Thursday, September 25, 2008

Let's Play "Wall Street Bailout" (Not)

Must See: The truly Democratic and democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio speaks truth to power on the absurd bailout bill, and suggests a better plan.

Note that the Sunlight Foundation has counted so far this year sponsored by the financial services sector for (or featuring) lawmakers considering the bailout bill. Gee, I wonder why that is.

Go to to express yourself via email. You can also call our Congressional delegation:

Domenici's office: 505 346-6791
Bingaman's office: 505 346-6601
Wilson's office: 505 346-6781
Udall's office: (505) 984-8950
Pearce's office: (505) 522-2219

Oh, and have you seen this one yet? Yes, it's a spoof but, sadly, it's so close to reality it hurts:

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had a crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transacting is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Ministry of Treasury Paulson

(h/t to Terry Riley and TH)

September 25, 2008 at 12:43 PM in Business, Corporatism, Crime, Economy, Populism, Government, Public Policy | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Bailout" -- Express Yourself makes it easy to email the people who count on this. Or click here to find phone numbers and other contact info for New Mexico's Congressional delegation.
I agree with what Bob Herbert at the NY Times says:

Does anyone think it’s just a little weird to be stampeded into a $700 billion solution to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression by the very people who brought us the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?

How about a second opinion?

We're supposed to take seriously a $700 billion "solution" proposed by the very forces that caused the debacle in the first place? And Congress is supposed to totally surrender its oversight duties to the Treasury Secretary (formerly of Goldman Sachs)? And nobody will ever get to challenge what's done with the money? This is absurd on its face. How did they even arrive at the $700 billion figure? Why not $100 billion or $650 billion or, better yet, how about increments of $10 billion where the T. Sec. has to come back for an OK from Congress every time? $700 billion seems like it was pulled out a hat. And it probably was, a nice round figure like that. Who will challenge it?

Granted, Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd is making noises about holding down executive compensation at the failed institutions, tossing some crumbs to those whose homes are being foreclosed and demanding some very minor oversight -- but he and other powerful Dems are essentially buying into the unprecedented buyout of toxic debt hook, line and sinker. They don't seen to care that not one strong argument has been offered as to why it would even work to solve the real problems we're up against.

Read Andrew Sorkin's A Bailout Above the Law for more on why the response of the Democrats so far is entirely inadequate. Quote:

Let put aside the bill’s most offensive aspect — the raw power it gives the Treasury Department, and the lack of oversight it provides — and take a closer look at the practicalities. First off, there is nothing in the bill that will prevent these problems from happening again. The bill doesn’t address adding greater transparency in investments in subprime loans and securities and credit derivatives, which led directly to the debacles atLehman and A.I.G. The bill does nothing to rein in the credit-default swap market, which has turned out to be the weapon of financial mass destruction that Warren Buffett always said it was.

Nor are the Democrats going to help matters with their own changes. It is all well and good that they hope to use the bill to restrain executive compensation, and add stipulations to help people in danger of losing their homes. But nothing the Democrats have suggested so far tackles the core issues of oversight, transparency or regulation.

Enough! -- As Obama said at his acceptance speech at Mile High. Clearly, the only chance we have to stop this thing, or at least improve it drastically, is to CONTACT OUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS et al. and let them know in no uncertain terms what we want from them. makes it easy to email them. Or click here to find phone numbers and other contact info for New Mexico's Congressional delegation.

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September 23, 2008 at 11:22 AM in Business, Corporatism, Crime, Economy, Populism, Government, Poverty | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 22, 2008

(Updated) Obama Releases Reform Plan for Financial Crisis

Update: The Sunlight Foundation has posted the two primary, competing bills regarding the bailout and is providing an opportunity for you to comment on the proposals. Go ahead, weigh in.
From the Obama-Biden campaign: Earlier today Barack delivered a major policy address in Green Bay, WI on reforming our politics, our government and our regulatory system during this financial crisis. He also unveiled his plan to reform the greed and excesses of Washington. His plan includes curbing the influence of lobbyists and special interests, spending taxpayer money wisely and modernizing financial regulation.

