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Newark Star Ledger Endorses Political Corruption

8:42 am in Uncategorized by DSWright

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South Jersey Boss George Norcross

“we said to Harry, wait a second, JCA was going to be the engineer of record. I don’t care about your f—— review process“…

” I sat him down and said ‘ [Assemblyman Conaway] Herb, don’t f– with me on this one. You know, don’t make nice with Joe Doria cause I’ll tell you if you ever do that and I catch you one more time doing it, you’re gonna get your f–king balls cut off.’ He got the message.”

- George Norcross, FBI Informant recording

As anyone who has watched Boardwalk Empire knows New Jersey has a venal political culture. Things have changed since Nucky Johnson’s days, somewhat.

But even in darker days it was never the practice of the press to endorse corrupt political bosses – until now courtesy of the Newark Star Ledger:

George Norcross, the political boss of South Jersey, has taken his share of knocks over the bare-knuckled game of politics he plays. If there were still smoke-filled rooms in Trenton, he would be at one head of the table opposite Gov. Chris Christie almost every time.

But there’s more to the Norcross story. He is making a genuine difference in the lives of impoverished people in Camden, the most desperate corner of this state. And his efforts seem to be growing every year….

For Camden’s parents, this is the best deal Norcross ever made — back-room or not.

Let’s stop right there for a second. Why? Why is Camden impoverished and desperate again? Oh, George Norcross and the political machine that has had absolute control over Camden City since 1991.

Chris Hedges, while writing a book on Camden’s fall, interviewed Norcross and wrote on Norcross’ influence in Camden:

The city is dominated by an old-time party boss, George Norcross III. Although he does not live in Camden, his critics contend that he decides who runs for office and who does not, who gets city and state contracts and which projects get funded. Tens of millions in state funds have been used for city projects, from an aquarium on the waterfront to a new law school to an expansion of the Cooper University Hospital and construction of a medical school. In 2002 the state approved a $175 million recovery package to save the city, but according to a yearlong investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer, only 5 percent had been used to combat crime, improve schools, provide jobs or bolster municipal services.

Norcross has run the city from behind the scenes for a generation and recently was caught snagging over $400,000 out of the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) in a kickback scheme. Norcross made a call to a still unnamed official in the McGreevey administration who threw an insurance contract to a Norcross partner – who then paid Norcross’ insurance company Connor Strong a “referral fee” which Connor Strong listed on their books as a payment for “North Jersey Marketing.”

This scheme was uncovered by the State Comptroller’s Report on DRPA Corruption. And guess who condemned the Norcross’ backroom practices? The Star Ledger again:

The political boss George Norcross holds no job or title at the Delaware River Port Authority. Yet in the state comptroller’s scathing report about financial mismanagement there, guess who plays a starring role?

Turns out, Norcross got kickbacks for steering insurance contracts from the state agency, according to the report…

Not surprising, since the Democratic power broker runs South Jersey — but prefers to do so behind the scenes. Norcross, also the biggest name in the state’s insurance brokerage business, allegedly orchestrated a payment of $410,000 to his own company in return for recommending another insurance broker for the authority.

An additional payment went to a second broker, Michael Martucci, who happens to be an acquaintance of Norcross’ wife. When asked by the comptroller exactly what work he did to deserve his $45,000 cut, Martucci was succinct: “I performed nothing.”…

It took a two-year probe to pull the curtain back on these South Jersey shenanigans. Now imagine how many other backstage handshakes we pay for in this state.

Yes. That is the same editorial board under the direction of amnesiac Tom Moran. Condemning corruption uncovered in one report and citing Norcross as a wonderful benefactor in the next. But not only contradicting the initial overall portrait of the political boss – suddenly reversing itself on “backstage handshakes.”

The message from the Star Ledger is clear: it’s OK to be corrupt if your corruption leads to things we agree with.

What could go wrong?

