Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Posts Tagged ‘corruption

A clear and classic case of corruption: How Joe Manchin Aided Coal and Earned Millions

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is a corrupt politician of the worst sort, one who seems focused on using his public office for private gain. And he will get away with it because, by and large, the US avoids punishing powerful people. Christopher Flavelle and Julie Tate report in the NY Times (gift link, no paywall):

GRANT TOWN, W.Va. — On a hilltop overlooking Paw Paw Creek, 15 miles south of the Pennsylvania border, looms a fortresslike structure with a single smokestack, the only viable business in a dying Appalachian town.

The Grant Town power plant is also the link between the coal industry and the personal finances of Joe Manchin III, the Democrat who rose through state politics to reach the United States Senate, where, through the vagaries of electoral politics, he is now the single most important figure shaping the nation’s energy and climate policy.

Mr. Manchin’s ties to the Grant Town plant date to 1987, when he had just been elected to the West Virginia Senate, a part-time job with base pay of $6,500. His family’s carpet business was struggling.

Opportunity arrived in the form of two developers who wanted to build a power plant in Grant Town, just outside Mr. Manchin’s district. Mr. Manchin, whose grandfather went to work in the mines at age 9 and whose uncle died in a mining accident, helped the developers clear bureaucratic hurdles.

Then he did something beyond routine constituent services. He went into business with the Grant Town power plant.

Mr. Manchin supplied a type of low-grade coal mixed with rock and clay known as “gob” that is typically cast aside as junk by mining companies but can be burned to produce electricity. In addition, he arranged to receive a slice of the revenue from electricity generated by the plant — electric bills paid by his constituents.

The deal inked decades ago has made Mr. Manchin, now 74, a rich man.

While the fact that Mr. Manchin owns a coal business is well-known, an examination by The New York Times offers a more detailed portrait of the degree to which Mr. Manchin’s business has been interwoven with his official actions. He created his business while a state lawmaker in anticipation of the Grant Town plant, which has been the sole customer for his gob for the past 20 years, according to federal data. At key moments over the years, Mr. Manchin used his political influence to benefit the plant. He urged a state official to approve its air pollution permit, pushed fellow lawmakers to support a tax credit that helped the plant, and worked behind the scenes to facilitate a rate increase that drove up revenue for the plant — and electricity costs for West Virginians.

Records show that several energy companies have held ownership stakes in the power plant, major corporations with interests far beyond West Virginia. At various points, those corporations have sought to influence the Senate, including legislation before committees on which Mr. Manchin sat, creating what ethics experts describe as a conflict of interest.

As the pivotal vote in an evenly split Senate, Mr. Manchin has blocked legislation that would speed the country’s transition to wind, solar and other clean energy and away from coal, oil and gas, the burning of which is dangerously heating the planet. With the war in Ukraine and resulting calls to boycott Russian gas, Mr. Manchin has joined Republicans to press for more American gas and oil production to fill the gap on the world market.

But as the Grant Town plant continues to burn coal and pay dividends to Mr. Manchin, it has harmed West Virginians economically, costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in excess electricity fees. That’s because gob is a less efficient power source than regular coal.

Mr. Manchin declined an interview request. His spokeswoman, Sam Runyon, did not respond to detailed questions about his business interests, and whether those interests affected his actions as a public official. Senate ethics rules forbid members from acting on legislation to further their financial interests or those of immediate family members. There is no indication that Mr. Manchin broke any laws.

In the past, Mr. Manchin has repeatedly said that he has acted to protect valued industries in West Virginia, which ranked second in coal production and fifth in natural gas in 2020, according to federal data. He has defended his personal business ties to the Grant Town plant, telling the Charleston Gazette in 1996, “I did it to keep West Virginia people working.”

This account is based on thousands of pages of documents from lawsuits, land records, state regulatory hearings, lobbying and financial disclosures, federal energy data and other records spanning more than three decades. The Times also spoke with three dozen former business associates, current and former government officials, and industry experts.