Curb Influence of Lobbyists and Special Interests
• End the practice of writing legislation behind closed doors
• Shine a light on government spending and special interest tax breaks
• Enforce ethics rules in the Executive Branch
• Stop the revolving door between federal procurement officials and the contractors they supervise

Spend Taxpayer Money Wisely
• Create a high-performance government
• Eliminate ineffective government programs
• Reform government contracting

Modernize Financial Regulation
• Give the Federal Reserve greater supervisory authority
• Strengthen capital, liquidity and disclosure requirements
• Streamline overlapping and competing regulatory agencies
• Crack down on market manipulation

You can read the entire plan below the fold. What do you think?

The Change We Need in Washington - Upload a Document to Scribd
Read this document on Scribd: The Change We Need in Washington

September 22, 2008 at 05:17 PM in 2008 General Presidential Election, Corporatism, Economy, Populism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Guest Blog: Treasury Secretary Paulsen Proposes a "Nation of Racinos"

This is a guest blog by the irrepressible Scot Key of Burque Babble whose real job is teaching Humanities and Film at an Albuquerque middle school. We need some chuckles this morning, don't we?

MonopolyEarlier this week, U.S. Government officials announced a proposed $700 billion bailout of a banking system run amuck. Now it has been learned that Treasury Secretary Paulsen, working with State of New Mexico officials, has come up with another audacious plan to prop up the economy. Paulsen will urge, in fact demand, that Congress and President Bush authorize construction of a "Racino" on every street corner in America.

"I was at Yonkers Raceway trying to calm my nerves after a crazy week when it hit me," Secretary Paulsen explained at yet another hastily called press conference Sunday morning. "I looked around the track and video gaming casino areas and noticed that people were betting like crazy. They didn't care that the entire U.S. banking and credit systems were about three seconds from collapse. They just wanted the number seven horse to win in the second race. And then my Harvard-trained M.B.A. mind starting whirring, just like those wheels on the video poker machines I love so much.

"Trust me, my brain works way too fast to explain here, but in simple terms what crossed my mind was that without a completely unregulated banking system in this country, thousands and thousands and thousands of soon-to-be-unemployed credit/security market M.B.A.s won't be able to basically gamble with the American economy. Myriad billions of dollars will no longer be up for capitalistic grabs on a daily basis by stiff white-shirted brainiacs. What are these soon-to-be bailed out, unemployed traders to do with all the taxpayer money we give them along with a pink slip not allowing them to short stock, straddle options and execute questionable loans? And what is credit/security trading if not gambling?"

The Secretary scanned the room, noting that several reporters had fallen asleep. "Huh? Huh? Hey sleepy press, did you hear my questions? Are you even paying attention? What's the difference between unregulated banking and betting exactas at a harness track. Nothing, I tell ya, nothing!

"Then I get home yesterday from playing video poker and do some Googling. I see this story in a New Mexico newspaper about some beautifully monopolistic deal where the State of New Mexico offered up damn few "Racino" licenses to investors from all over the place. I didn't even know what a "Racino" was until I read that story, but it got me to thinking. And when I start thinking, you know what that means.

"You got a large population of poorer people who will do anything to get their minds off the fact they're probably gonna lose their job in about a month, can't pay their mortgage or sell their place in this burst bubble housing market, and will do anything, including throwing money on the seven horse in the second race at Yonkers. Then you got all these bailed out M.B.A.s who just love thinking up ways to make money in deregulated markets. Hey lazy reporters...put two and two together (no calculators you lazy swine) and what do you get?"

A fairly lengthy tense silence ensued before a reporter finally, haltingly answered: "You build Racinos all over the country, staff them with ex-banking and credit market professionals and provide diversionary entertainment to the poor, jobs to the criminally entrepreneurial, and tax money to a government who just went "all-in" on the banking bailout?"

