A once-decrepit section of downtown Washington has become a luxury marketplace, feeding off the lavishly paid men and women successfully representing the political agenda of the corporate sector.
In 1993, when Tony Podesta, a top Washington lobbyist, moved his firm to G Street Northwest, the neighborhood was a skanky collection of warehouses, liquor stores and the remains of a red light district.
The money is flowing. Podesta’s own company made $25.1 million in lobbying fees last year, plus another $10 million for its public relations work. From Podesta’s office, it’s just a two-minute walk to the new City Center development and its deluxe retail offerings. Paul Stuart on I street sells a navy chalk stripe Italian suit for $4,984. Around the corner is Louis Vuitton, where the Président Classeur briefcase sells for $9,700. A half-block away is Hermès, manufacturer of the Birkin bag, one of which sold recently at auction in Hong Kong for $221,846.
Most lobbying compensation packages are closed to public view, but some – especially of top officials working for tax-exempt trade associations – are not. In 2012, National Journal identified 12 trade association executives making over $2 million a year.
Among the top earners in that select group were Jack Gerard of the American Petroleum Institute, $6,428,872; Thomas J. Donohue, United States Chamber of Commerce, $4,761,900; and Thomas R. Kuhn, Edison Electric Institute, $4,006,893…
In 2014, Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at New America, conducted a study for the Sunlight Foundation that revealed that there were 799 registered Washington lobbyists whose fees for at least one year between 1998 and 2012 exceeded $1 million…
In the 2014 elections, 31,976 donors — equal to roughly one percent of one percent of the total population of the United States — accounted for an astounding $1.18 billion in disclosed political contributions at the federal level…
Former members of the do-nothing, know-nothing club called Congress can easily double or triple his or her government salary when they leave office. Often unearned in the first place.
Campaign reform, taking the money out of politics is supposed to originate with this crowd.
Don’t hold your breath waiting.
Visitors to Carlsbad, NM, in appropriate attire
In a landmark settlement, the Department of Energy has agreed to fund infrastructure projects in New Mexico worth $73.25 million to resolve fines connected with last year’s radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
The New Mexico Environment Department levied the largest-ever fines against the federal government in December – $54 million – over permit violations at the WIPP nuclear waste repository and Los Alamos National Laboratory after a drum of Los Alamos waste ruptured in February 2014 at WIPP, near Carlsbad. That released radiation into the environment and contaminated nearly two dozen workers.
The higher-dollar settlement resolves all violations linked to the radiation accident – both the initial fines levied last year and the threat of additional fines to come, said state Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn.
It’s the largest settlement ever reached between the state and DOE, he said…
The settlement will fund road, water and emergency management projects around the state, but most of the resources will be focused on the Los Alamos and Carlsbad areas…
Flynn also underscored that the settlement money “is not contingent on a future appropriation.”
“It’s not being diverted from cleanup budgets or the operational budgets of WIPP or Los Alamos,” he said. “It’s going to supplement the money we currently receive.”…
DOE’s own investigations into the radiation leak found dozens of deficiencies in safety, emergency response, training and communications at WIPP, the nation’s only deep underground repository for certain types of Cold War-era nuclear waste.
WIPP has been closed to shipments, leaving waste piled up at sites around the country, including Los Alamos.
Your tax dollars at work.
A marketing company known for its Snuggie infomercials settled state and federal claims that it stuck consumers with hidden charges that almost doubled the cost of the product, a blanket with sleeves…
The company lured consumers with attractive “buy one, get one free” offers but didn’t adequately disclose that additional fees and handling charges almost erased the promise of the “free” item, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. Through confusing ordering processes, consumers sometimes were sold additional items which they didn’t intend to buy, Schneiderman said…
Hawthorne, New York-based Allstar Marketing Group LLC, which also sells the Perfect Brownie Pan and Magic Mesh screen, agreed to pay $8 million to settle Federal Trade Commission and New York state probes, Schneiderman said. The company also agreed to change the ordering process and make it clearer…
There was no finding that the company broke any laws, Allstar said in a statement. The company said it will provide “multiple opportunities for customers to confirm their orders before placing them” and will “clarify ordering and return procedures…”
Marketers must clearly disclose all costs, including processing and handling fees, said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
IMHO, what these scumbags are guilty of is behavior pretty the norm for a lot of the crap I see being sold to folks as “exclusive” and “seen only on TV”. When you’re not being hustled by hidden charges, you often run the risk of outright lies and myths worthy of a SuperPAC campaign commercial.
Visitors to Carlsbad, New Mexico, in proper summer attire
The contractor that operates the federal government’s underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico received a $1.9 million bonus just five days after an underground truck fire closed the facility.
The Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday that the U.S. Department of Energy awarded Nuclear Waste Partnership the funds based on an “excellent” job performance in maintaining the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad.
