Thursday, January 6, 2011

Welcome to Oz! It Only Took $10 Million For Wall Street to Buy Last Election (Pikers!) - Issa's Payoffs Today & Foreclosure Forced? Pub. Option Back?

Time marches on as the old saying goes, and if you don't strike at the proper time, you get left behind in history's dust. As I said right before the 2004 election when the lies about the imminence of WMD had been admitted to (sheepishly) even by the promulgators (Dumbya looking intently under his podium for those pesky WMD for insider laughs), and the deceptions of the Cheney/Bush League Iraq "conqueror/rebuilders" exposed again and again, "If nothing is done to take them to court and rectify this situation now, we are lost." The problem, of course, was the paid-off (or blackmailed?) Dims, whom we knew little about from the "owned" MSM (other than viewing the outcomes of their Congressional careers (and you know how much trouble that is for many voters to research, follow, etc. . . . )). Nothing has made me change my mind. And if you're not considering all your voting options/political contributions yet . . . there's not much left you can do to postpone the now inevitable downslide of the rest of the economy. As the following "news" comes courtesy of MSNBC and NBC (owned by GE and other warmongers who buy as many elections as they can but want to alert you to the shady doings of other entities), you can take it with a box of salt (and you may need a "hair of the dog" to fend off its ill effects too). So, if you really enjoyed the economy that hedge funders and largely unregulated "derivatives" trading, etc., brought us, you ain't seen nothing yet.

You may be feeling a little groggy from the New Year's celebration and the beating you took financially last year, but the 'Thugs are on the mark and ready to go! (And several questions arise after reading the article below, don't they, such as: 1) "What does it take to emerge as a major behind-the-scenes Rethuglican money man?" 2) "But, you mean that multi-million dollar hedge fund owners were the powerful (and much-quoted seriously by the MSM) "Concerned Taxpayers Association?" and 3) "How useful is it now to finally understand Warren Buffett's charming emphasis on how he pays less of a percentage of his income in taxes than his secretary does (half her tax rate at the most)?"?

All of these "new" facts currently being bandied about in even the MSM (striving for "balance" as always (okay, for at least now anyway)) fill me once again with wonder for the Karl Rovian "brains" who knew that few voters (but not the owners) would be able to absorb the pure evil of events/actions for years - when they would have vanished from public view and accountability (but perhaps never from Fox, actually). (Emphasis marks added - Ed.) (P.S. One more new goody for today's consideration: Did you know that the Food Price Index Surges To Highest Level On Record? (And what would be the reason(s) for this development do you think?))

A small network of hedge fund executives pumped at least $10 million into Republican campaign committees and allied groups before November’s elections, helping bankroll GOP victories that this week will change the balance of power in Washington, according to a review of campaign records and interviews with industry insiders by the Center for Public Integrity and NBC News.

Bitterly opposed to President Barack Obama’s economic and regulatory policies — including proposals to increase taxes on some of their profits — top Wall Street hedge fund moguls were unusually energized during last year’s election. They held multiple fundraisers and coordinated strategy to direct what appear to be unprecedented sums into the coffers of GOP and allied political committees, according to industry and GOP fundraising sources.

Many substantial donations from the hedge fund executives escaped public notice either because they were made late in the campaign (and therefore weren’t reported until after the election) or were funneled through third-party groups, obscure “joint fundraising committees” and newly created political nonprofits that are not required to disclose donors.

The net effect has been to give the hedge funds important new allies at a time they are fending off regulations mandated by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and an aggressive Justice Department investigation into insider trading.

A prime example is Rep. Scott Garrett, a little-known Republican from northern New Jersey who this week is slated to become the new chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee on capital markets, a key panel that has direct oversight of the industry. A staunch foe of the regulation of Wall Street, Garrett has threatened to cut funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission and roll back some provisions of Dodd-Frank.

