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Posts tagged "Corruption"

thepoliticalfreakshow:

Congress is at the precipice of another ‘cliff’: The Export-Import Bank of the United States must be reauthorized by September, or it will have to close for the first time since it was created in 1934.

The fight over the bank is an esoteric one with confusing and shifting battle lines. While the Tea Party is currently pushing not to reauthorize the bank, a variety of ideological positions are coming into conflict. Now, after 80 years of largely uneventful reauthorization votes, there is a very real chance that the bank’s authority won’t be renewed.

This conflict might not seem relevant to the average person. But the fights over the Export-Import Bank have important implications about how trade policy should work in the 21st century. Here’s what you need to know to understand Congress’s latest battle:

What is the Export-Import Bank?

The ‘Ex-Im Bank,’ as it’s known, is a corporation owned entirely by the federal government. Technically located within the Executive Branch, but independently housed and operated by finance professionals, the bank’s mission is to boost American exports. To do that, it supplies various types of credit to U.S. businesses that need them to operate. Generally, the Ex-Im Bank supports transactions that private banks won’t finance, and that are guaranteed to support or create American jobs. The most common type of credit the bank supplies is loan guarantees (rather than outright cash lending) to foreign companies that buy things from U.S. businesses. By providing loan guarantees and other forms of indirect financing, the bank ensures that American exporters have customers who can pay to buy their goods.

The vast majority of the credit transactions the bank authorized in 2013 —89 percent — were in support of U.S. small businesses. But the vast majority of the dollar amount of credit authorized went to support much larger companies like Boeing, whose customers would otherwise not have bought so many of its planes. Still, small businesses who rely upon the bank for export insurance that private markets won’t provide say they would be left to shoulder the risk of losses should clients fail to pay.

The Ex-Im Bank costs taxpayers nothing, and actually returns revenue to the Treasury. The government turned a $1.057 billion profit on Ex-Im Bank activity last fiscal year. (Depending on which sort of accounting rules you go by, the bank will either make taxpayers $14 billion over the coming decade, cost them $2 billion, or perform somewhere in between.) The bank had a default rate below 0.25 percent last year on the various types of business credit it offers. Since it was created in the 1930s, it has an overall default rate below 2 percent.

Who wants to kill it?

The current push to block the bank’s reauthorization is coming fromhardline conservative groups like the Club for Growth and the Heritage Foundation. Both groups have pledged to use Ex-Im Bank reauthorization as a “key vote” in scoring the legislative records of lawmakers ahead of the midterm elections, and Americans for Prosperity has made similar threats. That pressure to oppose the bank from outside Congress is combining with the increasing ideological purity of the Republican Party within Congress to create a great deal of momentum against reauthorization.

When former Majority Leader and longtime supporter of Ex-Im reauthorization Eric Cantor (R-VA) lost his primary election, for example, and handed his seat to an unheralded Ayn Rand devotee and hardline supply-side ideologue who almost surely opposes the bank, the New York Times ran a front-page story on what Cantor’s loss meant for the bank and for American exports. “Eliminating the bank has become a conservative cause on par with repealing the Affordable Care Act,” the Times wrote. Cantor’s successor in the Majority Leader position, Kevin McCarthy, has announced that he opposes reauthorization of the bank.

What would happen if the Ex-Im Bank disappeared?

It’s tough to give a simple answer to that question, since the bank’s authorization has never been in serious jeopardy until now. But some numbers on the bank’s performance are instructive: Since the bank began calculating its impact on American jobs in 2010, it estimates that it has supported 1.2 million jobs in the country. The bank authorized a total of $27.3 billion in credit last year across more than 3,800 separate transactions, supporting a total of $37.4 billion worth of export sales by U.S. companies.

The evaporation of the support Ex-Im provides wouldn’t guarantee that all those jobs and all those business deals disappeared. But they would all be vulnerable. Since every other developed country in the world maintains some equivalent to the Ex-Im Bank to protect their own exporters, and voracious exporters like China are even more cutthroat than the Ex-Im Bank is allowed to be, it would become substantially more difficult for American companies to compete in the global marketplace.

The list of groups and individuals who have warned of economic consequences if the bank disappears includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the White House, andTexas Gov. Rick Perry (R). Even Delta Airlines, which has long criticized the bank for putting domestic airlines at a disadvantage by helping foreign airlines to buy Boeing planes, has come around and indicated support for reauthorizing the bank.

How did the bank become political football?