The documents and interviews show that at every level of Mr. Manchin’s political career, from state lawmaker to U.S. senator, his official actions have benefited his financial interest in the Grant Town plant, blurring the line between public business and private gain. . .

Continue reading. (Gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2022 at 7:03 pm

The corruption of Tom Ridge

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Interesting article by Ken Silverstein in The Intercept:

Tom Ridge was not a rich man when he resigned as the chief of the Department of Homeland Security in 2004. His financial disclosure from that year showed he had investments worth between $100,000 and $815,00 in companies. Though modest by the current standards of senior government officials, those investments included companies “with contracts with his department and others who want to profit from homeland security,” a CQ story said at the time.

Yet soon after leaving government service, Ridge bought a property in Chevy Chase, Maryland worth about $2 million. His home, which was featured in Home & Design, aka “The magazine of luxury homes and fine interiors,” boasts custom interior decorations, including a table designed by the brother of the late Princess Diana, a dining room paneled with “native Sweetgum” and artwork “representative of the Tudor period.”

So how exactly has Ridge made all his money?

Ridge was assistant to the president for Homeland Security under George W. Bush between 2001 and 2003, and then the first DHS secretary, from 2003 to 2005. Prior to that, Ridge had a long career in public service: He was an assistant district attorney in Erie County, Pennsylvania for two years, held a House seat for more than a decade, and served as governor of Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2001.

Ridge was best known at DHS for creating the threat level codes, with Code Orange warnings causing Americans to rush out to buy duct tape and build bomb shelters. In August 2004, days after the Democrats nominated John Kerry, Ridge raised the terror threat level to Code Orange for several big cities. The threat only receded to Code Yellow on November 10, 2004, which purely by coincidence came a few days after Bush defeated Democratic presidential contender John Kerry.

Soon after leaving government in 2004 (and boasting of “more than 22 consecutive years of public service”) Ridge cashed in on the homeland security gravy train.

Like Louis Freeh and many other former government officials, Ridge has been well paid to speak on behalf of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the United States between 1997 and 2012, and before many other outfits. Other post-government speaking gigs include the North American Commercial Real Estate Congress. (“Tom Ridge is uniquely qualified to discuss the threats facing real estate,” said a promo.)

Ridge has also netted huge fees by sitting on the boards of companies likeExelon, the nuclear power giant, and various DHS contractors, among themTechRadium Inc, which markets a color-coded “threat alert system” to public schools, utilities and the military.

But Ridge has made most of his money by . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 February 2015 at 5:37 pm

Timothy Geitner protected his pals

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Yet more evidence of Obama’s protective attitude toward the finance industry. I imagine he’s expecting an enormous payoff once he’s out of office. Timothy Geithner has been a disaster nearly as bad as Eric Holder. Danielle Douglas reports for the Washington Post:

The Treasury Department ignored its own guidelines on executive pay at firms that received taxpayer bailouts and last year approved compensation packages of more than $3 million for the senior ranks at General Motors, Ally Financial and American International Group, according to a watchdog report released Monday.

The report from the special inspector general for the Troubled Assets Relief Program said the government’s pay czar signed off on $6.2 million in raises for 18 employees at the three companies. The chief executive of a division of AIG received a $1 million raise, while an executive at GM’s troubled European unit was given a $100,000 raise. In one instance, an employee of Ally’s Residential Capital was awarded a $200,000 pay increase weeks before the subsidiary filed for bankruptcy.

“We expect Treasury to look out for taxpayers who funded the bailout of these companies by holding the line on excessive pay,” said Christy Romero, special inspector general for TARP. “Treasury cannot look out for taxpayers’ interests if it continues to rely to a great extent on the pay proposed by companies that have historically pushed back on pay limits.”

The inspector general’s report accuses Patricia Geoghegan, Treasury’s acting special master for compensation, of sidestepping protocol that kept pay packages at the midpoint of comparable firms. Geoghegan, however, said the audit is riddled with inaccuracies and mischaracterizes the data provided to the inspector general.