Some observers say last February’s fire and the radiation leak that followed nine days later show the contractor failed at its job.
Initial probes by federal regulators into both incidents identified a host of management and safety shortcomings.
The Department of Energy says it is not considering revising or terminating its contract with Nuclear Waste Partnership.
The company has a contract to operate the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant through 2017.
Consistency is the leading mental illness in our government. Time in office, time on the job is considered praiseworthy and a sign of qualification by the Senators and Congress-critters that dole out taxpayer dollars like so many blue ribbons at a hog-calling contest. Quality of work is meaningless.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Project was run badly enough that the chief executive at the site was fired as a result of the equipment fire and, separately, the radiation leak.
There are nations with an honorable civil service, competent, dedicated bureaucrats. The United States just doesn’t happen to be one of them.
UPDATE: $54 milliion fine from the state of New Mexico for crap safety.
Thanks, Mike, again
A New York City minister who was the subject of an Associated Press investigation about misspent 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina charity funds has agreed to repay $1.2 million that he took from his congregation to buy an 18th-century farmhouse on seven acres in rural New Jersey.
The Rev. Carl Keyes and his wife, the Rev. Donna Keyes, who jointly led the Glad Tidings Tabernacle in Manhattan, signed a legal judgment Wednesday settling a probe by the New York attorney general into a series of questionable church financial transactions.
Those deals included an illegal loan the couple took from the church in 2008 to buy a house in Stockton, New Jersey, near the Delaware River, and $500,000 the church loaned to an anti-poverty charity controlled by Carl Keyes, called Aid for the World.
Some of that money, the attorney general’s office said, was used to buy the minister and his wife a BMW. According to the settlement, which was scheduled to be officially announced Thursday, other funds were used to finance family trips to California, West Virginia, Africa and Florida, where the couple’s sons went to college.
Glad Tidings former executive director, Mark Costantin, agreed to repay $482,000 he still owed Glad Tidings on $1.2 million in loans he’d taken from the church, some of which were used to pay off the mortgage on his house in Chester, New York…
Three former members of the Glad Tidings’ board agreed to pay $50,000 in penalties for neglecting their oversight duties.
The attorney general’s office began its investigation after the AP raised numerous questions about Carl Keyes and two charities he controlled, including one that had received $4.8 million in donations intended to help victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina…
Using a combination of internal documents and public records, the AP also chronicled how the church disposed of $31 million it made by selling off its historic Manhattan church in 2007. That report included detail on some of the loan transactions that were the subject of Wednesday’s settlement. After the AP began asking questions, Keyes filed eight years of tax returns for Urban Life Ministries and three years for Aid for the World.
Nice to see the Fourth Estate behaving with traditional backbone. In a craft so often dazzled and dumbed-down by reclassification as media and entertainment, commitment to ethics, functioning as a genuine watchdog is too rare.
I holler at AP folks frequently enough – mostly their editors – about politics. Always nice to witness dedication to traditional standards of journalism.
More than 1,200 people are under investigation for a US military recruitment fraud during the Iraq war, officials say.
Two generals and dozens of colonels are implicated in the alleged scheme, in which referral fees were illegally collected for recruiting soldiers.
The fraud is said to have already cost the US government at least $29m (£17.7m) and may top $100m in total…
The National Guard programme – established in 2005 and later expanded to the Army and Army Reserve – paid soldiers, civilians and retirees $2,000 to $7,500 to recruit friends and family…
According to investigators, numerous schemes were used to defraud under the programme, which saw the Army pay out more than $300m for 130,000 recruits during the Iraq war.
High school principals and guidance counsellors were said to have accepted money for recruiting students who they knew were already planning to join the US military.
Other recruiters illegally accepted bonuses after forcing subordinates to register as recruiting assistants, before substituting their own bank account information.
More than 700 recruiters and 200 military officers are under investigation, and several former recruiters and soldiers have been indicted on federal charges.
“Clearly, we’re talking about one of the largest criminal investigations in the history of the Army,” financial oversight subcommittee chair Senator Claire McCaskill told USA Today.
“This is discouraging and depressing,” she added. “[It] is just a mess from top to bottom.”
It is kind of silly to expect more honesty from our military than we ever got from Congress or the Bush White House. Lying for profit was an established part of daily business – whether we look at Dick Cheney and Halliburton Industries or National Guard officers and the “recruits” they sent to Iraq. Only the size of the fraud is different.
And we actually arrest generals.
Could you teach me to grow these here poppies back in Texas?
A U.S. military investigation found no wrongdoing in a decision to keep building a $25 million regional headquarters in Afghanistan that local commanders said they didn’t need or want.
The 64,000-square-foot command headquarters in Helmand province, approved as part of a surge of U.S. troops to Afghanistan in 2009, has a war room, a briefing theater and enough office space for 1,500 people.
