Posts tagged lobbyist
By Cora Currier
ProPublica, June 13, 2012
This morning, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, faced a Senate hearing over more than $2 billion in bank losses caused by risky hedges that blew up. Dimon said that the hedges—investments meant to protect the bank—had grown into “complex and hard-to manage risks.” The losses “let a lot of people down, and we are sorry for it.”
Many lawmakers are holding up the losses as evidence of the need for stronger financial regulation. The chairman of the Senate banking committee, Tim Johnson, D-S.D., in his opening remarks, asked for “a full accounting” of JP Morgan’s losses.
But through campaign contributions and well-connected staff, JP Morgan appears to have already taken its own accounting of the Banking committee. Here’s a picture of connections between the company and the committee:
Ignacio E. Sanchez is a lobbyistat DLA Piper, an influential global law firm and a major bundler for the Mitt Romney campaign. A ThinkProgress review of public records reveals Sanchez is also a registered foreign agent representing the interests of the United Arab Emirates and of a former president of the Dominican Republic.
While political candidates are not legally required to identify bundlers — volunteer fundraisers who collect bundles of campaign contribution checks for the campaign — a 2007 law requires that federal candidates disclose the names of any registered lobbyists who bundle large amounts for their campaign. On Tuesday, Romney’s campaign reported that 14 lobbyists combined to raise more than $1.6 million last year in bundled contributions.
One of those lobbyist-bundlers was Sanchez, who raked in $86,700 for the former Massachusetts governor. This major fundraising raises questions about the level of access and influence Sanchez — and by extension, his corporate and international clients — would have in a Romney administration.
Unlike the other 13 identified lobbyist-bundlers, Sanchez is a registered foreign agent. A form filed Monday with the U.S. Department of Justice reveals that he beyond just representing the interests of those domestic clients, Sanchez also represents the embassy of the United Arab Emirates and the presidential campaign of Dominican Republic former president Hipolito Mejia.
Mejia is seeking to reclaim the job he held from 2000 to 2004 and lost in a landslide defeat, amid a national economic crisis and financial near-collapse.
The United Arab Emirates has been among the stronger U.S. allies in the Middle East and is a key player in OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. But the interests of the two countries don’t always converge and groups like Human Rights Watch have raised concerns about the country’s suppression of free speech and political disagreement.
In the past, Sanchez also represented the governments of Turkey and Ethiopia. Current federal lobbying disclosure forms show that he lobbies Congress and the administration on behalf of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide (which includes the Sheraton, W, and St. Regis brands) and Diageo North America, the makers of Guinness, Jose Cuervo, Captain Morgan, and dozens of other alcoholic beverages.
President Obama does not accept campaign contributions donated or bundled by federal lobbyists or foreign agents. In last week’s State of the Union address, he called for a ban on bundlers lobbying saying “Let’s make sure people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress can’t lobby Congress, and vice versa — an idea that has bipartisan support, at least outside of Washington.”
But Romney — who has not voluntarily disclosed any other bundlers — is apparently all too happy to accept money from those who are paid to influence policy decisions on behalf of special interests, foreign and domestic.
Now more than every we need the Champion of the Constitution!
Please visit Ron Paul’s official campaign site by following the link below and donate today!
Written by Thomas R. Eddlem
Newt Gingrich’s lucrative $300,000 consulting contract with mortgage giant Freddie Mac in 2006 — during the height of the housing bubble it was fueling — was geared toward stopping Republican support for new restraints on the guarantee of sub-prime mortgages, according to a November 15 reportby Bloomberg News.
The controversy went public again during the CNBC debate November 9, when CNBC Host John Harwood asked Gingrich: “Your firm was paid $300,000 by Freddie Mac in 2006. What did you do for that money?”
Gingrich responded by denying he’d been a paid “lobbyist”:
I have never done any lobbying. Every contract was written during the period when I was out of the office, specifically said I would do no lobbying, and I offered advice. And my advice as a historian, when they walked in and said to me, “We are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that’s what the government wants us to do,” as I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible.
Of course, Harwood hadn’t accused Gingrich of lobbying, and had only asked what he had done to earn the $300,000 contract. By knocking down the lobbying straw-man argument, Gingrich hoped to end the issue. But his “historian” remark only made those in the press more curious about what he’d done to earn this very substantial paycheck.
The picture that emerges from the Bloomberg investigation is one of a Gingrich who didn’t personally do any lobbying, but where Gingrich was paid to advise the actual lobbyists on how best to influence GOP congressmen to kill new restrictions on federal loan guarantees through Freddie Mac and its sister corporation Fannie Mae. Gingrich was expected to produce written materials for the lobbyists and hone talking points for them.
Gingrich’s own campaign website doesn’t substantially differ from the Bloomberg account, suggesting that “Freddie Mac was interested in advice on how to reach out to more conservatives. The Gingrich Group stressed that Freddie Mac must be open to reform of their lending practices but that by stressing the historical success of public-private partnerships in achieving public goods at a minimum of taxpayer money and bureaucracy.”