Many different kinds of thinkers and analysts have wanted to end the Ex-Im Bank at one point or another in its nearly nine-decade history. Nobel Prize-winning economist and frequent progressive hero Paul Krugman opposes the bank in theory, but doesn’t want the bank wound down until the economy gets stronger. Fellow economist and liberal Dean Baker agrees that Ex-Im is primarily a protectionist entity that should not exist in a modern economic system. On the right, libertarian economists and free-market purists have long opposed the bank’s interference in the marketplace.

Some political institutions have been consistent in their ideological perspective on the bank, whether critical or supportive. But many of the individual politicians who determine the bank’s fate, on all sides of the political spectrum, have shifted according to the prevailing winds. Democrats in Congress and in the press, for example, derided the bank for decades for its role in propping up a variety of transactions that offended their values, including infrastructure deals that helped dictators to fossil fuel contracts. Meanwhile, since the vast majority of the monetary value of the bank’s work goes to giant corporations, politicians have repeatedly attacked Ex-Im as a fountain of corporate welfare. (Bank officials are quick to point out that the vast majority of the businesses for whom it secures credit are small companies.) The broad, though changing, opposition to the bank provides one of the clearest indicators of the bank’s precarious position today.

What are the chances the Ex-Im Bank really doesn’t get reauthorized?

Potentially imposing grievous harm both to a signature American manufacturer like Boeing and to an institution that has supported hundreds of thousands of jobs each year at businesses large and small alike without costing taxpayers anything may seem like enough to keep the Ex-Im Bank safe. After all, the bank’s value for protecting American business interests has always been enough in the past, and supporters today rightly note that other countries that maintain similar institutions to support their own industrial base are not going to lay down their economic arms if Ex-Im evaporates.

But it’s hard to see where the reauthorization votes will come from. Nearly 100 House Republicans voted “no” when the bank was up for reauthorization two years ago, and the pressure on their colleagues to join the opposition is much stronger now that prominent conservative organizations have promised to use the issue as a primary determinant of which candidates get their support during this November’s election. With 41 of his members backing the bank publicly, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) could certainly still get a reauthorization bill passed if he were willing to rely on Democrats’ votes to pass something that the grassroots of his party increasingly detests. Business lobbyists from the Chamber of Commerce and other powerful groups will exert influence over the vote as well, and Boehner might ultimately get a large enough number of Republicans on board to be politically palatable.

With economists on the left opposing the Ex-Im Bank on principle, powerful electoral influencers on the right prepared to punish GOP dissenters, and sexy headlines about corruption and scandals at the bank threatening to drown out its public relations push, it is difficult to chart a path to reauthorization.

Source: Alan Pyke for ThinkProgress

dailykos:

And he wants to be president!

He’s getting coal from Santa this Christmas. 

Hopefully he gets his ass voted out of office in November. Vote for Mary Burke (D)!!! 
h/t: :Philip Bump at WaPo’s The Fix

h/t: Eric Lach at TPM

h/t: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress Justice

crooksandliars:

Dinesh D'Souza Pleads Guilty To Making Fraudulent Campaign Contributions

Wasn’t he just telling Bill Maher about his “vigorous defense”? Maybe, like most wingnuts, he’s just full of crap:

(Reuters) - The conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a campaign finance law violation, averting a trial that had been expected to begin the same day in Manhattan federal court.

D’Souza pleaded guilty to one criminal count of making illegal contributions in the names of others. A second count concerning the making of false statements is expected to be dismissed once the defendant is sentenced.

The plea came four months after Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged D’Souza with using straw donors to give funds in 2012 to Wendy Long, a Republican Senate candidate in New York who ultimately lost to Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand.


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veruca-assault:

FORGET BRIDGEGATE: Chris Christie May Be Responsible For ‘Traffic Armageddon’ Across The Northeast

There are two tunnels under the Hudson shared by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit. The pair of tunnels, which are more than a century old, are two of the only direct rail links between New York City and New Jersey. According to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, the tunnels were used by over 160,000 local commuters each day in 2012. They are also a vital component of Amtrak’s crowded Northeastern Corridor, which runs from Washington D.C. to Boston. Boardman said the tunnels currently accommodate 24 trains per hour and shutting even one of them would mean only six trains would make it through each hour, a drastic reduction in service that would impact commuters and business travelers between D.C. and Massachusetts and all points in between. 
Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the chairman of the Assembly’s transportation committee, told Business Insider Wednesday a shutdown in the Hudson tunnels would be “traffic Armageddon” for New Jersey commuters and Amtrak riders. 
"For the people of New Jersey who rely on getting into Manhattan on a daily basis because of their occupation or trade, it’s an absolute, unmitigated disaster," Wisniewski said. "The Northeast Corridor will cease to function for all intents and purposes. The Northeast Corridor train will not exist effectively because of this. … We will have traffic Armageddon in the New Jersey/New York port area because of it. It is just too horrible to think of.” 
Wisniewski said the “disaster” could have been avoided entirely if Christie had not stopped the ARC tunnel. Though he said he was surprised by Boardman’s prediction that a tunnel shutdown could come so soon, Wisniewski said lawmakers have always known the 100-year-old tunnels would not last forever. Wisniewski said Christie’s decision to kill that project “dashed away” the “20 years of planning that went into the first tunnel.”

