Sunday, August 11, 2013

Virtually The Entire House Financial Services Committee Should Be Indicted For Bribery


For much of the year we've been talking about the corruption that, to a great extent, defines the New Dems in Congress and pointing specifically to the bad apples among them that managed to get onto the House Financial Services Committee, one of the principal conduits of bribery cash from the Wall Street banksters to Congress. Of the seven Democratic freshmen who were "lucky" enough to be rewarded with the plumb assignment-- Bill Foster (New Dem-IL), Dan Kildee (MI), Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL), John Delaney (New Dem-MD), Kyrsten Sinema (New Dem-AZ), Joyce Beatty (OH) and Denny Heck(New Dem-WA)-- 5 are New Dems and a 6th, Beatty, has a long reputation for sleaze and corruption. Last year we tried pointing that out to Ohio primary voters-- but after she won, Hoyer, Israel and Crowley must have been drooling at the description: Joyce Beatty, the business community’s hand-picked political shill, just "finished" her $326,000 a year job with Ohio State University (A do-nothing giveaway position that OSU won’t even bother filling after her departure) to run for election in the newly created district. So how does one receive a job that pays $326,000 at a public university, and how can you get one? Well, in 2008 former state Representative and Minority Leader Joyce Beatty used her influence to lobby for a job at Ohio State and instantly almost quadrupled her salary from $75,971 to $320,000. Since Ohio calculates pension rates based on the top three highest salary years, Beatty's pension payment quickly ballooned to a starting payout of $211,200 annually. Her 18 year pension total will balloon to a whopping $4,771,008. BOOM! She must be extremely special to merit such a high rate of compensation in a state where most people struggle to make $25,000 annually without benefits.

I wonder what she did to get that position. Well, this wonderful "business Democrat" voted in favor of the biennial budget, which included an increase in tuition rates. Hey, somebody has to pay for her salary and pension, right? Why not drop it on the backs of Ohio’s youth? The budget specifically allowed Ohio State University to raise tuition 12.9 percent. Ca-ching! According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer "… the $320,000 salary and the timing of [the] job offered to outgoing State Rep. Joyce Beatty [has] people talking. The Columbus Democrat will become OSU's senior vice president for outreach and engagement in January, just after term limits force her out of the legislature."

She may be "business friendly," but at least she didn't join the New Dems. She's more of a lone wolf crook. The New York Times story about corruption endemic to the House Financial Services Committee, doesn't even mention the words "New Dems" but that group is at the heart of their story, which starts out castigating a crooked Republican, Andy Barr of Kentucky, who had no experience with the intricacies of Wall Street when he won the committee jackpot.
Now, half a year into his first term, he has emerged as a telling example of why the panel is sometimes called “the cash committee”-- a place, critics say, where there are big incentives for freshmen to do special favors for the industry.

Mr. Barr, 40, a first-time elected official, has raised nearly as much money this year from political action committees run by major banks, credit unions and insurance companies as longtime lawmakers like Speaker John A. Boehner and other party leaders.

The flood of financial industry cash-- $150,000 in political action committee donations to Mr. Barr in just six months-- is hardly an accident.

One afternoon in April, Mr. Barr hosted credit union lobbyists and executives in his House office just before a committee hearing, promising that he would help protect a federal tax break worth $500 million a year, the executives said. Last month, he introduced legislation to eliminate a new federal rule intended to prevent banks from issuing mortgages to customers who could not afford to repay the debt-- a measure pushed by bank lobbyists who had visited his office.

“People support him because they agree with him,” Catherine Gatewood, Mr. Barr’s spokeswoman, said after he declined requests for an interview.

But Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat who served on the Financial Services Committee until January, when he left Congress, said the intense focus on fund-raising by freshman lawmakers like Mr. Barr is a potent sign of the harmful way that money distorts priorities in Washington, for both Republicans and Democrats.