Secretary Paulsen then motioned for one of his Treasury Department to offer the reporter a job running one of the new Racinos. The reporter gleefully threw his press notebook into the air, dancing a crazed jig, while other reporters looked on enviously. The now suddenly alert press instinctively started throwing their hands into the air, some to ask questions about the Racino proposal, but most to ask if, they too, could find employment at the Racinos.

"Now you pay attention! You people are pathetic," Paulsen said trailing off. As the commotion in the press room died down Secretary Paulsen added, "licenses for the new Racinos will be auctioned off on a special Treasure Department EBay web portal called 'Gamble For America'. Racino site locations are hurriedly being picked out right this second by Treasury staff on Google Earth. If we see any unused land on any street, anywhere, we're throwing eminent domain on it pronto. Hell, in this depressed real estate market we can buy 50,000 large empty lots for less than $700 billion! Maybe 100,000. Just think of the ancillary improvement that will have on property values, and now all those illegals in the construction trades will have something to do instead of going back home.

"I tell you, it's beautiful man, beautiful. Am I the smartest guy in the room, or what?"

This is a guest blog by Scot Key. If you'd like to submit a post for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand side of the page.

September 22, 2008 at 08:55 AM in Business, Corporatism, Crime, Economy, Populism, Guest Blogger | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

(Updated) If This Isn't Enough to Make You Sick ...

Update: Sen. Chris Dodd, the Dem who heads the Banking Committee, has proposed some improvements to the We Love Wall Street Giveaway Bill, but I'd hardly call them "populist" as the Politico article does. More like very basic, bare minimums to give this fiasco just a wee bit of fairness and make the power of the Treasury Secretary a wee bit less absolute. We'll see how tough the Dems are prepared to be to get even these changes included in the deal. Any bets?
If this isn't enough to make you sick, I don't know what will: .

How about we push for mortgage and credit card debt to be wiped out for those who make under a certain threshold? Or even a lowering of credit card interest rates to the teens when so many are paying "late fee" punishment rates of 25-35%. No, we don't need that. We've got Nancy Pelosi pushing for an increase in unemployment benefits and more spending on infrastructure. Go get 'em Nancy. My favorite is Chuck Schumer, who doesn't want to muddy up the current horror of a bill with add ons for the people. Maybe some side bill can help people getting thrown out onto the street. Don't hold your breath. Also get the new plan to use U.S. taxpayer money to bail out FOREIGN-OWNED banks too. Oh, the largesse for The Monsters is neverending.

September 21, 2008 at 01:33 PM in Business, Corporatism, Crime, Economy, Populism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Treasury Secretary to Get Absolute Power?

Think about this:

Fascism always wraps itself in the flag, always seeks absolute power, always brands opponents as traitors, always relies heavily on propaganda for dissemination of its ideas, always invokes subversive enemies (at home and abroad), always embraces militarism and permanent war, always favors politicizing of police functions (and expanding them and the surveillance state), always scorns intellectuals, artists, and bourgeois democratic values, always is hostile to leftist and labor movements, and is obsessed with idealized images of a mythic "better time" of the past (while at the same time destroying that past, and the nation as a whole).

David Neiwert / Orcinus, The Rise of Pseudo Fascism

And then consider this. From NPR's Money Blog about The Monsters' proposal for "bailout" of The Monsters:

The Treasury Secretary can buy broadly defined assets, on any terms he wants, he can hire anyone he wants to do it and can appoint private sector companies as financial deputies of the US government. And he can write whatever regulation he thinks are needed.

I understand that they wanted freedom to respond and an ability to move quickly, but to designate the Treasury Secretary full power to oversee the, uh, Treasury Secretary's decisions seems unusual. Especially given that Congress only gets a report twice a year ...

This graph really stands out:

"Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."

Whoa. So, for the next three months, and then an additional six months after that, the Treasury Secretary can do anything he deems appropriate without anybody anywhere looking it over. That seems like an awful lot of absolute power. Am I wrong? Is this typical bureaucratic langauge? Or is this as strange as it seems?

What will the Democrats in Congress do? What can we do?