She said her office has “limited excessive compensation while at the same time keeping compensation at levels that enable the recipients to remain competitive and repay TARP assistance.”

Compensation at bailed-out firms became a lightning rod during the financial crisis. A public outcry erupted in 2009, when AIG paid $168 million in retention bonuses to employees at Financial Products, the unit whose complex deals had crippled the insurance giant. The nation’s biggest banks, including Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase, also came under fire for doling out six-figure salaries and bonuses from taxpayer funds.

Treasury’s compensation chief at the time, Kenneth Feinberg, scolded companies for what he called “ill-advised” payouts to executives, and vowed to curb lavish pay. Nonetheless, Treasury allowed seven firms to bypass pay restrictions from 2009 to 2011, according to a report issued by the special inspector general in January 2012.

Monday’s report evaluates Treasury’s actions since then, with stinging allegations of lax oversight and supervision. Romero said Geoghegan deferred to the pay proposals provided by the companies, approving raises above pay limits and failing to link compensation to performance.

“Treasury made no meaningful reform to its processes,” the special inspector said in the latest report. “Lacking criteria and an effective decision-making process, Treasury risks continuing to award executives of bailed-out companies excessive cash compensation without good cause.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2013 at 5:07 pm

Corruption watch: Sen Dodd

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From Congressional Quarterly in an email:

"Connecticut Republican Chairman Christopher Healy questioned the qualifications of U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd’s wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd, to reap $400,000 to $500,000 a year by serving as a director on corporate boards, the Hartford Courant reports. "Healy noted that a key credential cited by Clegg Dodd and the companies that pay her director’s fees has been her role as the founder and managing partner of Clegg International Consulting LLC," which according to the newspaper, has had no clients for about 42 months.

Written by Leisureguy

6 May 2009 at 11:31 am

Murtha on the way out?

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If so, good: Murtha is massively corrupt—and a Democrat, but corruption is corruption. CQ Politics reports:

More than 100 House members secured earmarks in a major spending bill for clients of a single lobbying firm — The PMA Group — known for its close ties to John P. Murtha , the congressman in charge of Pentagon appropriations.

“It shows you how good they were,” said Keith Ashdown, chief investigator at the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. “The sheer coordination of that would take an army to finish.”

PMA’s offices have been raided, and the firm closed its political action committee last week amid reports that the FBI is investigating possibly illegal campaign contributions to Murtha and other lawmakers.

No matter what the outcome of the federal investigation, PMA’s earmark success illustrates how a well-connected lobbying firm operates on Capitol Hill. And earmark accountability rules imposed by the Democrats in 2007 make it possible to see how extensively PMA worked the Hill for its clients.

In the spending bill managed by Murtha, the fiscal 2008 Defense appropriation, 104 House members got earmarks for projects sought by PMA clients, according to Congressional Quarterly’s analysis of a database constructed by Ashdown’s group.

See CQ’s list of House members who secured earmarks for clients of The PMA Group in the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations law.

Those House members, plus a handful of senators, combined to route nearly $300 million in public money to clients of PMA through that one law (PL 110-116).

And when the lawmakers were in need — as they all are to finance their campaigns — PMA came through for them…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 February 2009 at 10:17 am

Posted in Business, Congress, Democrats

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Gorging at the trough

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Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) has reaped a profit of more than $200,000 from political contributions by charging interest on money she loaned her own campaign, according to an analysis by Bloomberg. The congresswoman initially loaned herself $150,000 in 1998, and has since repaid herself from campaign contributions. Because the loan was given an unusual 18 percent interest rate, campaign funds have paid a staggering $221,780 in interest while only reducing the principal by $64,727. The interest charges were the subject of a 1998 complaint by her primary opponent but were allowed by the FEC. (Bloomberg)

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2009 at 9:13 am

Posted in Congress, Democrats

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“Please, no paper trail.”