Pay To Play: JP Morgan Paid $190K To Regulator’s Wife

4:18 pm in Uncategorized by DSWright

Matt Taibbi has claimed Wall Street operates like the mafia, Eliot Spitzer claims the mafia learned from Wall Street. But given the economic system is now Neo-feudalism perhaps the corruption more resembles a royal soap opera with lots of naughty palace intrigue – and like the serfs of old we get to eat the fallout.

From Wall Street On Parade:

On May 10 of this year, Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan, announced that billions of insured deposits at his bank had been invested in high risk derivatives and had sustained at least a $2 billion loss. The Department of Justice and FBI have commenced investigations. Dimon is expected to announce the current extent of those losses this Friday in an earnings conference call.

Following the May 10 announcement, there were numerous calls for Dimon to step down from the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That organization is the primary regulator of the firm. There was widespread public outrage that the CEO of a bank had no business serving on the governing body of his regulator. (The New York Fed has a long history of such conflicts.)

Now it has emerged that not only was Dimon conflicted in his role on the New York Fed but the President and CEO of the New York Fed had an equally dubious conflict of interest.

The Federal Reserve doesn’t have “conflicts of interest” the Federal Reserve IS a conflict of interest. Allowing Wall Street to control the money supply may be the definition of conflict of interest and has now lead to two depressions.

William C. Dudley has been employed by the New York Fed since January 1, 2007, first heading up the powerful Markets Group. That Group manages the supply of bank reserves in the banking system according to the mandate of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). On January 27, 2009, Dudley was elevated to President and CEO of the New York Fed. Financial disclosure forms for 2008 through 2010 show that Dudley’s wife, Ann Darby, was a former Vice President of JPMorgan and had holdings of more than $1,500,000 in deferred income accounts at the firm as well as between $250,000 to $500,000 in a 401(K) plan there.

In a letter dated January 22, 2009, authored by the New York Fed’s General Counsel, Thomas C. Baxter, Jr. and Deputy General Counsel, Michael Held, two financial waivers were sought for Dudley. One involved $1.45 million in Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) and the other involved a small monthly pension of $124.38 that Dudley would receive from his previous employer, Goldman Sachs, at age 65. (Dudley’s financial disclosure forms show over $1 million in his Federal Reserve Retirement Thrift Plan, which seems an extraordinary sum for his 5-year tenure. It could be that he was permitted to roll over most of his Goldman pension into the Federal Reserve plan, explaining why his monthly Goldman benefit at age 65 is so small.)

Of course a former Goldman Sachs executive should be a regulator! And if thou doth will it shall a portion of the benefits flow to his good lady?

Did Governor Richardson Take A Bribe From Wall Street?

9:01 am in Uncategorized by DSWright

A troubling revelation from the Municipal Bond Bid-Rigging trial in New York, from Matt Taibbi’s coverage:

Even more startling was the way that a notorious incident involving former New Mexico governor and presidential candidate Bill Richardson resurfaced during the trial. Barack Obama, you may recall, had nominated Richardson to be commerce secretary – only to have the move blow up in his face when tales of Richardson accepting bribes began to make the rounds. Federal prosecutors never brought a case against Richardson: In 2009, an inside source told the AP that the investigation had been “killed in Washington.” Obama himself, after Richardson bowed out, praised the former governor as an “outstanding public servant.”

Now, in the Carollo trial, defense counsel got Doug Goldberg, the CDR broker, to admit that his boss, Stewart Wolmark, had handed him an envelope containing a check for $25,000. The check was payable to none other than Moving America Forward – Bill Richardson’s political action committee. Goldberg then went to a Richardson fundraiser and handed the politician the envelope. Richardson, pleased, told Goldberg, “Tell the big guy I’m going to hire you guys.”

Goldberg admitted on the stand that he understood “the big guy” to mean Wolmark. After that came this amazing testimony:

Q: Soon after that, New Mexico hired CDR as its swap and GIC adviser on a $400 million deal, right?
A: Yes.
Q: You learned later that that check in that envelope was a check for $25,000, right?
A: Yes. I learned it later.
Q: You also learned later that CDR gave another $75,000 to Gov. Richardson, right?
A: Yes.
Q: CDR ended up making about a million dollars on this deal for those two checks?
A: Yes.