Throwing in with apparent winners - As it became increasingly clear late last summer that Republicans were likely to capture the House, the partners at Elliott Management Corp., a $17 billion Wall Street hedge fund that specializes in distressed foreign debt, mobilized to boost Garrett’s political fortunes. One of the firm’s senior officers threw a fundraiser for Garrett. The firm’s executives and one of their spouses wrote checks totaling $195,800 to two of the congressman’s political fundraising committees, campaign records show.

Of that amount, $45,000 was donated by nine Elliott executives to the congressman’s leadership political action committee Supporting Conservatives of Today and Tomorrow. As first reported by the The Record newspaper, another $150,800 was donated to a newly created entity called the Scott Garrett Victory Committee, which was registered by a GOP fundraiser using a post office box in Athens, Ga.

As a so-called joint fundraising committee that shared its proceeds with the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, it was permitted under campaign finance rules to accept donations in excess of the standard $2,400 limit on contributions to individual candidates.

Elliott executives — one of whom wrote a check for $35,000 — ended up providing about 96 percent of all the funds raised by the Garrett committee, according to the review of campaign records by CPI and NBC.

“This is particularly appalling,” said Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes transparency in campaign finance. “No one in America will believe that Representative Garrett can provide impartial oversight of the hedge fund industry after taking these huge amounts of money from one (hedge fund) company.”

Garrett’s office did not respond to repeated phone calls and e-mails requesting comment. A political ally of Garrett, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the contributions from Elliott executives were largely at the request of Keith Horn, Elliott’s chief operating officer, who is a constituent of the congressman and has been raising money for him for years. Horn declined to comment, but a spokesman for Elliott stressed that the firm “does not make donations to political candidates or parties. Some individual Elliott employees raise funds and donate to candidates and party organizations, both Democrat and Republican, at the federal and state levels.”

The contributions to Garrett were only a small portion of a tidal wave of hedge fund contributions to GOP candidates aimed at boosting the industry’s fortunes in Washington.

A central player in the effort was Paul Singer, Elliott’s publicity-shy chairman who has emerged as one of the Republican Party’s most powerful behind-the-scenes moneymen. (A fervent libertarian, Singer is also a major donor to pro-Israel causes and gay rights groups.) During last year’s election, Singer held fundraisers for GOP Senate candidates in his Central Park West apartment and, with other Elliot executives, donated nearly $500,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, making the firm’s executives among the largest contributors to that group.

Another key industry player in directing funds to the GOP was Steven Cohen, the multibillionaire chairman of SAC Capital Advisors in Stamford, Conn. His firm, generally considered among the most successful hedge funds, recently received a subpoena seeking information related to a major Wall Street insider trading probe being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, according to a source familiar with the probe. An SAC spokesman declined to comment for this story.

Other important figures in the hedge fund campaign effort were Ken Griffin, president of Chicago’s Citadel Investment, Bruce Kovner of Caxton Associates in Princeton, N.J., Robert Mercer, co-chairman of Renaissance Technologies, which is headquartered on Long Island in New York, and John Paulson, the chairman of Paulson & Co. of Manhattan.

A dinner for donors - The executives appear to have coordinated their efforts. At a dinner at Cohen’s palatial Greenwich, Conn. home late last August, Singer, Kovner and other hedge fund executives discussed the upcoming elections and their political contributions, according to an industry source who requested anonymity. At least one GOP operative was in attendance, the source said. (Griffin, Kovner, Mercer and Paulson all declined to comment for this story.)

Among some of the more notable donations:

Singer, Cohen, Griffin (and his wife, Anne), Kovner, Paulson and another top hedge fund executive, Cliff Asness of AQR, donated nearly $6 million to the Republican Governors Association, headed by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. About $3 million of that was given in September and October, when the RGA was spearheading a crucial get-out-the-vote effort aimed at boosting Republican turnout. (The RGA is set up as a “527 committee” — a reference to that section of the tax code — which is able to take unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations but must disclose its donors publicly.)

Ken and Anne Griffin, managing partner at Aragon Global Management, another Chicago hedge fund, also gave $500,000 in the election’s waning days to American Crossroads, an “independent” group whose formation was spearheaded by Karl Rove, former President George W. Bush’s political strategist, and Ed Gillespie, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Mercer, the co-chairman of Renaissance, poured more than $600,000 into Concerned Taxpayers of America, making him the largest single contributor to the independent group that ran attack ads against congressional Democrats. Almost half of Mercer’s donations were made in October and November.