September 20, 2008 at 05:33 PM in Corporatism, Crime, Economy, Populism | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Party That Ruined America

Just read it: A Ripe Moment by James Howard Kunstler. Now repeat after me: "The Party That Ruined America." Say it again. Put it in every email, every blog comment, every diary, every post. Pass it on. Mention it to those you canvass and those you call. Tell it to your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues. It is the truth and we can use it to beat them, at last, as we must. And then we can see if that means anything. And it must. And it will, if we unite and make it so. (h/t to my fellow traveler in Ft. Worth)

September 17, 2008 at 08:20 AM in 2008 General Presidential Election, 2008 NM Senate Race, Corporatism, Crime, Economy, Populism, John McCain, NM-01 Congressional Seat 2008, NM-02 Congressional Race 2008, NM-03 Congressional Seat 2008, Obama NM Campaign, Republican Party | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Would You Buy a Used Economy From This Man?

Make no mistake about it. This is the Conservative-Bush-McCain-Gramm economy come to fruition, with even more nightmarish consequences lurking on the near horizon. What we're experiencing today is the creation of those who call themselves "conservatives" -- but the only things they seem to want to conserve are their own hides and their own riches. Now they're even failing at that. And we're supposed to want more of the same for the next four years? A used economy based on the failed policies of the tired and discredited, trickle down, deregulation mob that's been calling the shots in Washington for decades? Yeah, that's what I want when I think of "change."

Here's what this bunch believes:

--Government itself and government rulemaking that provides commonsense oversight over any aspect of the economy or any economic players are intrinsically bad.

--The "wisdom" of the markets will prevail if we just remove all meaningful rules and regulations that have been designed to protect consumers, taxpayers, transparency and fairness.

--Global trading and global capitalism should be allowed to run wild without governing rules or protections for workers, the environment or anything or anyone else.

--If you end up struggling in this economy, you deserve no help from the government. Only failing corporations run into the ground by reckless, fraudulent operators should get such help.

--Money will magically trickle down to ordinary folks if we give almost all of it to the very tip top of the investor class.

I could go on, but you get the picture. This anything goes value system, to use the term loosely, is what got us to this place. Even worse, now that all the sleazy maneuvers and underhanded dealings have produced a free fall in our economy and the world's, these greedy bastards are demanding that they all be bailed out by -- you guessed it -- the taxpayers. What a deal. They socialize all the risks and privatize all the profits, and when things go badly they blackmail the government by claiming if they don't get our cash, the entire economy will crumble.

McCain, Gramm and the Deregulators
So what does all this have to do with John McCain? For starters, he chaired the Senate Commerce Committee when a significant amount of this "deregulation" BS was injected into the economy. He loved it. He pushed it. He believed in it. He trumpeted it. As the ProPublica reported today,

This morning's New York Times probed the candidates' actual records. It concludes that McCain "has never departed in any major way from his party's embrace of deregulation." Indeed, the Times says, McCain "has no history prior to the presidential campaign of advocating steps to tighten standards on investment firms."

Now consider that McCain's best friend and ally has long been former Senator Phil Gramm -- you know, the moral misfit economy professor who claims that the recessiion we're having is only a "mental" aberration and that we're simply a nation of "whiners."


Gramm, the former Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, was one of the biggest cheerleaders and legislators of the "deregulation" movement, ever ready to do the bidding of those who make their "living" by sucking capital out of institutions, companies and markets using underhanded, pushing-the-envelope means. Gramm thinks all the money should go to the investor class with as little as possible "wasted" on those who actually work for a living. Workers are mere, replaceable widgets -- and the costs of their wages, benefits and working conditions need to be held down at any price to human dignity and fairness. He's quite a guy.

Gramm was McCain's top economic advisor until he made a fool of himself with the "whiners" remark, and he has long been touted as McCain's choice to serve as Treasury Secretary in a McCain administration. Even though he has officially withdrawn from the McCain campaign, he's clearly still providing advice and he's still the odds on favorite to head the Treasury Department if McCain manages to lie his way into the White House.