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That Ted Stevens, what a rascal

Even as Veco Corp. was paying the bills for renovations on Sen. Ted Stevens home in Alaska, the oil services company covered up the nature of the work in its own internal books, the corporate bookkeeper testified Friday.

Veco bookkeeper Cheryl Boomershine testified that when she asked for an explanation for a $2,000 handwritten expense claim from the construction foreman, an attached note came back with the instructions that there should be no written records.

The orders “no paper trail” were per Bill Allen, the company’s chief executive officer, Boomershine said, and they were written on the back of the expense form submitted in connection with the 2000 renovation of Stevens’ home.

Boomershine also said that the company assigned some costs to an account called “Girdwood Consultants.” One of the consultants, she testified, was a plumber. …

Written by Leisureguy

27 September 2008 at 8:26 am

Posted in Business, GOP, Government

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Continuing corruption of the Federal government

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Take a look:

Former Congressman Curt Weldon‘s employer Defense Solutions got a good deal in Iraq. So good, that “the deal, for decades-old, equipment, included terms so lopsided, they likely would have been illegal under U.S. law.” Defense Solutions got a contract with the Iraqi government in 2005 to refurbish obsolete Soviet-era Hungarian tanks. While U.S. law would dictate that the company’s fee be tied to performance, Defense Solutions’ contract not only ensures payment, it also gives them a percentage of the total cost. Even the Pentagon admits that “A cost plus percentage of cost type arrangement would encourage the contractor to experience as much cost as possible to receive a greater amount of fee.” The status of the tanks is not known, and the amount paid to Defense Solutions is confidential. The contract was signed on the Iraqi side by Ziad Cattan, who was put in place by the U.S. to oversee Iraq’s defense procurement. During his time in Congress, Weldon was on the House Committee on Armed Services and chaired the Military Procurement Subcommittee under Armed Services.

Source: Wired’s Danger Room, July 10, 2008

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2008 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP, Government

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How much the telecoms are paying for immunity

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Glenn Greenwald has an excellent column on the current situation regarding the telecoms trying to buy off Congress so their lawbreaking will go uninvestigated and unpunished. From the column:

Just in the first three months of 2008, recent lobbyist disclosure statements reveal that AT&T spent $5.2 million in lobbyist fees (putting it well ahead of its 2007 pace, when it spent just over $17 million). In the first quarter of 2008, Verizon spent $4.8 million on lobbyist fees, while Comcast spent $2.6 million. So in the first three months of this year, those three telecoms — which would be among the biggest beneficiaries of telecom amnesty (right after the White House) — spent a combined total of almost $13 million on lobbyists. They’re on pace to spend more than $50 million on lobbying this year — just those three companies.

So the question is whether Congress really is for sale. I fear I know the answer. Congress tends to believe whatever they are paid to believe, regardless of what the voters want.

Read the entire column. It does have some surprises in it. One more bit:

Although it remains to be seen if congressional Democrats will accept the telecom companies’ proposal, the communication between the two sides signifies that progress is being made.

The “two sides” referenced there means the House Democratic leadership and the telecoms. Congressional leaders are “negotiating” with the telecoms — the defendants in pending lawsuits — regarding the best way for immunizing them from liability for their lawbreaking, no doubt with the help of the former Democratic members and staffers now being paid by the telecoms to speak to their former bosses and colleagues about what they should do. To describe the process is to illustrate its oozing, banana-republic-like corruption, but that’s generally how our laws are written.

Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2008 at 9:32 am

Posted in Business, Congress, Government

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The worst ethics scandals of 2007

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Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released the top 10 ethics failures for 2007:

There is no ranking of these egregious activities, rather the following list outlines CREW’s new annual study on the past year’s on-going scandals:

No new enforcement mechanisms for congressional ethics;

Ted Stevens still sitting on Senate Appropriations;

Senate Ethics Committee looking into Sen. Craig, but not Sen. Vitter;

Millions of missing White House emails still unaccounted for;

Rep. Murtha’s abuse of the earmarking process remains  unchecked;

Lurita Doan remains chief of GSA despite illegal conduct;

White House covering up its role in the firings of the U.S. Attorneys;

No Child Left Behind funds directed to Bush fundraisers who provide inadequate reading materials for kids;

Court decision regarding search of Jefferson’s office limits ability of DOJ to investigate other corrupt lawmakers; and

FEMA knowingly let Katrina victims live in hazardous trailers

You can see the complete report (PDF file—and you can save it to your computer), which contains details of each failure of our elected leaders.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 10:33 am

Good news: Krongard’s gone

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From the WaPo:

The State Department’s embattled inspector general, Howard J. Krongard, announced today that he is resigning effective Jan. 15, ending a tumultuous tenure in which he was accused of impeding investigations of the Blackwater security firm and construction problems at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

7 December 2007 at 3:48 pm

Wonder what else will be coming out…

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There’s been much speculation about Trent Lott’s abrupt decision to leave the Senate just a year after winning re-election for another 6-year term. One thought is that he wants to get out before some laws that restrict lobbying activity by former Senators goes into effect. Others thing that perhaps we’ll see a surprise scandal or two. Here’s one, though Lott is (not yet) named as being involved:

Prominent Mississippi trial attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, the brother-in-law of outgoing GOP Sen. Trent Lott, was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on charges that he and four other men tried to bribe a Mississippi state court judge.

According to the 13-page indictment, Scruggs and three other attorneys — including Lott’s nephew Zach — attempted to bribe Mississippi Third Circuit Court Judge Henry L. Lackey with at least $40,000 in cash.

Lackey was assigned to hear a lawsuit in which Scruggs’ firm was named as a defendant in a dispute involving $26.5 million in attorneys’ fees stemming from a court settlement with State Farm Insurance over Hurricane Katrina claims.

The indictment alleges that the bribe was intended to resolve the case in Scruggs’ and his firm’s favor. Also charged was Sidney A. Backstrom, an attorney at Scruggs’ firm; Timothy R. Balducci, a New Albany, Miss., lawyer; and former State Auditor Steven A. Patterson, an employee of Balducci’s law firm.

Neither Scruggs nor an attorney for the firm, Joey Langston, returned telephone messages seeking comment. Langston does not work at The Scruggs Law Firm.

Lott’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Lott is not named in the indictment, and has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 1:40 pm

Posted in GOP, Government

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Outright law-breaking in the White House

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God, when will it stop?


The head of the federal agency investigating Karl Rove’s White House political operation is facing allegations that he improperly deleted computer files during another probe, using a private computer-help company, Geeks on Call.

Scott Bloch runs the Office of Special Counsel, an agency charged with protecting government whistleblowers and enforcing a ban on federal employees engaging in partisan political activity. Mr. Bloch’s agency is looking into whether Mr. Rove and other White House officials used government agencies to help re-elect Republicans in 2006.

At the same time, Mr. Bloch has himself been under investigation since 2005. At the direction of the White House, the federal Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general is looking into claims that Mr. Bloch improperly retaliated against employees and dismissed whistleblower cases without adequate examination.

Recently, investigators learned that Mr. Bloch erased all the files on his office personal computer late last year. They are now trying to determine whether the deletions were improper or part of a cover-up, lawyers close to the case said.

Bypassing his agency’s computer technicians, Mr. Bloch phoned 1-800-905-GEEKS for Geeks on Call, the mobile PC-help service. It dispatched a technician in one of its signature PT Cruiser wagons. In an interview, the 49-year-old former labor-law litigator from Lawrence, Kan., confirmed that he contacted Geeks on Call but said he was trying to eradicate a virus that had seized control of his computer.

Mr. Bloch said no documents relevant to any investigation were affected. He also says the employee claims against him are unwarranted. Mr. Bloch believes the White House may have a conflict of interest in pressing the inquiry into his conduct while his office investigates the White House political operation. Concerned about possible damage to his reputation, he cites a Washington saying, “You’re innocent until investigated.”

Clay Johnson, the White House official overseeing the Office of Personnel Management’s inquiry into Mr. Bloch, declined to comment. Depending on circumstances, erasing files or destroying evidence in a federal investigation can be considered obstruction of justice.

Mr. Bloch had his computer’s hard disk completely cleansed using a “seven-level” wipe: a thorough scrubbing that conforms to Defense Department data-security standards. The process makes it nearly impossible for forensics experts to restore the data later. He also directed Geeks on Call to erase laptop computers that had been used by his two top political deputies, who had recently left the agency.

Geeks on Call visited Mr. Bloch’s government office in a nondescript office building on M Street in Washington twice, on Dec. 18 and Dec. 21, 2006, according to a receipt reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The total charge was $1,149, paid with an agency credit card, the receipt shows. The receipt says a seven-level wipe was performed but doesn’t mention any computer virus.

Jeff Phelps, who runs Washington’s Geeks on Call franchise, declined to talk about specific clients, but said calls placed directly by government officials are unusual. He also said erasing a drive is an unusual virus treatment. “We don’t do a seven-level wipe for a virus,” he said.

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Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2007 at 10:21 am

Congress, :sigh:

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Congress doesn’t get it.

They’re at it again. The folks in Congress are doing the opposite of what good common sense would dictate on energy issues. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and his House counterpart Nancy Pelosi (D-California) have dropped important mandates and incentives for renewables from 2008 energy policy. According to, this major concession to friends of the old energy establishment is part of the horsetrading necessary to deliver a bill to voters before the Thanksgiving recess.

What’s getting the ax?

1. The RPS, or Renewable Portfolio Standard, would have set a goal of acquiring 20-25% of the nation’s electctricity from renewable sources by 2025. This is a very modest target to begin with. The European Union, for example, is on track to meet a 21% target by 2010. While 29 individual states in the U.S. have instituted their own RPS targets, we need an aggressive national policy to stimulate U.S. innovation and investment in alternative energy. We ought to be pursuing a global leadership position in renewables. As things stand, we aren’t even doing a very good job at following.

2. Tax incentives such as the PTC (Production Tax Credit) and ITC (Investment Tax Credit). The solar space doesn’t exactly seem to lack for investment these days, so the ITC may indeed be an unnecessary boondoggle. But the PTC, currently set to expire in December, 2008, is critical for bringing consumer costs for solar in line with other energy sources in the near-term and attracting producers and jobs to the U.S. market. America, when it comes to our ability to compete in a new, sustainable economy, we may get caught with our pants down.

Pelosi and Reid may be gambling that a stronger energy bill will pass in the wake of the Presidential election. Meanwhile, the current bill seems to throw a bone to all the old dogs – oil, coal, natural gas, while appeasing heartland legislators through biofuel subsidies to farmers in Midwestern states. Those of us who care about climate change and a green energy future will want to get on the horn to our senators and representatives!

We’ve recently written about explosive growth in the solar energy space. Encouraged by government subsidies, companies like China’s SunTech Power and Arizona’s First Solar have have been bullish regarding growth prospects in the U.S. solar market. Let’s hope that tax incentive programs on the state level will be sufficient to drive this growth, and that this latest foolishness from Washington will only present a bump in the road, rather than a long-term setback for U.S. solar producers.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 11:00 am

Corruption in Alaska

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Man, it’s bad up there. When people betray the public trust, penalties should be doubled, in my opinion, with no possibility of parole.

ANCHORAGE — When the FBI came looking for corruption in Alaska politics, it found an excellent perch in Suite 604 of the Baranof Hotel in Juneau, the state capital. There, a profane septuagenarian named Bill Allen did business throughout a 2006 special session called to set taxes on the oil industry. With hundred-dollar bills in his front pocket for ease of access when lawmakers turned up with their hands out, the oil-services company executive turned in a bravura performance before the pinhole camera that federal agents installed opposite his favorite chair.

“Let me count first here,” Allen said, shushing a former statehouse speaker as he counted out a bribe in video footage entered as evidence in the lawmaker’s September trial, one of several crowding the docket of the federal court here.

