Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Corruption? Absolutely!

More and more I'm coming to believe that abdicating power to the Democrats in the '06 and '08 elections was the best thing that Republicans could do to improve their party's long term fortunes. Giving the Dems absolute power now looks like a brilliant bit of political strategery. The most surprising aspect is how quickly it's borne fruit.

Not even a full month into the Age of Obama and not a week goes by without a new report of a member of the administration (or two) failing to live up to Joe Biden's definition of patriotism. One wonders if he is questioning their patriotism? Must make for some interesting cabinet meetings (assuming loose talking Joe is even invited).

And of course the always changing saga of the Illinois Senate seat that was put up for sale by the Democratic governor before finally being filled by a Democratic politician who never had any contact with the governor about the seat or did anything to try to secure. Well, upon further review maybe he did:

Let's see if we have it right: Burris had zero contact with any of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's cronies about his interest in the Senate seat being vacated by President Barack Obama--unless you count that conversation with former chief of staff Lon Monk, and, on further reflection, the ones with insiders John Harris, Doug Scofield and John Wyma and, oh yeah, the governor's brother and fundraising chief, Robert Blagojevich. But Burris didn't raise a single dollar for the now ex-governor as a result of those contacts because that could be construed as a quid pro quo and besides, everyone he asked refused to donate.

Now, we have today's Wall Street Journal with a front page story on the latest wealthy financier accused of defrauding investors (sub req):

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Texas financier R. Allen Stanford with an $8 billion fraud, alleging in a civil complaint that he lured investors with promises of high returns on certificates of deposit but poured their money into a "black box" of hard-to-trade assets.

The second huge alleged fraud to emerge in three months -- following Ponzi-scheme charges against Bernard L. Madoff -- reverberated around the world, given Mr. Stanford's status as an international cricket sponsor, Washington political donor and private banker to Latin America's wealthy. Federal agents searched the Houston buildings that are home to his Stanford Financial Group, and customers lined up to withdraw money from a bank he owns in Antigua, the Caribbean island nation where Mr. Stanford's offshore banking operations are based.

These are the kind of stories that stoke populist fires. Another fat cat living high off the land by cheating the system.

And just who were these politicians that Mr. Stanford was donating to? An accompanying article in the WSJ described how Stanford Sought Influence in Corridors of Capitol (sub req):

Among the recipients of Mr. Stanford's largesse is House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.), who has long advocated lenient tax policies toward Virgin Islands residents and in 2007 introduced a bill to enforce a statute of limitations on IRS scrutiny of islanders' old tax returns. That year, Mr. Rangel traveled to Antigua for a development conference partly sponsored by Mr. Stanford, who also donated $28,300 to Mr. Rangel in 2008.

"I met Stanford a couple of times," Mr. Rangel said. "He has never discussed any legislative issue with me nor has anyone to my knowledge representing him ever discussed any legislation."

Maybe they talked about tax preparation:

U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, who still faces an ethics inquiry into a host of tax problems, plans to put his face on a new program Tuesday meant to assist taxpayers in filing their 2008 returns.

Yes Alanis, the fact that the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means committee--who faces an ethics inquiry for avoiding paying THOUSANDS of dollars in taxes--is the face of a campaign to assist taxpayers in preparing their returns is indeed ironic. And quite deliciously so.

Back to following Stanford's political money trail:

Mr. Stanford wrote two $250,000 checks to the Democratic Party in 2002.

He also was a big supporter of New York Democrat Gregory Meeks, a member of a House Financial Services subcommittee dealing with offshore banks that received an estimated $17,600 from a Stanford fund-raiser held in the Virgin Islands in July. Mr. Meeks's campaign later reimbursed the organizers of the event $3,591 for the cost of food and beverages, according to the campaign's financial disclosures.

From 2003 to 2006, Mr. Meeks and his wife traveled to the Caribbean every January on trips paid for by the Inter-American Economic Council, a group backed by Mr. Stanford, federal records show. The first trip was for "fact finding" and subsequent trips were for a "business roundtable," often including hotel and meal charges of over $2,000. On at least one occasion, the trip was taken on Mr. Stanford's jet.

In fact, Meeks released a detailed report after every trip on the facts that he found:

* The beaches are nice.

* The water is warm.

* The rum is good.

* Private jets are the only way to fly.

* Being in the Caribbean in January beats the hell out of New York City.

Another familiar name in Stanford's political payoff ledger:

Influential Democratic lobbyist and fund-raiser Ben Barnes of Texas is among Mr. Stanford's roster of advocates, lobbying records show, with $1.125 million in fees over the past two years. In his lobby filings for Stanford Financial Group, Mr. Barnes states that he works on "economic development in the Caribbean, specifically the Virgin Islands." The tax law on which Mr. Sanford is lobbying, which allows Virgin Islands residents to pay an effective rate of 3.5%, is construed by the territories as an economic-development measure.

And here I thought paying higher taxes was patriotic. None dare call it treason! At least not when the Dems do it.

In the interests of fairness and in a nod to bipartisanship, it should be noted that there is one Republican pol named in the story:

Other top recipients of the Stanford employees' political giving are Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), who received $43,000, and Rep. Pete Sessions (R., Texas), who received $39,000. Mr. Nelson said Tuesday that he would donate the money to charity. On the state level, the largest recipient of Mr. Stanford's help was former California Gov. Gray Davis.

One Republican and two more Democrats.

There was an alliterative phrase that was floated a couple of years ago that describes this type of pervasive political rot. Dome of Dishonesty? Veil of Venality? Umbrella of Unethicalness (is that even a word?)? It's right on the tip of my tongue. Don't worry it'll come to me. As it has to the Democrats.

UPDATE: Since the left loved playing the "guilt by association" game every time anyone whom Bush ever crossed paths with ever got in trouble, enjoy this photo from the WSJ story showing Sir Stanford and then candidate Obama in happier times:

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