent in Zuccotti Park.”

Most not inflicted with Palin Derangement Syndrome (PDS) will agree her observations and proposed solutions.  Those still bothered by PDS will need to wait for the cure.  Maybe it will be covered under ObamaCare, should Congress be able to fund it.

Posted in Congress, Corruption, Sarah Palin | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Buffet’s NetJets Seeks Lower Taxes

Posted by Steve Markowitz on November 17, 2011

Warren Buffet, the billionaire investor, stirred up publicity this past summer when he called for increased taxes on America’s rich, a club in which he is at the top tier.  This Blog questioned the motivation behind Buffet’s position on August 24 in a posting titled Warren Buffet’s Hypocrisy.  More recent action by a Buffet company further proves he is a hypocrite.

Bloomberg has reported that NetJets, a company owned by Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, has sued the United States Internal Revenue Service over $643 million taxes and penalties the IRS is attempting to collect from them.  (Buffett’s NetJets Sues U.S. Over $642.7 Million Ticket-Tax Assessment)  This suit for lower taxes by a Buffet company indicates that his earlier call for raising taxes on the “rich” was to curry favors from the most powerful man the world, Barack Obama, more of the crony capitalism that has enveloped Washington.

Posted in Capitalism, Corruption | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Solyndra Execs will Refuse to Testify before Congressional Committee

Posted by Steve Markowitz on September 21, 2011

Solyndra, the Californian-based green-energy, declared bankruptcy earlier this month.  Before doing so they blew through $535 million of taxpayer money received via a loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy.

There is a questionable relationship between Solyndra and the White House.  A Solyndra investor was also a supporter and donator to the President.  The huge government loan to Solyndra was pushed by some in the White House.  In addition, President Obama prompted the company, even making a well-publicized visit to their manufacturing facility.  But most troubling, Solyndra’s investors got preference over the government’s loans.  In other words, they get ther money out of the failed company before American taxpayers.

Given the above, it is not surprising that Congress wants to look into this mess.  The House Energy and Commerce Committee called on Solyndra’s CEO, Brian Harrison, and its CFO, W.G. Stover, to testify on the matter Friday.  However, yesterday these executives informed the Committee that they would invoke their Fifth Amendment rights and decline to answer questions.  In other words they are clamming-up.  While this is their Constitutional right, it sure smells fishy.  What do they have to hide if it just a case of a business gone bad?

The Solyndra matter is not the only potential scandal brewing for the Obama Administration.  Congress is also looking into LightSquared, a company attempting to build a wireless network.  In order for this network to begin to operate, it requires FCC (Federal Communications Commission) approval since there is evidence that the desired frequencies would interfere with global positioning devices (GPS), which has national security implications, among others.

Recently, it has been reported that Air Force General William Shelton was pressured by the White House to change his testimony towards one more favorable to LightSquared.  In addition, The Center for Public Integrity, a public watchdog group, has indicated that LightSquared not only lobbied the White House for meetings, but mentioned donations to the President and other Democrats.  This is the beginnings of another story with an odor.

Pay-to-play is known to be standard operating procedures in Obama’s home city of Chicago.  Add to this a government spending binge through Stimulus programs and you have quite a corruptive ambiance in this Administration.

Posted in Corruption, Solyndra | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Justice Department’s Antitrust Chief Leaving Post

Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 7, 2011

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Ms. Christine Varney is resigning from the Justice Department as assistant attorney general with responsibility for its antitrust enforcement.  Ms. Varney is stepping down after only a little more than two years on the job and will join the private law firm of Swaine & Moore LLP.  It was reported that as a Cravath partner she will be involved with antitrust issues for clients involved with mergers and acquisitions.

During the Clinton Administration, Ms. Varney was an FTC Commissioner.  She then joined the law firm of Hogan & Hartson and represented Netscape in its antitrust battle against Microsoft.

The fact that a high-level Justice Department official is departing is not all that newsworthy.  However, Ms. Varney’s resume is informative and shows not only why the government rarely implements logical strategic visions, but how many of its employees are in conflict with the people they are supposed to be serving.

Ms. Varney is an example of a person moving in and out of government to bettering herself.  After working for the Clinton Administration, Varney landed a job at a prestigious law firm.  Then, when her Democrat party returned to power, Ms. Varney rejoined the government in an even higher level position in the Obama Justice Department.  Now, with little more than two years on the job, it’s back to private practice and more money.

While there is nothing wrong with people bettering themselves, jumping in and out of government to do so cannot be considered public service.  In fact, it is likely that leaving a high-level position in government with less than three years service creates inefficiency and chaos within the agency, costing taxpayers dearly.  In addition, it is likely that Ms. Varney will use the contacts and influence she gained government in ways that conflict with the public good.

Ms. Christine Varney’s resume is unfortunately the norm in government for people in both political parties.  This is a part of the culture of corruption that is Washington, D.D.

Those that are quick to call for increased governmental intervention in the economy and society rarely consider the motivations of the government employees and bureaucrats responsible for implementing the policies.  It is unrealistic to expect those like Varney to place the public good above their own personal gain.


Posted in Corruption, Government Ineptness | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »