Monday, December 28, 2009

Miami Herald writes a big chapter on dirty money in politics: Allen Stanford

A few days ago I blogged a suggestion that progressives should take a new tack on national issues and go after campaign finance reform – get money out of politics.

So I hereby thank the investigative reporters at the Miami Herald for coming up with a whopper of an example of dirty money in politics. The lead story in the Sunday paper -- even though Florida’s sainted football coach, Urban Meyer, took up most of the front page by deciding to tend his health, and good for him, but, man, is that trivial – was about Allen Stanford and how he manipulated some members of Congress to protect his money-laundering/Ponzi-scheming empire.

Check it out. Even as Stanford was being charged he got a steamy email from US Rep. Pete Sessions: “I love you and believe in you.” So the Texas Republican is quoted as gushing to someone headed for jail for stealing a billion or more and giving a lot of it to our elected political leaders. Sessions was chair of the Republican National Congressional Committee, i.e. the recipient of a lot of Stanford’s largesse.

But the Democrats also are fat pigs in this picture, raking in $500,000 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2002. The Dems then had control of the Senate and Stanford needed to block a bill likely to bring his dubious brokerage under more scrutiny. No problem, Democrats apparently said. The bill went nowhere. That was reported as Stanford’s biggest single donation, and it went to my party.

This rant is bi- and non-partisan. Republicans and Democrats more or less equally lapped at the Stanford trough, as the Herald portrays it. In fact the article is a little faulty, I think, in not clearly putting party and state ID’s on the many members of Congress who took Stanford’s money. And let us not forget George W. Bush (R of Texas), whose 2001 inauguration raked in $100,000 to help celebrate, the Herald reports.

What really steams me in the Herald article is that in 1999 the State Department concluded that Stanford “helped create a money-laundering haven in Antigua.” Despite this big Con Man sign hanging around Stanford’s neck, our national leaders kept on taking his money, and, alas, quite a lot of his criminal activity took place in Florida.

Most wounding to this Democratic voter is that Florida Sen. Bill Nelson benefitted from a fundraiser at Stanford’s Miami office when he ran for re-election in 2006. So, Senator, in 1999 the State Department branded Stanford a money-launderer, and you took his money in 2006. Is anyone checking these obvious things?

Let us go back to the lesson of the day. We need to take money out of politics. This aspect of our political life attracts crooks and Ponzi artists. We little grass-roots donors are honest pips on a deck of marked cards. It is becoming more clear than ever that our political leaders are either crooks or deliberately oblivious to where a substantial portion of political money comes from.

This has got to change.

Note: This link goes to a sidebar with a bizarre story on how Stanford got a Democratic congressman to go to Venezuela and have Hugo Chavez sideline an opponent of Standord's fraudulent business. What next? A cake and a Bible?


Anthony said...

I agree whole heartedly. 99.9% of politicians are not to be trusted. It doesn't matter what party affiliation they are a part of. The only way that this will ever change is to enact strict term limits. 10 years should be enough, and the politicians should never be allowed to come back.... EVER!

Larry Thorson said...

I like to believe that there are honest people in politics, so having iron-clad term limits is not my preferred solution. The bad ones might get even more greedy if they only had a term or two to farm the public treasury. Better, I think, to have public financing of campaigning and free time on TV/radio.

Anonymous said...

Very good point Larry. I strongly agree with you; "public financing of campainging and free time on TV/Radio" will definitly change the rules of the game. Thank you for the great work you do. Happy New Year!