Category Archives: Representatives

Congressional Republicans and Democrats Guilty of Crony Capitalism

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke with committee chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) on Capitol Hill March 2, 2011. Bernanke reportedly defended the Federal Reserves monetary policy against criticism from Republicans.

Hypocrisy at its best. For us commoners, it is illegal to trade stocks and bonds if we have access to non-public information about a company. Remember Martha Stewart. She was sent to federal prison for this exact crime. But did you know it is not illegal for everyone. The members of the U.S. Congress are exempt from this law.  

Steve Kroft reports members of Congress and their aides have regular access to powerful political intelligence, and many have made well-timed stock market trades in the very industries they regulate. For now, the practice is perfectly legal, but some say it’s time for the law to change.  

Peter Schweizer’s new book, Throw Them All Out, delves into the details of how both parties are enriching themselves with inside information that the public is not privy to. Many members of Congress are shown to have made suspiciously timed trades including John Kerry, Dick Durbin, and Jim Moran. But it is a Republican from Alabama, Spencer Bachus, who tops them all.  

Henry Blodget of Daily Ticker recently reported on this.     

Rep. Bachus made more than 40 trades in his personal account in the summer and fall of 2008, in the early months of the financial crisis. 

The fact that Bachus personally traded while getting private government briefings is bad enough. The fact that he was the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee at the time is simply outrageous. 

In one case, the day after getting a private briefing on the collapsing economy and financial system from Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson, Rep. Bachus effectively shorted the market (by buying options that would rise if the market tanked.) 

A few days later, after the market tanked, Bachus sold his position and nearly doubled his money. 

If a corporate executive or Wall Street trader did this–cashed in personally after getting private, non-public information from his work–Rep. Bachus and every other member of Congress would be up in arms about corruption and insider trading. 

And they would be right. 

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CBO Debunks GOP’s Economic Plan

GOP has been very persistent in their claims of the way to fix our economy is through austerity — spending cuts to programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Education, Infrastructure, etc. Democrats have countered their plan with a balanced approach of spending cuts but with a focus on spending that would not hurt the most vulnerable in our society and increased revenue through modest tax increases and eliminating tax loop holes and tax subsidies.  

Politico is reporting the Congressional Budge Office came out with a report on Tuesday that shows spending cuts alone will not fix our budget problems. 

Indeed as measured by CBO, 2011 was a year that saw spending trends break heavily in favor of deficit hawks. The combined federal outlays for Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security rose by a little more than 3 percent — less than half of what had been the five-year average. Military spending grew by 1.1 percent, and after a 7.2 percent increase in 2010, other government activities fell by a negative 2.2 percent.   

Yet even in this climate, the deficit in 2011 ended up well north of $1 trillion for the third year in a row, all underscoring the poor economy but also the need for more change on both sides of the ledger. Addressing this gap was the great hope attached to the House-Senate supercommittee created by the August debt-limit agreement, but two weeks before the Nov. 23 deadline, taxes remain such an ideological stumbling block that it puts the whole enterprise in serious jeopardy. 

GOP did come out with a proposal this past week for $300 billion in increased revenue, however, as I wrote earlier this week, it did not appear to be the compromise they wanted everyone to think it was. It was clearly an effort to try to shed that ‘do-nothing Congress’ image.  

On November 2nd Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell meet to talk about the Super Committee’s deficit plan. 

Geithner had come to the Capitol to meet with the Kentucky Republican prior to leaving for the G-20 summit in France, but McConnell steered the conversation back to the deficit-reduction talks and asked if the White House was hoping the supercommittee would fail. 

This has been a favorite theory of conservatives, who argue that failure serves President Barack Obama’s short-term interests by giving him another example of a “do-nothing” Congress. And it has especially rankled McConnell, who was pivotal to the August agreement and is invested in the 12-member panel.  

Geithner, who also was part of the August debt talks, pushed back, saying no, that Obama wanted a successful outcome and had submitted significant detail in September to help the panel meet its target. McConnell then criticized Democrats for being unrealistic in asking for $1.3 trillion as part of a larger $3 trillion deficit-reduction plan. The secretary answered by walking through the Republican counteroffer and showing that its claim of $640 billion in new government receipts was unrealistic itself, since so little of the total represented real tax revenue.  

McConnell was described as silent, and the meeting ended without any counterproposal to find middle ground.  

Just a few more tidbits of GOP’s proposal for the Super Committee’s deficit plan. They include drilling for oil and cutting the top tax rate to 28%. That’s right….MORE tax cuts for the wealthy.  

The former president of the Club for Growth, Toomey irritated Democrats by including ANWR drilling as one illustration of how government royalty revenue might be increased. And his approach to tax overhaul is to lock in such a low top tax rate in advance—28 percent—that tax experts say it would very difficult, if not impossible, to still have any room left for real deficit reduction.