Q: In fact, New Mexico not only hired CDR, they hired another firm to do the actual work that they needed done?
A: For the fixed-income stuff, yes.

What we get from this is that CDR paid Bill Richardson $100,000 in contributions and got $1.5 million in public money in return. And not just $1.5 million, but $1.5 million for work they didn’t even do – the state still had to hire another firm to do the actual job. Nice non-work, if you can get it.

Before he was a Presidential candidate and withdrawn Commerce Secretary nominee, Bill Richardson was; a Congressman, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Energy Secretary, and the Governor of New Mexico. In other words some one who should have known better – but wait, could it be that this is not abnormal but the status quo. That Wall Street buys and sells politicians as frequently as stocks and bonds…

The answer is clear, Occupy.

Booker Exposed: The REAL Cory

9:50 pm in Uncategorized by DSWright

Many were surprised to watch Meet The Press and see Obama campaign “surrogate” Newark Mayor Cory Booker attack the message of the Obama Campaign, from Politico:

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a rising Democratic star, criticized on Sunday the Obama campaign’s attack ad against Mitt Romney for his work at Bain Capital.

“It’s nauseating to the American public,” Booker said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.”

“As far as that stuff, I have to just say from a very personal level I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity,” he added. “To me, it’s just we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America. Especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people invest in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses [and] to grow businesses. And this, to me, I’m very uncomfortable with.”

It is nauseating to talk about a candidate’s business record? A record the candidate himself has have made fundamental to his candidacy? Stop attacking private equity?

Who is this Cory Booker fellow and why is he speaking for the Obama campaign let alone the Democratic Party?

Well, the people that know Mayor Booker were not surprised he was defending private equity and Big Business generally (admittedly we were surprised he would do it in the context of attacking the campaign he is speaking for). They were not surprised because Cory Booker would actually be much more at home in the Republican Party – an option unavailable to politicians who want public office in Newark, a city which is overwhelmingly Democratic. In fact, registered Democrats are so dominant within the city that the substantial election for power is in reality the Democratic Primary not the general election. If Booker had registered his more appropriate party affiliation he would have had zero chance of becoming a city councilman let alone Mayor.

Cory Booker’s position on private equity is both ideological and practical and not some aberration. But before going into that it should be noted Mayor Booker tried to walk back his comments and was, not surprisingly, very unconvincing. From Steve Kornacki:

It didn’t take long for Cory Booker to get the message. Just hours after undermining the Obama campaign’s main line of attack against Mitt Romney, the Newark mayor released a video late Sunday afternoon in an effort to repair some of the damage.

Booker had seemed to pronounce the Obama effort to highlight unflattering aspects of Romney’s private equity background “nauseating,” but in the video, he suggested he was making a broader statement about negative campaigning…

Booker’s new line is a bit hard to swallow
, though, because his “Meet the Press” comments clearly went beyond simply decrying the tone of the campaign. At one point, he offered a pointed defense of Romney’s Bain past, saying: “I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, it — they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this to me — I’m very uncomfortable.”…

Booker has throughout his political career cultivated and maintained close ties to Wall Street and affluent, investor class donors
– people who, in many cases, believe the administration has declared war on their world and see the Bain attacks as an extension of that effort. Booker’s statewide political aspirations are no secret in New Jersey, and the presumption is that he’s eyeing a Senate run in 2014 (others have mentioned him for governor next year, but that’s less likely for a number of reasons).

Props to Mr. Kornacki for digging a little beneath the surface, but allow me to toss aside your shovel and bring in the drill bit.

 

The REAL Cory Booker

 

Let’s start here from Kornacki’s other Booker MTP post:

It’s easy to forget, but before the world met Barack Obama in 2004, many believed that the first black president would be Booker. Armed with Stanford, Yale and Oxford degrees and all of the invaluable personal connections he forged at those institutions, he set out in the mid-1990s to craft a uniquely appealing political biography, swearing off lucrative job offers to move to Newark’s Central Ward and take up residence in public housing. Within a few years, he won a seat on the City Council, where he showed an early and consistent knack for self-generated publicity, most notably with a ten-day hunger strike in the summer of 1999.

But there were more connections than “college buddies.” Cory Booker’s political rise is intertwined with the constellation of Right-Wing foundations, some you have probably even heard of like the Bradley Foundation and the Manhattan Institute. For example, where did Booker get much of his public policy agenda? Let’s take a look at some of the investigative reporting done during Booker’s first, unsuccessful, run for Mayor of Newark, from Glen Ford:

Cory Booker, Black mayoral candidate from the city’s Central Ward, a cynical pretender who attempts to position himself as the common people’s defender while locked in the deep embrace of institutes and foundations that bankroll virtually every assault on social and economic justice in America. His benefactors sponsor anti-affirmative action referendums, press for near-total disinvestment in the public sector, savage what’s left of the social safety net, and are attempting to turn public education over to private suppliers. Along the way, Booker’s soul mates are busy ravaging the environment and trampling civil liberties everywhere they find them.

But Booker only took their money and media support not their policies right? Wrong.

Booker’s anointment as a prince in the Hard Right pantheon is based on his support of public vouchers for private schools. This “movement,” the creation of right-wing paymasters like the Bradley Foundation, of Milwaukee, and the Walton Family Foundation, Bentonville, Arkansas, hopes to drive a wedge between urban Blacks and the teachers unions. Without amicable relations between these two Democratic pillars, the Party, as we know it, is finished.

Oh hi, Wisconsin. Booker then teamed up with Republican Mayor and future Chris Christie education secretary Bret Schundler.

Booker’s pal Schundler knows his way around that kind of money. He used a big chunk of a $500,000 Walton Foundation gift to his Scholarships for Jersey City Children non-profit to pay for advertisements featuring himself, during an election campaign. Walton’s executives didn’t object. Apparently, what’s good for their candidate is good for the kids.

After establishing their non-profit, the two Republicans and Booker went on a pilgrimage to Milwaukee, Mecca for school “choice” money, where the Bradley Foundation was concocting its newest invention: the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO).

Naturally, Schundler couldn’t join. But Booker became a member of the board.

Now it was time for Booker to audition for those “elite donors” Kornacki references, and how!

The Manhattan Institute, home of a repulsive roster of right-wing writers and speakers, and recipient of $250,000 in Bradley money in 2000, invited Booker to one of its power lunches, where he effortlessly dropped Right-speak code words.

“The old paradigm,” he told the troglodytes, “was an entitlement program, in which large big city mayors controlled race-based machines.

“What that was really about was capturing big entitlements from the state and federal government and divvying them up among their cronies or among the people within their organizations to protect and preserve their organizations. It was about distributing wealth.”

In just two sentences, Booker managed to stimulate the Right’s erogenous zones by mentioning three of the phrases they most love to hate: “race-based,” “entitlements,” and “distributing wealth.” This guy is good, very good. He speaks two distinct languages – one to the people he wants to elect him mayor of Newark, the other to the financially endowed, whose mission in life is to resist redistribution of wealth to race-based groups that think the poor could use some entitlements

What many may be surprised to learn is that George F. Will endorsed Booker’s candidacy – along with most Corporate Media.

The latest benediction of the Booker campaign comes from columnist George F. Will, the high priest of privatization. Will has been busy for over three decades planting land mines along every step of Black people’s march toward equality. His endorsement should represent the kiss of death to Booker’s candidacy. Indeed, Will, whose prescription for urban unemployment is that the jobless move somewhere else, came close to giving away the entire Booker game.

“Booker’s plans for Newark’s renaissance,”
Will’s March 17 column informs us, “are drawn from thinkers at the Democratic Leadership Council and the Manhattan Institute think tank, and from the experiences of others such as Stephen Goldsmith, former Republican mayor of Indianapolis, a pioneer of privatization and faith-based delivery of some government services, and John Norquist, current Democratic mayor of Milwaukee, which has one of the nation’s most successful school-choice programs.”