On another tape, Pete Kott, the former Republican speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives, crowed as he described beating back a tax bill opposed by oil companies. “I had to cheat, steal, beg, borrow and lie,” Kott said. “Exxon’s happy. BP’s happy. I’ll sell my soul to the devil.”

“Well, that will stay in this room,” one lobbyist said as a midnight session wound down.

It did not, of course. Since breaking into public view a year ago when federal agents raided lawmakers’ offices and homes — finding $32,200 neatly stacked in a closet of Kott’s condo — the federal probe has produced four indictments, three convictions, three guilty pleas and a rapt audience keen to see how high into Alaska’s political hierarchy the rot reaches.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 9:00 am

Posted in Business, GOP, Government

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Portrait of a Representative

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From ThinkProgress:

During Rep. Don Young’s (R-AK) six years chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the number of earmarks to the annual highway spending bills have more than tripled. A look at how Young has profited in return:

 — Of the $6.5 million in contributions that Young collected — $5.5 million for his campaign and $1 million for his leadership political action committee (PAC) — about 85 percent came from people who didn’t live in Alaska and couldn’t vote for him.

– How many donors got earmarks is hard to determine. But an analysis of Young’s campaign finance reports show that beneficiaries of just seven earmarks carrying a total price of $259 million — none for a project in Alaska — gave the veteran congressman at least $575,000.

– As hundreds of lobbyists sought to influence the massive highway-spending bill from 2003 to 2005, Young accepted at least 20 trips aboard private aircraft provided by corporations currying favor with the powerful congressman. He also stayed at such luxury hotels and resorts.

Young is a a self-proclaimed “little oinker” and aspires to be the “chief porker.” The FBI is currently conducting a criminal investigation into Young’s political favors.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2007 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

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The telecom amnesty

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More from Glenn Greenwald:

Leading telecom advocate Fred Hiatt this morning turned over his Washington Post Op-Ed page today to leading telecom advocate Jay Rockefeller, the Democratic Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, to explain why it is so “unfair and unwise” to allow telecoms to be sued for breaking the law. Just as all Bush followers do when they want to “justify” lawbreaking, Rockefeller’s entire defense is principally based on one argument: 9/11, 9/11, 9/11. Thus he melodramatically begins:

In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, the Bush administration had a choice: Aggressively pursue potential terrorists using existing laws or devise new, secret intelligence programs in uncharted legal waters. . . . Within weeks of the 2001 attacks, communications companies received written requests and directives for assistance with intelligence activities authorized by the president. These companies were assured that their cooperation was not only legal but also necessary because of their unique technical capabilities. They were also told it was their patriotic duty to help protect the country after the devastating attacks on our homeland.

Using 9/11 to “justify” telecom amnesty is not only manipulative, but also completely misleading. Telecoms did not merely break the law in the intense days and weeks following the 9/11 attacks. Had they done only that, there would almost certainly be no issue. Indeed, the lead counsel in the AT&T case, Cindy Cohn, said in the podcast interview I conducted with her last week that had telecoms enabled illegal surveillance only in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks — but then thereafter demanded that the surveillance be conducted legally — EFF almost certainly would not have sued at all. But that isn’t what happened. Both the Bush administration and the telecoms jointly broke the law for years. Even as we moved further and further away from the 9/11 attacks, neither the administration nor the telecoms bothered to comply with the law. The administration was too interested in affirming the theory that the President could exercise power without limits, and the telecoms were too busy reaping the great profits from their increasingly close relationship with the Government.

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Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2007 at 12:55 pm

Guantánamo: a blot on America

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It just gets worse:

An American military lawyer and veteran of dozens of secret Guantánamo tribunals has made a devastating attack on the legal process for determining whether Guantánamo prisoners are “enemy combatants”.

The whistleblower, an army major inside the military court system which the United States has established at Guantánamo Bay, has described the detention of one prisoner, a hospital administrator from Sudan, as “unconscionable”.