“Freshmen are pushed and pushed and pushed to raise money-- it’s how they are judged by the leadership and the political establishment in Washington,” said Mr. Miller, who added that he felt the same pressure when he joined the Financial Services Committee in 2003 as a freshman. “It’s only natural that it has got to be on your mind that a vote one way or other is going to affect the ability to raise money.”

After the elections in November, Democratic Party leaders gave a PowerPoint presentation urging their freshman members to spend as much as four hours a day making fund-raising calls while in Washington, and an additional hour of “strategic outreach” holding breakfasts or “meet and greets” with possible financial supporters. That adds up to more time than these first-term lawmakers were advised to spend on Congressional business.

Much of this reflects the political reality that freshmen like Mr. Barr, particularly those from districts in which neither party dominates, are considered vulnerable. And that explains why a seat on the Financial Services Committee is so coveted.

Political action committees-- set up by lobbying firms, unions, corporations and other groups trying to push their agenda in Congress-- have donated more money to Financial Services Committee members in the first six months of this year than to members of any other committee. The $9.4 million total is nearly $2 million more than the total for the Armed Services Committee, the only House panel with more members.

With so many lawmakers clamoring to be on the Financial Services Committee, it has grown to 61 members from 44 since 1980, forcing the installation of four tiered rows of seats in the Rayburn House Office Building-- with the first row of lawmakers on the floor, just in front of the tables used for witnesses.

The committee’s chairman, Representative Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, remains the top recipient of donations from industry PACs this year, taking in $282,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit group that tracks the influence of money in politics. But three Republican freshmen-- Mr. Barr and Representatives Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ann Wagner of Missouri-- have raised more money from industry PACs than many longtime committee members like Representative Spencer Bachus, an Alabama Republican who served as the panel’s chairman until the end of last year.

The imbalance is apparent on the Democratic side as well. Each of the seven freshman Democrats on the committee has raised more industry PAC money so far this year than the committee’s top Democrat, Representative Maxine Waters of California, who has had a testy relationship with the industry.

These freshman Democrats joined this year with Republicans on the committee-- over the objection of Ms. Waters and the Obama administration-- to support measures advocated by Wall Street banks that would roll back some of the strictest provisions of the landmark Dodd-Frank financial regulations, which were passed in 2010 in the aftermath of the global recession.

A spokeswoman for Representative Patrick Murphy, a Florida Democrat who has taken in more industry PAC money than any other Democratic freshman, $53,500, said his votes had been cast based on what he believed was in the best interest of his constituents, not to please potential contributors. But she agreed that the pressure to raise money was intense.

“The system is what the system is,” said Tiffany Muller, Mr. Murphy’s deputy chief of staff, adding that her boss supported changing campaign finance rules.

Mr. Barr’s industry outreach started even before he was sworn in to office-- at a “debt retirement” luncheon at Charlie Palmer Steak, two blocks from the Capitol, that he co-sponsored with a lobbyist who represents companies like Bank of America and MasterCard International. Tens of thousands of dollars came in to help Mr. Barr eliminate his campaign debt, including large checks from the American Bankers Association and PNC Bank, among others.

In one closed meeting with credit union executives in April, which took place after the PAC for the national credit union trade association donated $5,000, Mr. Barr promised to help defend the special tax-exempt status enjoyed by credit unions and fight new regulations.

Mr. Barr, in the five minutes he was allotted to speak during the April committee hearing, asked a series of friendly questions of an industry representative and made comments that echoed the points the credit union executives had raised. “The regulatory burden is very challenging for credit unions today,” Mr. Barr said, and then asked the credit union executives to describe what it was like before Dodd-Frank.

The credit union group gave Mr. Barr an additional $5,000 contribution two months after the hearing.

Mr. Barr has introduced separate legislation that would permanently exempt banks that keep mortgages in their own portfolio from a requirement in Dodd-Frank that they follow a prescribed set of steps to ensure that customers can afford the loans. Mr. Barr’s proposal, introduced with no co-sponsors, moved with extraordinary speed through the legislative process. Within two weeks, Mr. Barr boasted, it was wrapped into a larger House bill that was passed by the entire Financial Services Committee, a coup for a House freshman.