The Hill’s List of Top Wealthiest in Congress for 2011

The Hill, a publication that covers politics in D.C., has come out with its annual list of the 50 top wealthiest members of congress. I have listed the top 10 below, and the entire list can be found at TheHill.com

I am a Democrat, a Liberal, and for me it is disturbing that the only people who have a chance to run a successful campaign are the extraordinarily wealthy and this includes both parties. As you will see, the top 10 is dominated by my party, and although I do think the Democratic Party is the party who works for the interests of the middle class, with all this money floating around D.C., just how hard will they fight for us versus further enriching themselves.  

In saying that, the Republicans of today don’t even make an effort to hide their agenda, and that is to enrich their constituents who fund their campaigns, the mega wealthy, by giving them further tax cuts while raising the taxes of the middle and lower classes.  

They are still entrenched in the belief of “trickle down economics.” Give all of America’s wealth to the top-tier of our society and they will in turn rain it down on the serfs, the peasants of our country, us. 

The Hill’s Findings 

Analysis for The Hill’s Wealthiest shows that 2010 was a banner year for many well-heeled members of Congress.  

Last year’s wave election brought big changes to The Hill’s rankings. More than a dozen lawmakers appear on the list for the first time, including 10 Tea Party-backed GOP freshmen with backgrounds in business, medicine and auto sales, among other professions. 

The richest GOP freshman is Rep. Jim Renacci (Ohio), who reported a minimum net worth of $35.9 million, ranking him 11th on The Hill’s list.  GOP gains in the 2010 elections helped shift the list toward Republicans. Six Democrats who made The Hill’s 50 Wealthiest in 2010 lost their reelection bids.  

The rankings include 32 Republicans and 18 Democrats. By chamber, the breakdown is 29 from the House, 21 from the Senate. To compile the rankings, The Hill reviewed all the congressional financial disclosure reports that lawmakers filed for the 2010 calendar year. 

Top 10 Wealthiest Lawmakers   

1. Michael McCaul, R-Texas — $287 million  
McCaul’s wealth exploded in 2010, making him the richest member of Congress by tens of millions of dollars. 

2. Darrell Issa, R-California — $220.4 million  
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman has always been one of the richest members of Congress, but his wealth shot up in 2010 by almost $60 million. 

3. John Kerry, D-Mass — $193.3 million  
Kerry no longer holds the crown of richest member of Congress, but he still was able to increase his wealth by nearly $5 million in 2010. 

4. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.VA — $81.6 million  
The West Virginia senator’s wealth fell by more than $2 million this year, down from $83.7 million in 2009, due to some of his assets losing value.  

5. Mark Warner, D-VA — $76.3 million   
Warner’s fortune climbed by more than $6 million in 2010. 

6. Jared Polis, D-Colo — $65.9 milion  
Polis’s fortune grew by almost $10 million in 2010. 

7. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ — $55.1 million  
Lautenberg saw a more than $5 million boost in his fortune in 2010. 

8. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn — $54.9 million  
Blumenthal’s minimum net worth is $54.9 million, making him the wealthiest new member of Congress this year. 

9. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA — $45.4 million  
Feinstein’s minimum net worth decreased slightly, by more than $600,000, in 2010. 

10. Vern Buchanan, R-FL — $44.4 million  
Buchanan saw his wealth slide in 2010 by roughly $9 million.

How Is GOP’s “Starve The Beast” Strategy Working So Well

This clip in total is about 11 minutes.  Beginning at 2:08 Lawrence O’Donnell explains what/why this strategy of Starve The Beast is working, and I believe it is well worth the time to watch.  It has motivated me and I hope will do the same for you. 

If you want a Medicare system in place when you reach retirement as well as for future generations, you will watch this and copy this clip and pass it on.

How To Rig An Election

GOP has long been a party of Christian and “small-government” conservatives. Since their wins at the state and federal levels in 2010, which they won on a platform of creating jobs, jobs, jobs and deficit reduction, their sole focus, like a laser, has been on busting unions and cutting benefits to people like police, firefighters, and teachers, cutting education for our schools, and getting rid of women’s healthcare (that is to just name a few). At the same time they have been cutting taxes for the very wealthy and corporations, i.e., big oil, Wall Street.

These constituents that used to identify themselves as conservatives are now realizing the GOP do not have their best interest in mind. Since the GOP has been pushing away the people who used to support them, they are now trying to devise a way to win elections without having the majority of Americans behind them anymore.