Read this excellent piece by Joe Conason about Gramm's history, which includes close connections with the savings and loan debacle, Enron and the huge deficits run up by Reagan's misguided tax cuts for the rich. And check out Gramm's parting shot:

Before he retired from the Senate in 2002, he wrote the Gramm-Bliley bill, an act broadly deregulating the financial industry -- and now blamed by many economists for the epidemic of speculation and fraud that has shaken the global economy.

... Over and over again, from the savings-and-loan fiasco to the Enron shock to the global banking meltdown, the golden promises of deregulation have turned to leaden ruin. Perhaps nobody cares about the lobbyists surrounding McCain, but someone should ask him why he would cherish the advice of a man whose devotion to ideology has already done us so much damage.

What Specific Changes is McCain Proposing?
It might also be useful to ask McCain exactly which policies he proposes that would mark him as a "reformer" or "maverick." He should be asked specifically how and why he would rock the boats of the vipers who have run Washington and our economy into the ground under his party's rule. And why, exactly, he's still loyal to one of the top honcho vipers who engineered the fall -- Phil Gramm.

McCain is a definitive part of the problem, which is why it's so awful (and dangerous) that he's willing to say anything now to try to sell himself as part of the solution. The operative words in McCain's campaign? Lie. Sell.

This is what we have to get across each and every time we knock on a door or make a phone call for Obama. Pass it on.

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September 16, 2008 at 07:36 PM in 2008 General Presidential Election, Corporatism, Economy, Populism, John McCain, Republican Party | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Guest Blog: More on McCain/Heather Wilson Ties to Latest Abramoff Indictment

This is a guest blog by Daily Kos diarist Land of Enchantment. It was originally posted on Daily Kos. I previously posted on this issue here, but this in-depth piece goes into greater detail and examines John McCain's behavior in relation to the Abramoff scandal.

Sandia Pueblo, near Albuquerque in NM-01, happens to have an excellent location for a casino. They've come a long ways since their modest Bingo Room back in the 1990s. Casino proceeds have built a variety of community facilities, placed a computer in every home, and plowed a lot back into additional economic development. This is their newly-opened resort:


The mountains behind it are the Sandia Mountains, traditional spiritual place for the small Tiwa-speaking tribe. That piece of turf was claimed by the US after the Mexican-American War and later incorporated into the National Forests. The tribe was involved in ongoing efforts to protect their interests and traditional activities in the Sandias. When the the money started coming in from gaming, they decided to hire a lobbyist. Who did they hire? To the tune of $1.7 million? Jack Abramoff. And who presided over the associated Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearings? And sealed 98% of the hearing's documents? John McCain!

This ties back to McCain. Why? Because of the Indian Affairs Subcommittee hearings on matters Abramoff during 2006. Back then, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) chaired the committee, and presided over the hearings. By the time the dust settled, Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio went to jail, Richard Pombo and others got fired by the voters, and a bunch of other Republicans decided to retire. That's a big part of why the Democrats stand to move up in the legislative branch this year - prominent Republicans like Sens. John Warner and Pete Domenici are retiring (and a lot of not-quite-so-prominent ones, too.)

McCain points to these hearings as proof of bucking his party. Let's keep in mind that the hearings put all members of the House and Senate off-limits as part of the ground rules. It did look into the Interior Department, and so touched upon the portion of the Abramoff operation relating to Indian gaming. But the vast majority of the documents accumulated in the conduct of those hearings have been sealed. Only about 2% of the documents were released for public scrutiny.

More on that to follow below.

It has been hypothesized that there's some kind of a coverup going on. The Bush justice department has pursued the matter. Rep. Bob Ney from Ohio did go to jail. Pombo and others were not re-elected. John Doolittle (CA-04) and others decided not to run for another term. This week there was a new arrest in the case: One Kevin Ring, former Doolittle staffer, later a lobbyist working for Abramoff. (The full 46-page indictment is available in PDF form.)

