Category ►►► Scandals for Sale
July 2, 2012
Too Fast, Too Furious?
As Chief Justice John Roberts has been approaching Kardshian territory in terms of media overexposure (at this rate, he'll soon be inking a deal for his own line of men's fragrance and fashion accessories), I thought it might be nice to take a break and turn our attentions to everyone's favorite attorney general, Eric Holder -- the man who makes Janet Reno look like a model of cooperation and competence.
While there's not a heck of a lot new to add to the ongoing saga of the first AG to face a Congressional contempt charge (just one of many firsts for the Obama administration), I did want to throw my two cents in on something that Charles Krauthammer recently said about the investigation into Fast and Furious:
But the final effect could be one that could hurt Republicans, because as you have already heard from the talking points of Democrats in Congress, this will be characterized as another case of [Republican] overreaching, obstructionism, opposition, blind opposition to the administration, and distraction from real economic legislation or activities. And that is the line that the Democrats will take. It could, in fact, hurt the Republicans among some of the electorate.
Ordinarily I would say the Krauthammer is correct, because nothing glazes over the eyes of Your Average Voter more quickly than another Congressional investigation. The Dems took this practice to the heights of absurdity during George W. Bush's eight years in office, so the last thing people want is more of the same.
There is, however, a crucial difference this time around. With Bush, the squabbles were over fired attorneys and Valerie Plame, arcane things that nobody outside of the Washington media complex gave a piff about. Fast and Furious, on the other hand, resulted in the death of Brian Terry, an American law enforcement agent, and untold hundreds of Mexican citizens.
Terry's family is waiting for answers. More than that, they deserve answers, fallout be damned. Some things transcend politics. I think Darrell Issa knows that too, which is why he's following the trail wherever it leads.
That said, there's also no reason for Mitt Romney to wander off message and insert himself into the proceedings -- which, to Romney's credit, he seems to understand so far. He just needs to keep hammering Obama on the economy, and let Issa take care of Holder. In the end, justice will be done; and with any luck, we can boot this administration to the curb at the same time.
June 22, 2010
So Comfortable in Corruption, They Needn't Even Dissemble
The brazenness of Democrats is sometimes breathtaking:
Defense contractors who openly discussed a suspected pay-to-play scheme in e-mails released by congressional ethics investigators had ties to a powerful lobbying firm and won millions of dollars in federal earmarks after contributing to the campaign of an Indiana congressman.
Democratic Rep. Peter J. Visclosky requested a $2.5 million federal earmark for Nevada-based defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) five days after a March 2007 fundraiser for which the company's owners and its political action committee contributed $18,800 to the congressman's campaign.
Similarly, Mr. Visclosky requested $2.5 million for defense firm 21st Century Systems -- five days after its employees ponied up $17,050 for the same fundraiser. The firm's chief executive was awarded an "honorary seat" next to Mr. Visclosky at that fundraiser.
In both cases, company executives wrote e-mails linking campaign donations to earmarks Mr. Visclosky secured or special access to the congressman, a congressional ethics board concluded.
Sometimes you look at them in wonder; sometimes you just... look.
The players in the two vignettes above were all clients of Washington lobbying firm PMA Group; and Rep. Visclosky (D-IN, 90%) sits on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, along with Rep. James P. Moran (D-VA, 85%) and formerly with Rep. John Murtha (D-Pushing up daisies) -- both of whom also evidently played for pay with PMA:
All three members of the powerful subcommittee that doles out millions of dollars annually in Pentagon appropriations received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from PMA employees and the firm's clients who wanted earmarks -- often within mere days of each other.
PMA, which earned more than $16.4 million in 2007 specializing in defense earmarks for clients, was one of the 10 top-grossing lobbying firms in Washington before it imploded. Federal agents raided it and owner Paul Magliocchetti's home in November 2008.
This squalid tale of quasi-legal bribery would be uninteresting except for one aspect: The sad fact that the participants on both sides the transaction felt so secure from investigation, castigation, or even prosecution that they made no slightest attempt to hide their crimes. Everything was seemingly done right out in the open:
- The corporate bribers wrote e-mails carefully enumerating how much they were paying Visclosky, et al, and what earmarks they expected in return.
- They even put the details into an official corporate document -- again without the slightest fear of trouble or sense of the enormity of their actions.
- And Visclosky, one of the alleged bribees, didn't even try to conceal the link between money received and ears requested: In numerous instances, he put in the earmark request to the subcommittee less than a week after the fundraiser! He barely waited long enough to count the campaign cash and get it into the bank.