The magnitude of the industry donations are particularly notable because at least some of the hedge fund executives have in the past given generously to Democrats and some members of their firms continued to do, albeit in much smaller amounts, in last year’s election. Cohen, for example, has been a major donor to Connecticut’s Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, the retired former chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. And the Chicago-based Griffin was a “bundler” for President Obama in the last election. Paulson was a significant donor and fundraiser for Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, donating $30,400 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as late as June 2009. But in 2010, he switched heavily to the Republicans. With other members of his firm and his wife, he contributed over $450,000 to various GOP accounts.

The new enthusiasm for the GOP was spurred in large part by hedge fund managers’ opposition to many of the tax and regulatory economic policies of Obama and congressional Democrats. Some hedge fund executives, along with others from private equity funds, were especially exercised about a measure that passed the House this year before stalling in the Senate. That bill would have taxed their profits, known as carried interest, as ordinary income rather than capital gains. If enacted, the legislation would increase taxes on many executives from a marginal rate of 15 percent to 35 percent. The industry also is concerned about some provisions in the Dodd-Frank financial services reform law, such as those that will require registration and greater disclosure by hedge funds and impose tighter rules on the trading of derivatives.

But the animus of hedge fund titans toward Obama and the Democrats was also driven by what they viewed as politically charged rhetoric that stigmatized them.

“Look, it was the demonization, the anti-hedge fund rhetoric,” said one Wall Street hedge fund executive who was instrumental in helping to arrange donations to the GOP.

“These guys,” he added, “manage billions of dollars from pension funds, from investors, local governments.” When Obama last year attacked the industry as “speculators” and criticized their role in Chrysler’s bankruptcy, many executives went ballistic. “It was the cheap-shot, class-warfare rhetoric that pissed them off,” said the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The new GOP-controlled House may be far friendlier to the hedge fund industry, as some of its key allies are now poised to inherit important leadership positions. Incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia has been a key critic of the “carried interest” proposal and recently vowed to “reign in the regulatory policies” under the Dodd-Frank law to block it.

In the last two years, Cantor’s campaign committee; his leadership political action committee, the Every Republican is Crucial PAC; and the Cantor Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee he headed, all received substantial contributions from hedge fund partners. Among them: $31,400 from Cohen and executives at SAC, $32,400 from Blue Ridge Capital and $50,200 from Gruss Investments. Six top executives at the giant private equity firm KKR also contributed $55,000 to Cantor’s joint fundraising committee.

Asked for comment, Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the majority leader, said that Cantor “has made clear that the new Republican majority will use the oversight process and all means at its disposal — including the power of appropriations — to expose and repeal regulations that kill jobs and are barriers to capital formation and economic growth.”

The repeal of these regulations would leave us with jobs making about $2/hour after you factor in the "non-existent" (not accounted for in the statistics anyway) inflation: jobs for those at the bottom of the wealth pyramid (in a 3rd-world country). After the wild money-throwing at pols fit we saw at the end of the last election, I don't think he's referring to their jobs. But really, folks, I'm actually filled with admiration at the ruling dumb asses. They are represented by clowns and fools (people who used to be kept in back rooms so the horses - and riders - wouldn't buck at the sight of them directing traffic) in plain sight. And they reap huge profits with every scheme as incredibly large swathes of the public vote for them with great confidence in their abilities (and truthiness (h/t Stephen Colbert)). Welcome to Oz! And speaking of living in Oz, guess who has a curiously large number of earmarks procured for his "sponsors" (not voters) in the recent past, including many for this year when he campaigned against it? Yep. It's our number one thief/liar in the new House of Representatives (although I'm sure someone will argue with me about who really holds the title for that designation). Wasn't it just the other day when you were actually expected to "walk the walk" on your "positions?" From a neato little blog called Issa Exposed we learn that (emphasis marks added - Ed.):