His critique will be the centrepiece of a hearing on 5 December before the US Supreme Court when another attempt is made to shut the prison down. So nervous is the Bush administration of the latest attack – and another Supreme Court ruling against it – that it is preparing a whole new system of military courts to deal with those still imprisoned.

The whistleblower’s testimony is the most serious attack to date on the military panels, which were meant to give a fig-leaf of legitimacy to the interrogation and detention policies at Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay. The major has taken part in 49 status review panels.

It’s a kangaroo court system and completely corrupt,” said Michael Ratner, the president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which is co-ordinating investigations and appeals lawsuits against the government by some 1,000 lawyers. “Stalin had show trials, but at Guantánamo they are not even show trials because it all takes place in secret.

Combatant Status Review Tribunals were held for 558 detainees at the Guantánamo in 2004 and 2005. All but 38 detainees were determined to be “enemy combatants” who could be held indefinitely without charges. Detainees were not represented by a lawyer and had no access to evidence. The only witnesses they could call were other so-called “enemy combatants”.

The army major has said that in the rare circumstances in which it was decided that the detainees were no longer enemy combatants, senior commanders ordered another panel to reverse the decision. The major also described “acrimony” during a “heated conference” call from Admiral McGarragh, who reports to the Secretary of the US Navy, when a the panel refused to describe several Uighur detainees as enemy combatants. Senior military commanders wanted to know why some panels considering the same evidence would come to different findings on the Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority in China.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2007 at 9:54 am

How the telecoms got immunity

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They bought it:

Executives at the two biggest phone companies contributed more than $42,000 in political donations to Senator John D. Rockefeller IV this year while seeking his support for legal immunity for businesses participating in National Security Agency eavesdropping.

The surge in contributions came from a Who’s Who of executives at the companies, AT&T and Verizon, starting with the chief executives and including at least 50 executives and lawyers at the two utilities, according to campaign finance reports.

The money came primarily from a fund-raiser that Verizon held for Mr. Rockefeller in March in New York and another that AT&T sponsored for him in May in San Antonio.

Mr. Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, emerged last week as the most important supporter of immunity in devising a compromise plan with Senate Republicans and the Bush administration.

A measure approved by the intelligence panel on Thursday would add restrictions on the eavesdropping and extend retroactive immunity to carriers that participated in it. President Bush secretly approved the program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. Rockefeller’s office said Monday that the sharp increases in contributions from the telecommunications executives had no influence on his support for the immunity provision. [They think that we’re stupid. – LG]

“Any suggestion that Senator Rockefeller would make policy decisions based on campaign contributions is patently false,” Wendy Morigi, a spokeswoman for him, said. “He made his decision to support limited immunity based on the Intelligence Committee’s careful review of the situation and our national security interests.” [She managed not to laugh while making this statement. – LG]

AT&T and Verizon have been lobbying hard to insulate themselves from suits over their reported roles in the security agency program by gaining legal immunity from Congress. The effort included meetings with Mr. Rockefeller and other members of the intelligence panels, officials said.

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Written by Leisureguy

23 October 2007 at 12:47 pm

Is Reid really going to ignore Senator Dodd’s hold?

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I can’t believe this. Reid—well, AT&T is one of the top 20 contributors to Read, so maybe he’s for sale after all. But Reid apparently is simply going to ignore Dodd’s hold on the terrible FISA bill (which, I admit, was supported by one of my own Senators, Dianne Feinstein, the Lieberman of the Democratic Party) and push the bill through. Obviously, the telecoms have spent a lot of money to get immunity for their crimes. This is not what I expected from the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party needs a thorough housecleaning.

Glenn Greenwald has more.

And this also is good:

Every now and then, a right-wing pundit says something that illustrates the underlying mentality of their movement so vividly that it is worth pausing and briefly examining. In responding to one of my posts on telecom amnesty, The Weekly Standard‘s Michael Goldfarb explains the obligations of patriotic corporate citizens in America:

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Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2007 at 1:00 pm

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