There's a lot about Representative 5 in there, John Doolittle. And some talk about a [New Mexico tribe]. Doolittle might end up in jail yet, and it would not be undeserved. But a bit of a back burner story. Not like Doolittle's running for re-election or anything. And no wonder - it's his former Chief of Staff, after all. From MSNBC:

At one point in 2000, Doolittle's then-chief of staff told Ring in an e-mail that Doolittle had said he felt like a "subsidiary" of Abramoff's firm, the indictment says.

Doolittle's attorney, David Barger, defended the congressman in a statement Monday. "It is clear that portions of the Kevin Ring indictment were designed to make gratuitous references to the congressman and his wife. This appears to have been done to titillate the public, with the foreseeable and therefore intended consequence of attempting to embarrass and pressure the congressman," the statement said.

Turns out there's a New Mexico angle in this indictment, too.

Sandia Pueblo is within the boundaries of NM-01, the district of Rep. Heather Wilson, the failed Senatorial candidate.

2 - On or about December 20 , 2001 , defendant RING sent an email captioned " [ New Mexico tribe] (sp?)" to Abramoff in which he wrote, "Need to talk to you about a potential new client. Would need Scanlon, too. " A few months later, on or about February 14, 2002, Abramoff sent an email to Scanlon in which Abramoff informed Scanlon that "[0]ur Kevin Ring New Mexico Ship has just arrived!! We have a meeting 11 am Wednesday next week with the [New Mexico tribe] here in DC. They are desperate and rich. Kevin is desperate for some $ and a big client.

We'z gonua be rich(er) ..."

It's kinda quaint, really. How the names are all "disguised". The names of all the tribes involved have long been known. The only one in New Mexico was Sandia Pueblo. Similarly, covering up the names of the governmental officials is curious. But such are the rules of the game we play by. Turns out, deep in the 46-page indictment is a presumed reference to our own NM Rep. Heather Wilson. Sandia's in her district, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised. Looks like ol' Nipplegate Heather follows basketball as well as football. (Note that "Governor" is the title for the head of NM Pueblo tribes' governments.)

155. On or about July 17, 2002, defendant RING emailed the New Mexico tribe's governor and others to inform them that the executive branch official had called a U.S. Senator to support the settlement agreement.

156. On or about January 30, 2003, a lobbyist at Firm B emailed a staffer for the New Mexico tribe' s U.S. Representative, "Sorry I couldn't hangout last night. I greatly appreciate your taking the time to han[g]out with the [New Mexico tribe]. It meant a lot to [K]evin and I [sic]. BTW, you should be all set for the [Los Angeles] Clippers [basketball] game."

And in today's Albuquerque Journal, Heather Wilson has felt moved to respond:

Mr. Kevin Ring hosted a fundraising lunch at Signatures Restaurant to benefit my campaign for re-election in May 2003 and contributed $1,000 to my campaign on June 2, 2003. When we discovered that Mr. Ring had not submitted a bill for the cost of the fundraiser to my fundraising consultant, our consultant sought to pay the bill and, when unsuccessful because the restaurant was no longer in business, my campaign made an equivalent contribution to charity as required by Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules.

She did help the tribe get the land settlement, which she should have done anyhow, as Representative for a tribe supposedly covered by Federal Trust responsibilities. She and her staff did get stuff of value from the tribe's lobbyist. Quid pro quo? We'll probably never know

At any rate: Wilson's name hadn't been linked in with the Abramoff web before. The Sandia part of the story was almost a sidebar. The tribe didn't spend much money, dropped the lobbyist, and managed to get a land-claim settlement they could live with. At the time the Abramoff scandal busted open, the Albuquerque Journal reported (you have to watch an ad to follow the link for free):

Stuwart Paisano, who served as Sandia's governor until last week, said Tuesday the pueblo was in legal settlement negotiations with the firms and could not talk about specifics of Sandia's monetary arrangement. He said the pueblo paid more than $1 million to the two men. "Our council has no ill feelings," he said. "We were able to get the mountain back, which was our only goal. Obviously we made some poor choices in who we hired."


