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Greed in Congress

In my mind there are two types of people on Capitol Hill. There are those who are really trying to fix America’s problems and there are those who are really trying to line their own pockets. I really love those who are trying (even those who are misguided but who are trying to fix America). I really, really loathe those who are simply padding their bank accounts.

From NYT:

Soon after he retired last year as one of the leading liberals in Congress, former Representative William D. Delahunt of Massachusetts started his own lobbying firm with an office on the 16th floor of a Boston skyscraper. One of his first clients was a small coastal town that has agreed to pay him $15,000 a month for help in developing a wind energy project.

Amid the revolving door of congressmen-turned-lobbyists, there is nothing particularly remarkable about Mr. Delahunt’s transition, except for one thing. While in Congress, he personally earmarked $1.7 million for the same energy project.

So today, his firm, the Delahunt Group, stands to collect $90,000 or more for six months of work from the town of Hull, on Massachusetts Bay, with 80 percent of it coming from the pot of money he created through a pair of Energy Department grants in his final term in office, records and interviews show.

Experts in federal earmarking — a practice of financing pet projects that has been forsaken by many members of Congress as a toxic symbol of political abuse — said they could not recall a case in which a former lawmaker stood to benefit so directly from an earmark he had authorized. Mr. Delahunt’s firm is seeking a review of the arrangement from the Energy Department. (more…)

More from CREW:

Rep. Delahunt’s case may be more direct than most, but he isn’t alone. CREW’s research found five other former lawmakers, all of whom left office within the past five years, collecting lobbying fees for institutions they earmarked to while in office (two others are registered to lobby for institutions they have earmarked to, but reported earning only nominal fees). The members collectively earmarked more than $70 million to the organizations they went on to represent, and have pulled in a total of nearly $1.9 million from the work. Former Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), for example, earmarked $1.6 million for defense contractor Northrop Grumman in the 2008 budget. Then he left office – but apparently kept up the relationship. The company was one of his early lobbying clients, and lobbying disclosure records show the contract brought in nearly $1.3 million in fees between 2008 and 2010.

By |2012-01-28T09:05:10-04:00January 28th, 2012|Congress, Ethics|Comments Off on Greed in Congress

Tuesday News Roundup

  • I was surprised at how nice it was to see Keith Olbermann back on TV.
  • It is time that we honestly assess our obsession with pro sports. With state, local and federal agencies trying to cut back because Americans simply don’t want to pay more, why is Los Angeles looking for pro football team? Pro football even in the largest markets requires subsidies, huge subsidies, from the taxpayer. Their single largest expense is not their egotistical quarterback or their prized wide receiver. It’s their stadium. If we, the taxpayers, have to pay for the stadium then why don’t we get an opportunity to make some decisions on personnel and coaches and the direction of the team? Don’t get me wrong, I love football and basketball and tennis and golf, but if you’re going to aske me to shell out money for a stadium, then I should have a say in the team.

  • Rory McElroy put the pedal to the metal and got an early lead at the U.S. Open. By Saturday, it was clear that he was going to win if he did not have another Masters-like meltdown. He did not. He rose to the occasion and cruised to victory. His meltdown at the Masters was really hard to watch. I am happy that he was able to get his mental game together. If he can avoid injuries, if he can keep his mind right, this young man has an opportunity to dominate golf for years to come.
  • Finally, continuing on the topic of sports, Serena Williams has made a comeback at Wimbledon. She hasn’t played competitive tennis for almost a year. She won her first match, but it wasn’t easy. It is probably time to say that Serena is the best female tennis player of all time.
  • A little bit more on Clarence Thomas. Justice Thomas seems to have some ethical problems. I have a problem with his wife involved with a Tea Party organization and a lobbying firm. Unless somehow she can prove that money given to her lobbying firm does not flow to her husband, this seems to be a conflict of interest. This whole thing just seems to smell funny.
  • The fact that 93% of all top congressional staffers are white males is not really news. It proves that the more things change…
  • In Libya, NATO bombs have gone astray, again. What is our goal here? To save innocent civilians?