Thanks again, Christie!

veruca-assault:

FORGET BRIDGEGATE: Chris Christie May Be Responsible For ‘Traffic Armageddon’ Across The Northeast

There are two tunnels under the Hudson shared by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit. The pair of tunnels, which are more than a century old, are two of the only direct rail links between New York City and New Jersey. According to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, the tunnels were used by over 160,000 local commuters each day in 2012. They are also a vital component of Amtrak’s crowded Northeastern Corridor, which runs from Washington D.C. to Boston. Boardman said the tunnels currently accommodate 24 trains per hour and shutting even one of them would mean only six trains would make it through each hour, a drastic reduction in service that would impact commuters and business travelers between D.C. and Massachusetts and all points in between. 

Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the chairman of the Assembly’s transportation committee, told Business Insider Wednesday a shutdown in the Hudson tunnels would be “traffic Armageddon” for New Jersey commuters and Amtrak riders. 

"For the people of New Jersey who rely on getting into Manhattan on a daily basis because of their occupation or trade, it’s an absolute, unmitigated disaster," Wisniewski said. "The Northeast Corridor will cease to function for all intents and purposes. The Northeast Corridor train will not exist effectively because of this. … We will have traffic Armageddon in the New Jersey/New York port area because of it. It is just too horrible to think of.” 

Wisniewski said the “disaster” could have been avoided entirely if Christie had not stopped the ARC tunnel. Though he said he was surprised by Boardman’s prediction that a tunnel shutdown could come so soon, Wisniewski said lawmakers have always known the 100-year-old tunnels would not last forever. Wisniewski said Christie’s decision to kill that project “dashed away” the “20 years of planning that went into the first tunnel.”

Thanks again, Christie!

(via iammyfather)

Move this seat to Tilt D. 

h/t: Eric Lach at TPM

addictinginfo:

Emails Show Republican Governor Used State Budget To Boost Profits For Family Member

featured

On March 24, 2014, the Michigan Democratic Party released emails that show Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, along with his former budget director and current adviser, colluded to give a massive taxpayer funded subsidy to a member of the governor’s family.

Cousin George’s furniture business got a big boost in Rick Snyder’s budget.

Governor Rick Snyder’s CEO cousin, George Snyder’s business partners received more than $19 million dollars, after jotting off a quick email to cousin Rick, on April 29th, 2011. Since 2011, the share of the taxpayer budget going to George Snyder’s industry has ballooned to $41 million. What is George Snyder’s industry? Office furniture.

Mitch McConnell, your time of fucking up our nation and the Commonwealth of Kentucky is up! 

Alison Lundergan Grimes’ https://www.facebook.com/AlisonForKentucky/photos/a.346992638673604.82516.345511062155095/722747217764809/?type=1Facebook Page: 

quickhits:

What Scott Walker has in common with a certain recently deposed Ukrainian criminal.

If you ever come across a “gee, but Scott Walker is swell!” comment under a news story, blog post, or Reddit comment thread, assume it’s paid propaganda and call the commenter out for it — not because the odds show it’s likely to be true, but because actions like this deserve profoundly negative consequences:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: In the heat of the 2010 governor’s race, Scott Walker urged both county employees and campaign aides to go to news websites and post comments promoting him and his record, newly unsealed documents show.

It was just such anonymous posts by a county worker on campaign issues that prompted prosecutors to expand a secret “John Doe” investigation — launched to probe into missing money in a veterans fund — to also examine whether taxpayer dollars were being used illegally to finance political operations.

In one instance in May 2010, for example, a close ally posted online a portion of a Walker email almost verbatim on a Journal Sentinel story just minutes after receiving the directive. Walker had sent the note to an inner circle that included county administrators as well as campaign operatives.

Tapping out a message on his campaign Blackberry on the afternoon of May 4, 2010, Walker urged county aides, campaign staffers and other trusted volunteers to go to an online Journal Sentinel business story and respond to critics of his plan to privatize the airport in the comments section below the story.