Presumably, this part of the story was in the Indian Affairs subcommittee's millions of sealed documents. And, one wonders, what other "dirt" on various Republicans got buried. And before anyone gets wound up and says "What about corrupt Dems?", it is probably good to remember that the Abramoff operation was part of the Republican plan for a "permanent majority". Democrats were completely shut out. Abramoff only dealt with Republicans.

And that, my friends, is why this story matters. Abramoff is in jail. Ring is arrested. Doolittle and Wilson aren't standing for re-election. But John McCain presided over burying a lot of evidence in the course of those hearings. There were a coupla sacrificial animals: Abramoff and some of his crew had to go; a few people left their jobs at Interior; and Bob Ney got snagged. Plus Delay & Pombo and others were driven from office. Is McCain sitting on favors in all those sealed documents? (Favors bordering on extortion?)

In keeping Wilson's name out of the news, he could be credited with her keeping her seat. She won by a very narrow margin of 105,986-105,125. A few headlines tying her to this scandal during 2006 could easily have made the difference.

For all the good it did. She's OUT this year anyhow. She had other help, too. The US Attorney scandal, Albuquerque chapter, was all wrapped up in it, too. She and Domenici were both damaged for their interference with David Iglesias. Less often mentioned was the Bob Perry-funded ad campaign mounted in the weeks before the election attacking Wilson's challengers NM Attorney General Patricia Madrid over the same case Iglesias got fired over - for not producing indictments as fast as would be helpful to the needs of the effort to re-elect Heather.

This new association of a sitting member of Congress with the Abramoff scandal brings the question of those sealed Indian Affairs Committee documents front and center. What other stories and ties have been hidden from the public? Who else did McCain spare from sunlight on Abramoff's many tentacles into the Republican majority in Congress?

It's not clear to me why, now that there's a Democratic majority, these materials all remain sealed. I've called the new Chairman of Indian Affairs, Senator Dorgan's (D-ND) office, was referred to the Committee. But all the reception I was afforded was to have my query referred to voice mail. I've heard nothing back. It's this kind of thing that disappoints me about the Democratic majority. This kind of thing really should be seeing sunlight.

TIMELINE (background info)
It's probably good to keep the timeline of all this in mind. The Abramoff scandal blew up with some Washington Post stories in December 2005. McCain got his hearings up and down in 2006, and all the documents were sealed. Republicans lost the House and the Senate in 2006, and the US Attorney scandal came to light in early 2007.

From MSNBC again - some related summary:

To date, the ongoing Abramoff investigation has resulted in 13 guilty pleas by various lobbyists and public officials, including former lobbyist Michael Scanlon, who pleaded guilty in November 2005 to conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud. Former lobbyist and congressional staffer Tony C. Rudy pleaded guilty in March 2006 to conspiring with Abramoff, Scanlon and others to commit honest services fraud, mail and wire fraud, and a violation of conflict of interest post-employment restrictions. In April 2007, Mark D. Zachares, a former high-ranking aide to the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and in June 2008, John C. Albaugh, a former chief of staff to a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives pleaded guilty to the same charge. In April 2008, Robert Coughlin, a former Department of Justice employee, pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest. Scanlon, Rudy, Albaugh, Coughlin and Zachares are all cooperating and awaiting sentencing.

In addition, Ohio Congressman Robert Ney pleaded guilty in September 2006 to conspiracy to commit multiple offenses, including honest services fraud, making false statements in violation of his former chief of staff's one-year lobbying ban, and making false statements to the U.S. House of Representatives. Ney was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Neil Volz, former lobbyist and chief of staff to Congressman Ney, pleaded guilty in May 2006 to honest services fraud and violating the one-year lobbying ban and William Heaton, former chief of staff for Congressman Ney, pleaded guilty on February 26, 2007, to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. Volz and Heaton cooperated in the government's investigation and were each sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay a $2,000 and $5,000 fine, respectively.

McCain's hearings were in 2006. There was some flashy stuff, and names like Italia Federici (with ties to Gale Norton & Steven Griles at Interior) had their 15 minutes of fame. It garnered, actually, many hours of coverage on C-SPAN, and a few bits on the cable channels. And then the report came out, and the documents were sealed. A few were punished, and many more were protected.