Since their constituents are now just the wealthy and the people who run those corporations (whose numbers are in the thousands, if that), they have now come up with a way to win elections without a majority of voters behind them. Donna Brazile recently wrote an op-ed:

From coast to coast, the GOP is engaged in what appears to be a coordinated, expensive effort to block voters from the polls. The motivation is political — a cynical effort to restrict voting by traditionally Democratic-leaning Americans. In more than 30 states, GOP legislators are on the move, from a sweeping rewrite of Florida’s election laws to new rules for photo identification in Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina and more than 20 other states.

As a result, 11% of Americans — 21 million citizens of voting age who lack proper photo identification — could be turned away on Election Day. And these people tend to be most highly concentrated among people of color, the poor, the young and the old.

This shows that GOP and Republicans are not just racists (their insistence that President Obama show his birth certificate, i.e., “his papers“), they are now waging class warfare. GOP won such huge majorities at the state level that this has allowed them to practically push through any bill they wish, written any way they want, and they are now working to exclude as many people from our elections as possible.

It seems there isn’t much we can do about it; however, as I mentioned in previous posts, the one thing we have that they do not is our enormous numbers. We have that working for us and can use it. It is working across the globe from the uprisings across the middle east to Spain, Britain, Germany, etc. We need to learn from them, stop being complacent with the current system, and take to the streets. We can make a change. This is no longer a country divided by race, we are a country divided by class, plain and simple!

About GOP-Supported ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council)

In the last few months this group has been in the news lately. I have to admit that I had never even heard of ALEC and was not even on my radar (thanks to Maddow now they are), so needless to say, I have been trying to catch up on finding out specifics about this organization, what it is they stand for and what is their purpose.

Just an FYI, what was most startling is they actually write bills or provide “model legislation” that have actually passed, some virtually verbatim, i.e., the Arizona immigration law. Each year approximately 800 bills are introduced in the states which are based in whole or in part on ALEC model legislation. Annually, about 20% of these introduced bills become law.

I have been to many different websites, read many articles and this is what I found.

Who they are:
I found 2 mission statements, one from their website and the other Wikipedia, but both pretty much are the same.

 ALEC website:
…to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public.

…to promote these principles by developing policies that ensure the powers of government are derived from, and assigned to, first the People, then the States, and finally, the Federal Government.

…to enlist state legislators from all parties and members of the private sector who share ALEC’s mission.

…to conduct a policy making program that unites members of the public and private sectors in a dynamic partnership to support research, policy development, and dissemination activities.

…to prepare the next generation of political leadership through educational programs that promote the principles of Jeffersonian democracy, which are necessary for a free society.

Wikipedia: To advance the principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a partnership between America’s state legislators and concerned members of the private sector, policy experts and the general public. ALEC brings state lawmakers and business people together to substantively create policy. Both public and private task force members have a voice and a vote in shaping bills. In addition to state lawmakers, ALEC consists of about 300 corporate, foundation, and other private sector members.

Who belongs to ALEC:
See if a representative from your state is listed.

Board Members
South Carolina Representative Liston Barfield
Utah Senator Curt Bramble
North Carolina Representative Harold Brubaker
Indiana Senator Jim Buck
Texas Representative Tom Craddick
New Mexico Senator Kent Cravens
Mississippi Representative Jim Ellington
Louisiana Representative Noble Ellington
Indiana Representative Dave Frizzell
Mississippi Senator Billy Hewes III
Virginia Representative Bill Howell
New York Senator Owen Johnson
Arkansas Senator Michael Lamoureux
Tennessee Representative Steve McDaniel
Kansas Senator Ray Merrick
Connecticut Representative John Piscopo
Nevada Senator Bill Raggio
Nevada Senator Dean Rhoads
Georgia Senator Chip Rogers
Ohio Senator William Seitz
Tennessee Representative Curry Todd
Iowa Representative Linda Upmeyer
Kansas Senator Susan Wagle

Private Enterprise Board
Ms. Sano Blocker, Energy Future Holdings
Mr. Don Bohn, Johnson & Johnson
Mr. Jeff Bond, PhRMA
Mr. Bill Carmichael, American Bail Coalition
Mr. Derek Crawford, Kraft Foods, Inc.
Mr. John Del Giorno, GlaxoSmithKline
Mr. Matt Echols, Coca-Cola Company
Mr. Jim Epperson, Jr., AT&T Services, Inc.
Mr. Michael Hubert, Pfizer Inc
Ms. Teresa Jennings, Reed Elsevier, Inc.
Mr. Ken Lane, DIAGEO
Mr. Kelly Mader, Peabody Energy
Mr. Bernie McKay, Intuit, Inc.
Mr. Mike Morgan, Koch Industries, Inc.
Mr. Kevin Murphy, ExxonMobil Corp.
Mrs. Sandra Oliver, Bayer Corporation
Mr. David Powers, Reynolds American Inc.
Ms. Maggie Sans, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Mr. Russell Smoldon, Salt River Project
Mr. Toby Spangler, Altria Client Services, Inc.
Mr. Roland Spies, State Farm Insurance Co.
Mr. Pat Thomas, United Parcel Service
Mr. Jerry Watson, Chairman Emeritus

Model Legislation: 
Below has been gathered from multiple sites including the ALEC site.