  • 18 months ago, I was standing in Athens with my wife. It was an incredibly peaceful, warm and inviting place. Now there are huge demonstrations as Greece is being asked by the European Union to tighten their belt.
  • Suicide bomber kills 27 in southern Iraq. Six soldiers were killed two weeks ago in a rocket attack.
  • In an announcement later on today, it is expected that President Barack Obama will announce that we’re pulling out of Afghanistan. I just wonder if this is going to be one of those symbolic pullouts or we really going to get all the troops out.
  • We don’t need any new warnings on cigarette labels. This isn’t 1975. We all know the problems with smoking. Having pictures of some guy struggling to breathe in a facemask is not gonna stop people who smoke from smoking. Instead, we need for people who smoke to pay higher premiums because of their higher incidence of heart disease and pulmonary insufficiency. If cigarettes are going to be legal in this country, we’ve done all we need to do to inform the public of the dangers of smoking.
  • Senator John McCain blames the huge Arizona fires on illegal immigrants. Now, it is true that we need to control our border. We need to know who’s coming and going in order for all of us to be safe. It is also true that there’s absolutely no evidence that illegal immigrants had anything to do with this huge, devastating fire. All I can do is shake my head. The senator knows better.
  • Jon Huntsman has announced that he is running for president. In my opinion, several of these people, GOP candidates for president, are running now to set up a “real run” in 2016.
By |2011-06-21T13:14:45-04:00June 21st, 2011|Afghanistan, Foreign Affairs, Healthcare, Military, Sports, Supreme court|Comments Off on Tuesday News Roundup

Single-payer: not a bat's chance?

The pundits and many Democrats wrote off the single-payer option from the get-go. This changed the dynamic of healthcare reform from the start. It allowed conservatives and Republicans to frame the debate as the public option equals far left position. This, of course, was not true. The far left position, the sensible position, had to do with the single-payer option in which the government handles your health insurance. Putting it another way, Medicare for all. The political insiders within the Obama White House knew this wouldn’t fly.

Back in 1995, a group of super rich folks got together and decided they had to do something about the estate tax. They simply didn’t want to pay any more. They had accumulated enormous sums of money and wanted to be a little pass on their wealth. To put it another way, they wanted to establish a class of elites who never had to work again. They hired a lobbying firm and they went to Capitol Hill. They were laughed out of Senators’ offices. They were not deterred. They refashioned their message. They cranked up campaign donations and they continue to push. Soon, they got the message right. Gradually, we heard nothing about estate tax and we began to hear about death taxes. We heard nothing about uber-wealthy families like the DuPonts or the Waltons; instead, we heard about the poor family farmers who would lose their farm under this “unfair tax.” Mainstream conservatives picked up the cause. In 2001, the dream of the Carnegies and the Waltons came true as the estate tax was temporarily repealed.

Progressives can take a lesson from the death tax crusade. Slow and steady pressure with intelligent framing is needed in order to make great changes. The single-payer system saves us an enormous amount of money. Some estimates soar to more than $350 billion per year. We roll Medicare and Medicaid and other state and federally funded health care programs into the single-payer. No extra taxes. None. Eliminate or change private health insurance forever. This industry will not die with the single payer option but will need to change to providing high-end coverage for the wealthy. Suddenly, small business does not have to worry about how they are going to cover their employees. Medium-sized businesses don’t have to worry about how much money they’re going to chip in and they don’t have to pay employees to figure out which plan works for their companies. This can free up millions, if not billions, of dollars for companies to invest in new equipment and into increasing salaries to their loyal employees. Large corporations don’t have to worry about the biggest sticking point in union negotiations — healthcare.

More later.

By |2009-10-16T06:53:23-04:00October 16th, 2009|Healthcare|Comments Off on Single-payer: not a bat's chance?
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