The Office of Congressional Ethics was created by Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) in 2008 as a board of non-congressmen citizens who investigate ethics charges; if it finds substantiation, it's empowered to refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee, the only congressional body that has actual jurisdiction over congressmen under House rules. So what happened in 2009, when the OCE did exactly that?
I bet you'll never be able to guess:
The eight-member OCE Board of Directors referred the findings on Mr. Visclosky to the House ethics committee, saying they found "probable cause" to believe he solicited or received contributions in exchange for earmarks.
The OCE, which does not have jurisdiction over events prior to March 2008, included in its report the SNC e-mails from 2007 as "evidence that PMA clients seeking earmarks from Representative Visclosky linked contributions to his campaign to specific legislative acts."
But in February, the ethics committee cleared Mr. Visclosky, Mr. Murtha, Mr. Moran and four other members of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, saying it "found no evidence" they or their staffs were "directly or indirectly engaged in seeking contributions in return for earmarks."
The only reason the investigation continues is that the OCE, piqued at being made laughingstocks by the "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history," unanimously referred the entire mess to the FBI, which has continued the investigation... at least until Attorney General Eric Holder realizes the danger and pulls a "Black Panther" on them.
For some reason, these top Democrats all casually assumed that they would be immune to ethical rules and even federal criminal prosecution for bribery and corruption; for some reason, they believed that when push-me came to pull-you, Squeaker Pelosi would not allow her top lieutenants on Appropriations to be held accountable for their follies and foibles.
For some completely unfathomable reason, this belief in ethical invulnerability turned out to be correct, at least so far. It's a mystery!
The leftstream media is clearly uninterested in telling the story that the Democrats, far from being the paladins of virtue they consistently pretend, are far more corrupt than the Republicans they replaced... if for no other reason than the very normality of corruption in the party on the left.
To paraphrase Churchill, the Left swims in seas of corruption so dense, it crushes their very souls. Bribery and extortion is the rule, not the exception; and nobody fears consequences, worries about exposure, or so much as considers morality, no more than does a "soldier" in a Mafia family: They have mastered Chicago rules.
Even voters seem to accept Democratic corruption as so humdrum, it only becomes an issue when Republicans stand accused as well.
But this year above all others may be the one in which the American voter rediscovers not only fiscal frugality but ethical commandments. The Great Earmark Revolt, which we have chronicled in a series of posts from 2006 to this year, is one example; here are most of those posts, I believe:
- The Missing Earpiece
- Has Nancy Pelosi Changed Her Mind About Ears?
- The Democrats Are All Ears
- Earmarks? No No... Phonemarks!
- They're All Ears... Again
- The Power of the Big Idea: O'Billery Reduced to "Me Too!"
- Traders to the Cause - Republicans Are All Ears
America has been blessed by -- and sometimes suffered under -- moral crusades many times in the past, from the founding of the nation, through the anti-slavery movement, the temperence movement, the legal prudery movement, the civil-rights movement, and of course more religious revivalist movements than you can shake a crucifix at. Perhaps our "popular front" against overspending can find space for a moral crusade for clean government, as well.
This is the year; today is the day; now is the time to actually create -- for real, this time -- that "most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history." So far, alas, it remains yet another broken promise, like global warming and a sequel to the Incredibles.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
March 12, 2008
"Ness" Caught Tippling
The modern day Eliot Ness, Eliot Spitzer, ex-governor of New York, was caught drinking out of the whiskey barrel, so to speak.
Perhaps the biggest question is, if CEOs make too much money, where’s the moral outrage at prostitutes bringing in $5,000 a night? Aren’t those obscene (in more ways than one) profits? How can we look at ourselves in the mirror knowing that, while kids working at 7-11s can’t afford college, high-class hookers can cash checks for five large ones from johns like the former moral crusader from the state of New York?
Like Chris Matthews at an Barack Obama rally, I’m getting tingles up and down my leg at the sight of this Elmer Gantry getting his public stoning at the hands of all those that he tried or succeeded in bringing down when he was an all powerful prosecutor.
Lots of people are enjoying the spectacle. The DOW leaped 500 points on Tuesday. Some will tell you it’s because the Fed announced a $200 billion stimulus. But the cognoscenti know that the real reason is that Wall Street is celebrating Spitzer’s political death by self-inflicted wound. Too many CEOs are walking around with smiles on their faces for that not to be translated into some bull movement.
July 11, 2007
Bush Muzzled Sturgeon General - Thank God!