George F. Will gloats that the Booker campaign “has raised $1.5 million, partly through reform-minded supporters in New York financial circles.” The venerable word “reform” is among the many progressive terms that have been stolen by the Hard Right. The people Will is really referring to are the same ultra-conservatives who fund the Manhattan, Heritage, Hoover and American Enterprise Institutes, as has been vastly documented. Cory Booker is just another of their projects, albeit an important one.

Booker is backed by Wall Street (private equity) and his policies are crafted by reactionary Right-Wing think tanks all masked by progressive rhetoric like “reform.” The real surprise is not that Booker attacked Obama for shining a light on private equity – it’s that a man like Booker would even be asked to surrogate for the campaign.

It’s almost… nauseating.

Think Progress has put out a story on Booker and Bain:

Yesterday, Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker (D) attacked the Obama campaign for making an issue of Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital during an appearance on Meet the Press. While the progressive leader later backed off the criticisms, Republicans have been quick to highlight his comments as an attack against the idea that scrutiny of Mitt Romney’s record as a businessman is fair game.

A ThinkProgress examination of New Jersey campaign finance records for Booker’s first run for Mayor — back in 2002 — suggests a possible reason for his unease with attacks on Bain Capital and venture capital. They were among his earliest and most generous backers.

Contributions to his 2002 campaign from venture capitalists, investors, and big Wall Street bankers brought him more than $115,000 for his 2002 campaign. Among those contributing to his campaign were John Connaughton ($2,000), Steve Pagliuca ($2,200), Jonathan Lavine ($1,000) — all of Bain Capital. While the forms are not totally clear, it appears the campaign raised less than $800,000 total, making this a significant percentage.

He and his slate also jointly raised funds for the “Booker Team for Newark” joint committee. They received more than $450,000 for the 2002 campaign from the sector — including a pair of $15,400 contributions from Bain Capital Managing Directors Joshua Bekenstein and Mark Nunnelly. It appears that for the initial campaign and runoff, the slate raised less than $4 million — again making this a sizable chunk.

In all — just in his first Mayoral run — Booker’s committees received more than $565,000 from the people he was defending. At least $36,000 of that came from folks at Romney’s old firm.

Mayor Booker has claimed he will not seek another term as Mayor of Newark leaving Senate and Governor as possible ventures. I think he is qualified for neither and should go where he belongs, private equity.

The US House Of Representatives Just Voted For Permanent Taxpayer Funded Wall Street Bailouts

5:48 pm in Uncategorized by DSWright

Today, the United States House of Representatives voted to end the fund Wall Street – rather than Taxpayers – would have to pay into that would serve as the bailout mechanism in a future financial crisis. In other words they voted to repeal the already meager Dodd-Frank regulations and go back to precisely the circumstances that existed when Congress claimed it had to give $700 billion to Wall Street because the banks were “Too Big To Fail.”

Official Photo of Spencer Bachus - Wikimedia Commons

From the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee’s own Press Release:

As Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Congressman Bachus was responsible for identifying $35 billion of savings included in the package, going above and beyond the committee’s deficit reduction target by more than $5 billion. Bachus’ recommendation to eliminate a federal bailout fund for large financial institutions was accepted.

Remember this is the same Congressman who said Congress’ job is to “serve the banks.” From Think Progress:

Bachus, in an interview Wednesday night, said he brings a “main street” perspective to the committee, as opposed to Wall Street. “In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks,” he said.

And oh how he has.

Now the taxpayers are back on the hook if/when the banks have another financial crisis – which given that Bachus and friends are deregulating even more is quite likely.

When you are asked how could America be in such decline and have such a negative view of the future – answer: because we learn nothing from our mistakes.

Enjoy the next bailout which Spencer Bachus is working night and day to make sure YOU, not the people responsible, pay for.