The legitimacy of pro-Walker statements online need to be challenged, because this sort of activity is the very definition of state-sponsored propaganda. It’s also just a hair short of sock puppetry, making it extremely dishonest. If the people who pull this sort of thing wind up worse off because of it, then they’ll stop doing it. So, when an online comment goes something like, “Yah but Walker is so awesome, too!” then just go ahead and assumed they’re on the guv’s payroll.

And this credibility problem is what Scott Walker has in common with a certain corrupt Ukrainian politician, currently on the run from his own people.

Buzzfeed: Several conservative bloggers repeated talking points given to them by a proxy group for the Ukrainian government — and at least one writer was paid by a representative of the Ukrainian group, according to documents and emails obtained by BuzzFeed.

The Ukrainian campaign began in the run-up to high-stakes Ukrainian parliamentary elections last year, and sought to convince skeptical American conservatives that the pro-Russian Party of Regions, led by President Viktor Yanukovych, deserved American support. During that period, articles echoing Ukrainian government talking points appeared on leading conservative online outlets, including RedState, Breitbart, and Pajamas Media.

The emails and documents, which include prepackaged quotes from election officials and talking points that some writers copied nearly word-for-word, offer a glimpse into how foreign governments dodge tight Justice Department regulations on foreign propaganda to covertly lobby in the United States: The payments were routed through a front group in Belgium to an American consultant, who has urged writers not to cooperate with a reporter investigating the campaign.

The model resembles a recent stealth campaign in which bloggers were paid by the Malaysian government to write favorable stories, though the Ukraine campaign appears to have involved smaller sums of money.

So there’s the common thread: American conservatives on the turd-polishing payroll. At this point, there’s ample evidence that a lot of opinion-making on the right is paid propaganda BS — so really, if you take any of it without a massive grain of salt, you’re literally a grade-A, first-class chump. But take a look at the company Wisconsin’s embattled governor keeps on this one: gangsters and dictators.

I wouldn’t trust this guy. And that advice comes unbought, by the way.

[photo via Wikimedia Commons]

(via reagan-was-a-horrible-president)

apolloreport:

Mel Reynolds embarrasses Illinois once again

NOTE: Part of an Associated Press article blockquoted in this blog post contains the British English word “offence”, which is spelled “offense” in American English.

Former Democratic Congressman Mel Reynolds, who resigned from Congress back in 1995 after, among other things, being caught having sex with an underage campaign volunteer, has embarrassed Illinois once again.

This time, Reynolds has been arrested for allegedly being in possession of pornography and overstaying his visa in Zimbabwe, a country where possession of any kind of pornography is illegal.

View Post

Rachel Maddow: Federal probe of NC toxic polluter could be bad news for Gov. McCrory (via Raw Story )

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said on Thursday that a burgeoning federal investigation could spell trouble for not only the North Carolina company behind an 82,000-ton toxic spill, but also for former employee Gov. Pat McCrory (R). Maddow pointed out that…

Via mediamattersforamerica

Here are several notable things we learned from the phone hacking trial in January:

  • Actress Sienna Miller testified that a private phone message between her and actor Daniel Craig was made public and had been turned into “a titillating piece of information” for the media, who claimed that the two were having an affair. After her testimony via video link, Judge John Saunders told Miller that “I am very sorry what has gone on in this court and reported in the press has caused you distress.” Her ex-boyfriend, actor Jude Law, also testified at the trial.
  • The jury was given a police statement from former News of the World journalist Dan Evans, who said that he was “encouraged” to talk about phone hacking when interviewing with former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, and that he told Coulson that intercepting voicemails had saved money for his previous employer, the Sunday Mirror. Evans has already pleaded guilty to four charges, including two that are related to phone hacking.
  • News of the World archivist Nicholas Mays testified that Rebekah Brooks’ personal assistant asked for Brooks’ notebooks from the same time period that the phone hacking took place on the day that staff was told the newspaper would be shut down.
  • The jury was shown police evidence that as many as 10 mobile phones issued to Brooks during the time she edited News Corp.’s The Sun newspaper and worked as chief executive for News International have disappeared and have not been accounted for.
  • News International had its offices and the homes of executives like Brooks swept for eavesdropping bugs as Rupert Murdoch was bidding to purchase broadcaster BSkyB.
  • Jurors were shown CCTV footage of Brooks’ husband leaving a laptop and garbage bag in a parking garage under their apartment building on the same day she was arrested. Brooks has been accused of withholding evidence from police as they investigated the phone hacking.