Gingrich’s presidential website reiterated the former House Speaker’s claim in the November 9 debate that “on numerous occasions in meetings with Freddie Mac, Speaker Gingrich advised that a business model that involved lending money to people with bad credit and no money down was unsustainable and a bubble, and that it was dangerous to buy securities made up of these mortgages.”
But Bloomberg’s investigation says that Gingrich’s work was limited to training lobbyists and providing them with propaganda pamphlets, and not as an advisor on the direction of Freddie Mac’s business. Bloomberg authors Clea Benson and Kristin Jensen wrote: “If Gingrich concluded that the company’s business model was at risk and that the housing market was a ‘bubble,’ as he said during the debate, he didn’t share those concerns with Richard Syron, Freddie Mac’s chief executive officer at the time, a person familiar with the company’s internal discussions said.” Bloomberg concluded: “None of the former Freddie Mac officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said Gingrich raised the issue of the housing bubble or was critical of Freddie Mac’s business model.” Asked by Bloomberg to comment on the specifics of what Gingrich did for Freddie Mac, the Gingrich campaign deferred, citing confidentiality clauses in the contract. “I can’t give you any of the details,” Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond told Bloomberg. “It’s written into his contract with them.”
Gingrich’s claims to oppose Freddie Mac’s policies as a “bubble” and “insane” have yet to be publicly documented, unlike the warnings issued by fellow presidential candidate and former House colleague Ron Paul. In fact, Rep. Paul made frequent warnings about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae beginning in 2001 and throughout the housing bubble.
Gingrich’s efforts on behalf of lobbyists by Bloomberg appear to be well-grounded, however. The Bloomberg analysis confirmed much of what a December 8, 2008 article by Pete Yost of the Associated Press asserted. The AP account described the multimillion dollar Freddie Mac lobbying effort in similar terms, noting that a number of Republican heavyweights had been hired as consultants or lobbyists. The 2008 AP account did not distinguish between the lobbyists and the consultants or cover any specifics of Gingrich’s activity.
Gingrich has long been a fervent supporter of Freddie Mac. “Fannie Mae is an excellent example of a former government institution fulfilling its mandate while functioning in the market economy,” Gingrich wrote in a press release in 1995, according to Bloomberg.com.
Indeed, Gingrich has long been a supporter of the kind of “government-sponsored enterprises” that is typified by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, where government provides the start-up money for a nominally private enterprise and a presumed bailout if the enterprise fails. In the case of Fannie and Freddie, the federal government has already appropriated more than $250 billion (plus $775 billion in Federal Reserve Fannie/Freddie securities purchases) to bail out the two companies out since 2008. Gingrich also served as a “consultant” for the ethanol lobby, and has supported government subsidies for the ethanol industry so fervently that the Wall Street Journal labeled him “Professor Cornpone.” Gingrich also earned $315,000 in consulting fees to the ethanol lobby.
The former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives has been responding to the Freddie Mac story on the campaign trail. At a November 15 campaign event in Sheffield, Iowa, according to CNN, Gingrich said, “Let me draw a distinction: Government-sponsored enterprises which includes the Transcontinental Railroad has a long history of being fairly successful. Now that doesn’t mean with bad management and with bad ideas that it can’t be a failure. But in the long run it’s actually been a useful model for the country overall.” Of course, the “historian” Gingrich should have known that the Union Pacific Railroad, chartered in 1862 with $100 million from Congress, was part of the 1872 Crédit Mobilier congressional bribery scandal and declared bankruptcy several times. Using the Union Pacific as a model for a good public-private partnership was a poor choice for touting public-private partnerships, but perhaps a good example if he wanted to explain why they inevitably become failures.
Photo of Newt Gingrich: AP Images
[CIM Comment: Emphasis added.]
Jack Abramoff: The lobbyist’s playbook Or
How To Buy Your Own Congressperson
CBS 60 Minutes
November 07, 2011 — Jack Abramoff, the notorious former lobbyist at the center of Washington’s biggest corruption scandal in decades, spent more than three years in prison for his crimes. Now a free man, he reveals how he was able to influence politicians and their staffers through generous gifts and job offers. He tells Lesley Stahl the reforms instituted in the wake of his scandal have had little effect.
Jack Abramoff may be the most notorious and crooked lobbyist of our time. He was at the center of a massive scandal of brazen corruption and influence peddling.
As a Republican lobbyist starting in the mid 1990s, he became a master at showering gifts on lawmakers in return for their votes on legislation and tax breaks favorable to his clients. He was so good at it, he took home $20 million a year.
Jack Abramoff: Inside Capitol corruption
How corrupt is lobbying in Washington, DC? Enough to get “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl angry when she hears how Jack Abramoff bribed and influenced legislators.
It all came crashing down five years ago, when Jack Abramoff pled guilty to corrupting public officials, tax evasion and fraud, and served three and a half years in prison.
Today he’s a symbol of how money corrupts Washington. In our interview tonight, he opens up his playbook for the first time.