One of the hallmarks of the tea party gains in the GOP has been virulent opposition to earmarks. Their newfound influence within the Republican Party has led to a strong push to eliminate the practice of earmarks altogether, and Darrell Issa hasn't missed a beat jumping on board that train. Issa was among the first Republicans to suspend his earmark requests, and even went so far as to declare "Mr. Speaker, I make a point of order that an earmark is tantamount to a bribe." Yet that never prevented Issa from requesting earmarks before Fiscal year 2010. And not just a few here and there - hundreds of millions of dollars worth. In FY 2007, Issa requested a total of $260,738,955 in what he later called "tantamount to a bribe." It dipped a bit in FY 2008 to $112,570,000, but he rebounded strongly for FY 2009 with earmark requests totalling $214,367,000. And let's remember that it was just a few weeks after submitting those FY2009 earmark requests that he was trying to block health care for 9/11 first responders, saying "I have to ask ... why the firefighters who went there and everybody in the city of New York needs to come to the federal government for the dollars versus this being primarily a state consideration." As though he felt compelled to shine even more light on his hypocrisy with respect to earmarks, it’s worth noting that Issa requested a $5 million earmark in FY 2007 for a project submitted by the giant defense contractor SAIC. Interestingly, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, SAIC has been Issa's single largest source of campaign contributions throughout his Congressional career. Between FY 2007 and 2008, Issa submitted $13 million in earmark requests to benefit another defense contractor, BAE Systems. BAE clocks in at fifth on Issa's career top contributor list.

The conflicts and the hypocrisy are a troubling pattern--especially in light of yesterday’s news that Issa has now asked corporate lobbyists to tell him what to investigate.

And on the foreclosure front, we have the lastest piece of fuckery to be visited on an unsuspecting population (but not the ones already foreclosed on as they understand the process all too well now). (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

The Federal Reserve is pushing a new mortgage regulation that would effectively eliminate the most powerful federal remedy for predatory lending.

The regulation would severely limit a practice called "rescission," used to strike down demonstrably-illegal or fraudulent loan contracts and void a bank's ill-gotten gains from such predatory lending practices. When a mortgage borrower wins a rescission case in court, the bank loses the right to foreclose, and has to give up all profits from interest and fees on the loan. The borrower still has to repay the principal - the original amount of money extended by the bank - but can't be kicked out of the house.

Under the Fed's new proposal, however, borrowers would be required to pay off the balance of the loan before the bank loses its right to foreclose - that means borrowers could still lose their homes, even in cases where banks have broken the law.

Unsurprisingly, banks support the move, but consumer advocates say this would essentially make rescission worthless to borrowers.

"The ... proposal would eviscerate the single most effective tool that homeowners have to stop foreclosures and avoid predatory loans," reads a letter penned by Margot Saunders of the National Consumer Law Center and signed by 16 national public interest groups, along with 33 state housing and legal aid groups and 144 individual attorneys. "Passage of the proposed rule will considerably exacerbate foreclosure statistics in this nation."

As it should be in banksta land.

On a more positive note, is it possible that due to all the screwups of the ObamaCare bill that discussion of the "public option" might receive real consideration now? One of my favorite politicians, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) is trying to make that a reality.

Even as Republicans gear up for a vote to repeal health care reform, one progressive House member is making a renewed push for the public option.

On Wednesday, the first day of the 112th Congress, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) introduced a measure to establish a robust public health insurance option as a supplement to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The California congresswoman argued that the plan, which pays physicians 5 percent more than Medicare rates, would lower insurance costs and address deficit concerns, pointing to a Congressional Budget Office report saying it would cut the deficit by $68 billion.

"This is the perfect moment for the public option," Woolsey said. "It builds on the health care reform legislation by lowering costs and it provides a great way to bring down the deficit."

She added: "If Republicans really care about the deficit, they should sign on to this bill rather than try to dismantle the health care reform law, which would add billions to the budget deficit."

Sheesh! I wish!!!

Lynn for President!!!!

Suzan _______________

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