The newest attempt by Democrats to gin up a scandal against President Bush -- one that actually might stick, not another "fired U.S. attorneys" or "commuted Libby to keep him quiet" fizzle -- is working its way through the elite media like a kidney stone through the... oh, let's not go there. The president stands accused of "muzzling" his surgeon general:
President Bush's most recent surgeon general accused the administration Tuesday of muzzling him for political reasons on hot-button health issues such as emergency contraception and abstinence-only education.
Dr. Richard Carmona, the nation's 17th surgeon general, told lawmakers that all surgeons general have had to deal with politics but none more so than he.
Yes... Carmona, uniquely among all sturgeon generals in American history (the office dates back to 1871), has had to report to civilians. Well... actually, no. Ever since the reorganization of the office, the SG has reported to the Assistant Secretary for Health, who reports to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who reports to the president. Dr. Carmona evidently found this rather intolerable:
"The reality is that the nation's doctor has been marginalized and relegated to a position with no independent budget, and with supervisors who are political appointees with partisan agendas," said Carmona, who served from 2002 to 2006.
This is despicable! How dare Bush demote the surgeon general to such a lowly position, folding his office into the Department of Health and Human Services, taking away his budget, and making him report to a lowly assistant secretary. The nerve! Carmona and his new friend, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA, 95%), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, heap abuse on Bush's head for treating "the nation's doctor" so outrageously.
But wait... is it really fair to blame Bush and Bush alone for the reorganization? After all, Congress had a hand in this too: It could only have happened with congressional legislation. And, although the Republicans did control Congress at the time of the reorganization, they had only a razor-thin one-seat advantage in the Senate and an eight-seat majority in the House (well, seven-seat, actually, since there was an independent who caucused with the Democrats)... so the reorganization almost certainly was bipartisan.
Thus, we had a narrowly divided Congress, bipartisan reform, and a newly minted Republican president without much experience handling Congress. And besides, it happened in 1953, when the future Dr. Carmona was four years old, and the future President Bush was seven. So it hardly seems fair to blame President Bush exclusively, does it?
Carmona took his complaints to the excessively non-partisan Rep. Waxman, who dealt with them in his usual manner, rising above all partisan bickering to take the high road:
Carmona testified Tuesday at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Also appearing were Drs. C. Everett Koop, who served as surgeon general from 1981-1889, and David Satcher, who served from 1998-2001.
"Political interference with the work of the surgeon general appears to have reached a new level in this administration," said committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
It is fortunate that the Democrats are now in charge of Congress, so that we no longer have "political interference in the work of the surgeon general":
His testimony comes two days before the Senate confirmation hearings of his designated successor, Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr. Two members of the Senate health committee have already declared their opposition to Dr. Holsinger’s nomination because of a 1991 report he wrote that concluded that homosexual sex was unnatural and unhealthy. Dr. Carmona’s testimony may further complicate Dr. Holsinger’s nomination.
So how, exactly, was Dr. Carmona muzzled? First of all, you have to understand that the office of the surgeon general has frequently been occupied by certifiable kooks:
- C. Everett Koop, Ronald Reagan's surgeon general and groomer of the nation's goofiest beard.
Koop compared cigarettes to heroin and cocaine -- and cigs got the worst of it; Koop believed that third graders should get sex education (to ward off AIDS), and that instruction later in grade school should include lessons in how to put on a condom.
- Minnie Joycelyn Elders, Bill Clinton's first surgeon general, often called "the Dr. Ruth of Health and Human Services."
(For some odd reason, I find this appointment appropriate to the appointer.)
Elders seemed obsessed with sex and went Koop one further in her outré sex-education ideas: In addition to condom usage, she also thought public schools should teach children how to masturbate (to ward off AIDS), evidently on the assumption that they might otherwise never learn. I never found out whether the class included a lab, and whether it was co-ed (seems like that would make it easier to pass).
She also was quoted as saying, "We must stop this love affair with the fetus."
- David Satcher, Bill Clinton's second surgeon general, who also served as Asssistant Secretary of Health, thus reporting to himself. (I wonder if he gave himself good evaluations?)
Continuing the sexual theme of the Clinton presidency, Dr. Satcher issued a "call to action" (one of a series -- collect the whole set!) on the subject of AIDS... thereby perpetuating the myth that AIDS is the most urgent medical crisis in America, despite the fact that it was not even in the top 15 causes of death in the United States at the time. (I suppose AIDS is sexier than heart disease and cancer.)