Ms. Gatewood, Mr. Barr’s spokeswoman, said his proposals were intended to make sure that Kentucky businesses and residents had sufficient access to credit, which has been harder to come by since Congress passed the new regulations.

Mr. Barr is hardly the only freshman to introduce bills that would benefit the industry. Ms. Wagner of Missouri, another Republican freshman on the committee who has pulled in a large number of industry contributions, sponsored a bill that would block or delay Labor Department rules intended to prevent life insurance agents and other brokers from selling financial products that they know may not be in the client’s best interest.

Consumer groups like AARP have joined with groups representing investment advisers-- who are already required to meet this so-called fiduciary standard-- to protest the legislation, saying the bill Ms. Wagner introduced is an unnecessary gift to the industry. “If you want to carry industry water, carry industry’s water,” said Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America. “But don’t pretend you are doing it to protect investors.”

A spokesman for Ms. Wagner said her legislation would ensure that consumers had access to a range of financial services.

One industry lobbyist, who asked not to be named because client matters are supposed to be confidential, said his political action committee was sizing up all of the Financial Services Committee freshmen as it tried to determine who could best help deliver on the industry’s agenda.

“It is almost like investing in a first-round draft pick for the N.B.A. or N.F.L.,” the lobbyist said. “There is potential there. So we make an investment, and we are hopeful that investment produces a return.”
Conservative and/or corrupt House Democrats on the Agriculture Committee and the Financial Services Committee are voting with Republicans to gut Dodd-Frank. In March, writing about what a corporate shill Ann Kuster had twisted herself into, I mentioned that the derivatives vote she backed "is an especially bad idea-- one that crosses a bright red line. Former Goldman Sachs banker Jim Himes (R-CT) is working with Republicans to pass it and Kuster was one of the Democrats who went along. She's touting her connivance with corrupt New Dem Patrick Murphy, an opportunist and lifelong Republican who switched parties to run for Congress, on a phony-baloney bipartisan caucus (which includes mostly extreme right-wing Republican sociopaths like domestic terrorist Steve Stockman) and she told a New Hampshire audience recently that 'On social issues, I am what they call progressive. But on the rest of the issues, I’m business-oriented.' So a Republican on economic justice?"

And doing the same thing on House Financial Services is another phony "liberal," careerist Kyrsten Sinema (New Dem-AZ).

At a House Financial Services Committee meeting, Arizona freshman Kyrsten Sinema, who's racked up one of the most reactionary voting records of any Democrat in Congress, might have thought no one was looking when she sold out her own constituents in favor of Wall Street banksters. She backed all the GOP's deregulation proposals and then touted it in the Democratic caucus. She wasn't who I was talking about here... but she certainly could have been.

...Don't expect heroism from the Kyrsten Sinemas of the word. Careerism... sure, but not heroism or anything remotely resembling courageousness. Steve Israel dictates her votes; he told the "Frontline Democrats" how to vote and there are only 7 of them who have followed his orders "100% of the time," to quote one of them feeble enough to send me a note about it defending a crap record. These are the 7 freshmen with 40% ProgressivePunch scores (same as right-wing sociopath Paul Broun (R-Pit of Hell)-- who have voted as a block 60% of the time against progressive positions on crucial roll calls:
• Dan Maffei (New Dem-NY)
• Bill Foster (New Dem- IL)
• Cheri Bustos (IL)
• Ann Kuster (NH)
• Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY)
• Scott Peters (New Dem-CA)
• Kyrsten Sinema (New Dem-AZ)

Yes, all of these men belong in prison, not in Congress


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At 10:46 AM, Anonymous Kevin said...

Sinema and Ruiz are two of the biggest disappointments among the freshmen. I felt Sinema's dishonesty during the campaign but not Ruiz's. They have left-wing activist backgrounds and look what hopeless careerists they have become.


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