The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, criticized the project in July, saying he was “deeply troubled that the military may have spent taxpayer funds on a construction project that should have been stopped.”
Army Major General James Richardson, a deputy commander of United States Forces-Afghanistan, found “no evidence” that proceeding with construction amounted to any “violation of law or regulation,” according to a memo obtained yesterday on his investigation of the project at the request of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Sopko had said the headquarters risked becoming a “white elephant” to the Afghan government when most U.S. and allied forces depart by the end of next year. The inspector general has issued a stream of reports that he says show waste and mismanagement of U.S. spending in the country.
As early as April 2010, the local Marine commander of the region found the project “was no longer necessary to execute the mission” and requested its cancellation…
Not that the Pentagon and their overseers – the real ones in the military-industrial complex, not the incompetents in Congress – have any problem with cost overruns or producing structures and devices of no value whatsoever. After all, the worst case scenario – for them – is a minimal cost-plus structure. And the average American politician like the average American voter never has caught on to programs with costs inflated – since the guaranteed profit is based on “costs”.
In September the Texas Department of State Health blitzed the radio and TV with ads for a new teen abstinence website that will cost $1.2 million over the next year.
Texas has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, and the new website aims to address the issue by promoting strict abstinence before marriage.
The website, ourtown4teens.org, is paid for with federal money from a program called the Title V State Abstinence Education Grant Program.
As such, there is no mention anywhere on the site of contraception. Title V recipients must use the money to support abstinence, and teach that sex outside marriage could have harmful psychological and physical effects.
Dearman is the one who doesn’t get up and dance
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has accused a former Oklahoma investment adviser and wedding singer of raising at least $4.7 million through various illegal schemes with the help of a Bartlesville businesswoman. The pair then used investors’ money on gambling and other personal expenses, as well as to pay off earlier investors, according to a court filing.
The SEC filed a civil suit against Larry J. Dearman Sr., 40, of Tulsa, and his friend and business associate Marya Gray, 50, of Bartlesville. The Bartlesville-based wireless service provider Bartnet Wireless and northwest Oklahoma convenience store chain Quench Bud’s also were named as defendants in the lawsuit, as well as shell company The Property Shoppe Inc….
The lawsuit claims Dearman fraudulently obtained millions of dollars from more than 30 clients. Dearman promised his clients he would invest their money into various businesses owned or controlled by Gray, the lawsuit says. Instead, Dearman and Gray used investors’ money to gamble and for personal expenses as well as to pay off other investors in a Ponzi-type scheme, the SEC claims.
Dearman stole an additional $700,000 from some of his clients “through various ruses,” the SEC said in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tulsa.
“Dearman and Gray were able to lure these clients in part because many of them had known him and his family since childhood, thought of him as an active member of their church and knew him as a popular local wedding singer,” the SEC claims…
Gray gambled away more than $1.1 million over the course of the scheme, which lasted from 2008 to 2012, the SEC claims in its lawsuit.
Kind of gives you a clearer picture of the gullible voters in Oklahoma who keep on re-electing sleazy conservatives like Tom Coburn and James Inhofe. Quote the King James bible enough, blather about bringing free money to Oklahoma – blame everything bad on furriners and the federal government – you got it made.
HMCS Toronto boarding party
A Canadian navy crew was all smiles after making one of the largest heroin seizures ever on the high seas…when it intercepted a boat transporting between $150-million and $250-million worth of drugs on the Indian Ocean.
The Department of National Defence said HMCS Toronto seized about 500 kilograms of heroin from the boat on Friday. The exact location of the incident was undisclosed, because it’s part of a Canadian Forces counter-terrorism operation…
The discovery began late Thursday night when a naval helicopter — codenamed Raptor, after Toronto’s basketball team — spotted the small fishing boat in the water and began tracking it. Patchell told CBC News that fishing vessels called dhows are often used in that region of the world to carry drugs.
A team boarded the vessel Friday morning and began to search.
“Very early on in the boarding, we got the reports back that they found one or two suspicious packages,” Patchell said. “Didn’t take too long before three packages turned into 500 packages of heroin…”
“I had some intelligence that indicated some of these vessels we’ve been tracking may be carrying narcotics, but certainly nothing of this size was expected,” Patchell said…
Canada’s naval ships have been patrolling the Indian Ocean and Horn of Africa since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.
Uh, why? The 9-11 attacks didn’t originate there. Bin Laden hasn’t been near that part of Africa since the mid-1980’s. It would be nice if this Anglophone Navy was spending their time interfering with piracy in the region – but, no special mention of that as a goal from the Commander.
We get to hear on a daily basis about activities that have somehow prevented dozens of attacks upon every one of our nations – with no evidence whatsoever because it’s “classified”. Sometime – a century from now – someone will open a couple of sealed vaults and possibly list the results of millions of dollars per hour spent on Homeland Security.