When Satcher's term expired in 2002, Bush -- rather busy with other matters and recognizing the low repute to which the office had fallen -- made another one of his "hands across the aisle" Democratic appointments. He gets in trouble every time he does this (cf. Secretary of Transportation Norman "Baseball" Mineta). I have no hard evidence that Carmona is a Democrat; but a romp through his Wikipedia entry certainly raises the possibility:
- Carmona is of Puerto Rican descent;
- He was raised in Harlem (Spanish Harlem, one presumes);
- After serving in combat in Vietnam, he returned to New York City and attended CUNY in the Bronx in the 1970s;
- He went to medical school at UC San Francisco, which is a highly regarded med school but politically about the same as UC Berkeley;
- And according to a local Arizona television station, KVOA, he plans to run for office. My educated guess is that he'll be running as a Democrat.
And then, there are his big-government, nanny-state positions... you know, the ones that Bush tried to "muzzle." Between Wikipedia and the more detailed New York Times article, we can piece many of them together:
- He strongly supports federally funded embryonic stem-cell research;
- He is dismissive of abstinence education (there's that persistent sex leitmotif again... what is it with ribaldry and surgeon generals?)
- He's a global-warming doomsayer, evidently utterly unfamiliar with any of the scientific dissent on that subject (which is true of most global-warming doomsayers: Most insist that there is no contrary scientific evidence, implicly dismissing all dissenting scientists as quacks, no matter what their credentials);
- Oh, and he also wants to ban all importation, sale, use, and possession of tobacco in the United States.
Carmona completely buys into the "secondhand smoke" studies of the last few years, many of which were conducted under a bizarre, sub-scientific confidence interval in order to produce the findings the anti-smoking zealots desired; in scientific circles, this is called "torturing the data until they confess." (I speak as a life-long non-smoker who detests cigarettes and is allergic to cigarette smoke.) Presumably, Carmona's prohibitionism would extend to cigars and pipes (which I also do not smoke).
The specific example of muzzling concering stem-cell research illuminates the very Democratic psyche of Dr. Carmona. From the Times story:
When stem cells became a focus of debate, Dr. Carmona said he proposed that his office offer guidance “so that we can have, if you will, informed consent.”
“I was told to stand down and not speak about it,” he said. “It was removed from my speeches.”
The Bush administration rejected the advice of many top scientists on this subject, including that of the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Elias Zerhouni.
This is a perfect example of the narcissism of many scientists: Carmona's "guidance" was rejected, as was Zerhouni's "advice," because the fundamental issue was not scientific. It was ethical.
The question was not primarily whether there was great promise (as yet unrealized) in embryonic stem cell research; nearly every scientist agrees that there is, bearing in mind that promise means "potential." The question is whether it's morally right for the federal government to use taxpayer money to create embryos, just in order to kill them and extract stem cells.
What would Dr. Carmona's medical "guidance" be on that issue? Will he assure us, as a doctor, that zygotes have no souls?
Of course, Carmona himself, despite accepting many dubious scientific claims (the deadly effects of secondhand smoke, the glorious effects of sex education, and the world-shattering effects of globaloney) exhibits selective outrage about the scientific standards of others. From the AP story:
Another report, on global health challenges, was never released after the administration demanded changes that he refused to make, Carmona said.
"I was told this would be a political document or you're not going to release it." Carmona said. "I said it can't be a political document because the surgeon general never releases political documents. I release scientific documents that will help our elected officials and the citizens understand the complex world we live in and what their responsibilities are."
He refused to identify the officials who sought the changes. ["The lurkers support me in e-mail!"]
Carmona said he believed the surgeon general should show leadership on health issues. But his speeches were edited by political appointees, and he was told not to talk about certain issues. For example, he supported comprehensive sex education that would include abstinence in the curriculum, rather than focusing solely on abstinence.
"However, there was already a policy in place that didn't want to hear the science [the policy didn't want to hear science?], but wanted to quote, unquote preach abstinence, which I felt was scientifically incorrect," Carmona said.
And always, always, always he declines to identify in public any of the Bush administration officials he accuses of forcing "science" to take a back seat to politics. But he will happily denounce them in secret to Waxman and his committee, he says.
So what do we have here? We have another in a long list of surgeon generals who wants to use the office as his own, public bully pulpit, beating his own dead horse of a different color -- no matter what the president may have decided (based upon scientific and medical advice to the president more apposite than that of the senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Health).
And when he persists, his great-grandboss tells him to follow the lead of his boss and grandboss. Instead, he runs off to Henry Waxman's House Committee on Perpetual Scandalmongering, dragging along two other wacky predecessors, who all agree that President Bush is "politicizing" the never-before considered political sub-agency under the Department of Health and Human Services... all of whose top officials (including the surgeon general) are, and have always been, political appointees.
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