Boehm Warns About Special Interest Funding of Congressional Travel

Rangel in lounge chairAmanda Becker reports in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call today that outside groups spent $3.6 million to sponsor foreign trips for members of Congress and their staffs in 2012.  The article includes my comments:

“Congressmen are frequently accused of living inside a bubble. So you can make a good case that members should be traveling and getting to see certain things overseas,” Boehm said.

“But all too often they have been arranged by groups that have very pronounced legislative interests,” he added. “And what’s more enticing than having the possibility of talking [to lawmakers] in a relaxed, vacation resort-type setting?”

Foreign travel by members of Congress that is paid for by outside groups is subject to regulations under the House Rules. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), in photo, ignored the regulations in 2008 by accepting corporate-funded Caribbean junkets. He was forced to resign his Ways and Means Chairmanship after being …

Can Chicago Lobbying Save ShoreBank?

Shorebank logoProbably not. Seems like the more that presidentially-prized ShoreBank gets extensions from private financial institutions (Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, etc.) and from its federal regulators (the FDIC and Federal Reserve), the deeper in the hole it finds itself. Earlier this week the Chicago Tribune reported:

ShoreBank’s capital deficiency worsened in the second quarter, according to newly submitted financial results to regulators, and the Chicago-based lender now needs to raise at least $190 million just to meet targets set out in March by state and U.S. banking regulators….

The South Side bank has arranged a capital infusion of about $150 million from Wall Street investment firms, big banks, insurance companies and philanthropic groups. It’s hoping that private investment will then make it eligible for about $75 million in bailout funds from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Concerns have been raised about whether $225 million will be enough to save

Is ShoreBank Sheila Bair’s Baby?

Sheila BairThe deadline for ShoreBank to come up with sufficient outside capital has been extended again, with the Federal Reserve saying more than $150 million from the likes of Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and $75 million in TARP money aren’t enough to save the politically-connected community lender. Crain’s Chicago Business reports it’s the third extension the Wall Street firms have granted to enable ShoreBank to get its act together, with the new deadline August 6.

While the Obama administration has denied pressuring big lenders to bail out ShoreBank, these extensions (while other community lenders have been allowed to fail) only serve as further evidence that powerful political forces are at work on their behalf. Charlie Gasparino of Fox Business Network has reported that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was a big player in convincing the Wall Street finance companies – all who received government bailout funds themselves – to ante

ShoreBank President Uses Saul Alinsky Playbook

Rules for RadicalsLast week the Chicago Tribune reported that Illinois Finance Authority chairman Bill Brandt threatened “a firestorm” in the Windy City if the Federal Reserve did not follow through with a bailout of South Side-based ShoreBank. This followed some reported pressure applied by the Obama Administration on companies like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, GE Capital, Bank of America, and Chase, who were asked to kick in $20 million each to make politically-backed community lender appear eligible to receive TARP funds. 

Turns out the preference for Chicago-type coercion goes right to the top (and the origins) of the troubled bank itself.

Mary Houghton is president and co-founder of ShoreBank Corporation, which is the parent to several other affiliated financial institutions and nonprofit organizations. Little is known about her except that she has a passion for microlending (which ShoreBank is heavily involved in) is said to have advised President Obama’s late mother

‘Firestorm’ Promised to Save Politically-Connected Chicago Bank

ShoreBank logoAccording to a story over the weekend from the Chicago Tribune, the $135 million that the Obama Administration reportedly coerced from TARP recipients like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup may not be enough to save ShoreBank, the politically connected “community” lender whose big bank bailout was supposed to make it eligible for its own TARP funds. From the Tribune:

The bailout of Chicago-based ShoreBank has hit a serious snag as the Federal Reserve and Treasury drag their feet on whether to provide funding to the ailing South Side lender, sources close to the situation say….

The Treasury is deferring to the Federal Reserve. One source said some at the Fed want ShoreBank to raise more private dollars before it gets government money.

The source said the private investors are unlikely to kick in any more money. Many of the big banks received federal bailout money and have since

Robert Rubin is a Disgrace

Rubin photoRobert Rubin’s obstinate performance yesterday on Capitol Hill is sure to fuel popular disgust with the bank bailouts. Rubin appeared to be what he is, someone who has walked away with so much money that he doesn’t have to answer to anyone. When he was responsive, Rubin tried to claim that he had nothing to do with Citigroup’s meltdown. He also tried to make it complicated, which it is not.

All you have to do is read pages 145 and 146 of Charlie Gasparino’s book, titled The Sellout, for a concise account of Rubin’s role in leveraging up Citigroup. Rubin not only pushed for more risk-taking at Citigroup’s executive and board levels, but he also “was making the rounds of the various departments and talking to people about taking more risk.”

I’ve never been a big fan of trial by Congressional hearing. This one was handed over to the …

Eliot Spitzer To Speak on Corporate Social Responsibility at Harvard Club (Not a Parody)

SpitzerAt first, I thought it was satire. Client #9 is scheduled to be a “keynote” speaker at something called the CRO Summit in Boston on April 21. CRO stands for Corporate Responsibility Officer. Yes, major corporations actually have such a position. The organizers’ apparent lack of self-consciousness about Spitzer confirms our view that the so-called Corporate Social Responsibility movement isn’t about responsibility at all. Instead, it is about advancing a set of political positions.

And what better place for such a politically correct event than in a seat of privilege like the Harvard Club. Spitzer, son of a real estate magnate and a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, should be right at home. To be fair, the Harvard Club is an alumni club and has no formal connection to the college. The CRO Summit organizers, a for-profit called SharedXpertise, are just renting the Club. Still, the imagery …

Photo Casts More Doubt on Rangel Claims

The admonishment last week of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) was based in part on photos, audio recordings and other materials that I provided the Ethics Committee from the 2008 St. Maarten junket. Rangel still claims, however, that he did not know of the corporate involvement. I went back today and found this photo. I did not provide it to the Ethics Committee because I never imagined that Rangel would make such a claim. This photo is more proof that Rangel’s protestation of ignorance is simply not plausible.

Rangel Carib photo

Here’s another photo that shows the gentleman above in the blue jacket is Rangel. In both photos, to his right is former New York mayor David Dinkins. To his left is Carl McCall, the former Comptroller New York state.

Rangel Carib photo #2

Corporate sponsorship is manifested in three ways. First, corporate logos appear on the sign on the podium. Here’s a …

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