And explains exactly how he used his clients’ money to buy powerful friends and influence legislation.
Jack Abramoff: I was so far into it that I couldn’t figure out where right and wrong was. I believed that I was among the top moral people in the business. I was totally blinded by what was going on.
Jack Abramoff was a whiz at influencing legislation and one way he did that was to get his clients, like some Indian tribes, to make substantial campaign contributions to select members of Congress.
Abramoff: As I look back it was effective. It certainly helped the people I was trying to help, both the clients and the Republicans at that time.
Lesley Stahl: But even that, you’re now saying, was corrupt?
Stahl: Can you quantify how much it costs to corrupt a congressman?
Abramoff: I was actually thinking of writing a book – “The Idiot’s Guide to Buying a Congressman” – as a way to put this all down. First, I think most congressmen don’t feel they’re being bought. Most congressmen, I think, can in their own mind justify the system.
Abramoff: –rationalize it and by the way we wanted as lobbyists for them to feel that way.
Abramoff would provide freebies and gifts – looking for favors for his clients in return. He’d lavish certain congressmen and senators with access to private jets and junkets to the world’s great golf destinations like St. Andrews in Scotland. Free meals at his own upscale Washington restaurant and access to the best tickets to all the area’s sporting events; including two skyboxes at Washington Redskins games.
Abramoff: I spent over a million dollars a year on tickets to sporting events and concerts and what not at all the venues.
Stahl: A million dollars?
Abramoff: Ya. Ya.
Stahl: For the best seats?
Abramoff: The best seats. I had two people on my staff whose virtual full-time job was booking tickets. We were Ticketmaster for these guys.
Stahl: And the congressman or senator could take his favorite people from his district to the game–
Abramoff: The congressman or senator uh, could take two dozen of his favorite people from their district.
Stahl: Was all that legal?
Ira Rosen is the producer.
Abramoff: We would certainly try to make the activity legal, if we could. At times we didn’t care.
But the “best way” to get a congressional office to do his bidding – he says – was to offer a staffer a job that could triple his salary.
Abramoff: When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, “You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.” Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ‘em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.
Neil Volz: Jack Abramoff could sweet talk a dog off a meat truck, that’s how persuasive he was.
Neil Volz was one of the staffers Abramoff was talking about. He was chief of staff to Congressman Bob Ney, who as chairman of the House Administration Committee had considerable power to dispense favors. Abramoff targeted Volz and offered him a job.
Stahl: You’re the chief of staff of a powerful congressman. And Jack owns you and you haven’t even left working for the congressman.
Volz: I have the distinct memory of, you know, negotiating with Jack at a hockey game. So we’re, you know, just a few rows back. The crowd’s goin’ crazy. And Jack and I are havin’ a business conversation. And, you know, I’m– I’m wrestlin’ with how much I think I should get paid. And then five minutes later we’re– he’s askin’ me questions about some clients of his.
Stahl: When you look back was that the corrupting moment?
Volz: I think we were guilty of engaging in a corrupt relationship. So there were several corrupting moments. There isn’t just one moment. There were many.
Abramoff: At the end of the day most of the people that I encountered who worked on Capitol Hill wanted to come work on K Street, wanted to be lobbyists.
Stahl: You’re telling me this, the genius of figuring out you could own the office by offering a job to the chief of staff, say. I’m having two reactions. One is brilliant. And the other is I’m sick to my stomach.
Abramoff: Right. Evil. Yeah. Terrible.
Stahl: ‘Cause it’s hurting our country.
Abramoff: Shameful. Absolutely. It’s the worst thing that could happen. All parts of the system.
Stahl: I’m mad at you.
Abramoff: I was mad at me–
Stahl: I’m not kidding. I’m not kidding.
Abramoff: Look I did things and I was involved in the system I should not have been in. I’m ashamed of the fact I was there, the very reason why now I’m speaking about it. And now I’m trying to do something, in recompense, is the fact that I thought it was– it was wrong of me to do it.
One of the offices he keyed on was that of his good friend, the Majority Leader Tom Delay, eventually hiring his deputy chief of staff and his press secretary, and going into business with Delay’s chief of staff.
Stahl: Did you own his staff?
Abramoff: I was as close to his staff as to any staff. I had a very strong personal relationship with a lot of his staff.
Stahl: How many congressional offices did you actually own?
Abramoff: We probably had very strong influence in 100 offices at the time.
Stahl: Come on.
Stahl: A hundred offices?
Abramoff: In those days, I would view that as a failure. Because that leaves 335 offices that we didn’t have strong influence in.
Stahl: Did he own you?
Bob Ney: Oh, I don’t believe Jack Abramoff owned me. But were we involved in the culture of corruption together? Absolutely.
Former Republican Congressman Bob Ney was ambitious and looked at Abramoff as a way to build alliances with the White House and the majority leader.
Ney: I wanted to be speaker of the House and Jack Abramoff was the beautiful light of day for me to get to the person who I had had some conflicts with, Tom Delay.