John McCain might like to brag about his corruption-fighting ways. But it's fair to say that he likely protected many more than were punished, even with a wrist slap. Meanwhile, Wilson - who more likely than not benefited from McCain's sealed documents - is busy supporting his campaign." :

Wilson has been a stalwart supporter and prominent surrogate for John McCain, painting him as a crusader against Washington corruption. Just last night, she appeared on MSNBC's Hardball to make the case for him, and last week she told NPR: "John McCain has chosen a reformer ... to be his running mate and I think that's a perfect complement to who he is and what he's done in his life."

Ralph Reed, too, was tied up in the Abramoff imbroglio, and lost his bid to become Lt. Governor of Georgia because of it. Even Garrison Keillor got in on the act! Ralph Reed now, too, serves as a surrogate for the McCain campaign. Plus whatever he's pulling behind the scenes.

So much for rooting out corruption! He's got it right in his campaign. And really, before McCain get's too much credit for those hearings, the 98% of the hearing documents that have been sealed need to see the light of day. Doolittle, and now Wilson, have had their names tied to the scandal. It's likely John McCain's sealed documents are the only reason we've not seen Wilson's name publicly associated with the "permanent majority" machine before, even though she has benefited from it, and supported it like a good soldier. I'm guessing that McCain will come out smelling not so sweet when all that content comes to light.

And who knows who else's involvement has been buried in those sealed documents.

This is a guest blog by Daily Kos diarist Land of Enchantment that was originally published on Daily Kos. Mexico. Guest blogs provide an opportunity for readers to express their opinions on matters relevant to the blog. If you'd like to submit a post for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

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September 10, 2008 at 03:36 PM in Corporatism, Crime, Ethics & Campaign Reform, Justice, Native Americans | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

NM-02: Cheney to Stump for Tinsley at Hobbs Fundraiser

Bushcheney_2According to an AP story, VP Dick Cheney, who did not attend the GOP convention in St. Paul and whose name was never mentioned formally there, will attend a fundraiser for Ed Tinsley on September 26th in Hobbs. Hobbs is the hometown of Tinsley's Dem rival, Harry Teague. No further details were immediately available on the fundraiser.

"The vice president intends to work hard this cycle to return a Republican majority to Congress and he is looking forward to returning to New Mexico," Cheney spokesman Jamie Hennigan said.

TinsleyDick has his work cut out for him on that count, don't you think? Odd, too, that in a year when the GOP prez and VP candidates are trying to convince voters they're running to "change Washington" and throw out the crooked "do-nothing" bums who have been running things, one of the most notorious bums is coming to New Mexico to boost Tinsley (left). Of course they don't want to send the incredibly unpopular Bush to stump for GOP candidates, but I wonder why they think the venal Cheney is any better.

Why, just the other day one of Cheney's cronies at Halliburton plead guilty to bribery:

A former colleague of the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney, has pleaded guilty to funnelling millions of dollars in bribes to win lucrative contracts in Nigeria for Halliburton, during the period in the Nineties when Mr Cheney ran the giant oil and gas services company.
Albert Stanley, who was appointed by Mr Cheney as chief executive of Halliburton's subsidiary KBR, admitted using a north London lawyer to channel payments to Nigerian officials as part of a bribery scheme that landed some $6bn of work in the country over a decade.

The guilty plea, announced yesterday, came after a four-year investigation by US attorneys and threatens to stir up old controversies just as eyes are trained on the Republican party convention. Mr Cheney, who pulled out of an address to the convention because of Hurricane Gustav earlier this week, led Halliburton from 1995 until returning to government in 2000. He had previously been Defence Secretary under the first President George Bush, and the links with Halliburton have been a constant thorn in the side of the current administration as the company has gone on to win billions of dollars of contracts in Iraq and other US military spheres.

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September 6, 2008 at 11:34 AM in Corporatism, Crime, Energy | Permalink | Comments (0)