One of the most important resources ALEC provides to its members is model legislation. Through the combined effort and unique partnership of public and private sector members, model legislation is drafted, deliberated and approved by one of ALEC’s nine Task Forces. These bills provide a valuable framework for developing effective policy ideas aimed at protecting and expanding our free society.

ALEC’s public sector Board of Directors has thirty days to review, and approve or reject, each bill before it becomes official ALEC policy. Legislative members can introduce ALEC model bills in their states and amend them as best fits their needs.

While ALEC provides the resources, our members, long known for their legislative activism, introduced hundreds of bills based on ALEC model legislation. During the latest legislative cycle, dozens of ALEC model bills were enacted into law.

ALEC has approximately three hundred private sector members including corporations, state and national think tanks, and trade associations. Some corporations and trade groups that have supported ALEC include: American Nuclear Energy Council, American Petroleum Institute, Coors Brewing Company, Texaco, PhRMA, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, VISA, Exxon Mobile, NRA, Amway and others.

Groups critical of ALEC claim that the organization is controlled by the entities that fund it, subsequently promoting donors’ agendas and goals, along with attempting to advance legislation which favors their interests.

I will be continuing my research of them and find out just how much influence they have. Would love to hear what you think and if you have anything to add.

The Top 20 Lobbying Companies

Clark Merrefield and Lauren Streib of The Daily Beast recently wrote a piece focusing on corporations and their influence in DC. 

To find out Capitol Hill’s coziest companies, The Daily Beast began by looking at the Fortune 100—the biggest, richest companies in America. We then did a simple ranking of the number of lobbyists on each company’s payroll in 2010, and their total lobbying expenditures for 2010, with data from the Center for Responsive Politics.  

1. General Electric
Lobbyists hired: 195
Lobbying expenditures: $39.3 million
Revenues: $150.2 billion

2. Verizon Communications
Lobbyists hired
: 143
Lobbying expenditures: $16.8 million
Revenues: $106.6 billion
3. Boeing
Lobbyists hired: 139
Lobbying expenditures: $17.9 million
Revenues: $64.3 billion
4. Comcast
Lobbyists hired: 109
Lobbying expenditures: $13 million
Revenues: $37.9 billion
5. AT&T
Lobbyists hired: 93
Lobbying expenditures: $15.4 million
Revenues: $124.3 billion
6. Lockheed Martin
Lobbyists hired: 103
Lobbying expenditures: $12.6 million
Revenues: $45.8 billion
7. FedEx
Lobbyists hired: 66
Lobbying expenditures: $25.6 million
Revenues: $34.7 billion
8. Pfizer
Lobbyists hired: 80
Lobbying expenditures: $13.3 million
Revenues: $67.8 billion
9. General Dynamics
Lobbyists hired: 102
Lobbying expenditures: $10.9 million
Revenues: $32.5 billion
10. United Technologies
Lobbyists hired: 68
Lobbying expenditures: $14.5 million
Revenues: $54.3 billion
11. Northrop Grumman
Lobbyists hired: 65
Lobbying expenditures: $15.7 million
Revenues: $34.8 billion
12. General Motors
Lobbyists hired: 76
Lobbying expenditures: $9.6 million
Revenues: $135.4 billion
13. Microsoft
Lobbyists hired: 104
Lobbying expenditures: $6.9 million
Revenues: $62.5 billion
14. Prudential Financial
Lobbyists hired: 69
Lobbying expenditures: $8.8 million
Revenues: $38.4 billion
15. Raytheon
Lobbyists hired: 71
Lobbying expenditures: $7 million
Revenues: $25.2 billion
16. Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffett’s company)
Lobbyists hired: 64
Lobbying expenditures: $9.6 million
Revenues: $136.2 billion
17. Walmart
Lobbyists hired: 90
Lobbying expenditures: $6 million
Revenues: $421.8 billion
18. Dow Chemicals
Lobbyists hired: 63
Lobbying expenditures: $8.2 million
Revenues: $53.7 billion
19. Exxon Mobile
Lobbyists hired: 50
Lobbying expenditures: $12.5 million
Revenues: $383.2 billion
20. Johnson & Johnson
Lobbyists hired: 70
Lobbying expenditures: $6.7 million
Revenues: $61.6 billion