Yesterday we reported that the FTC's decision to close its investigation into the Google WiSpy affair came less than a week after President Obama attended a $30,000-plate fundraiser at the California home of senior Google executive Marissa Mayer. It also came four days after Google, after months of denials, admitted for the first time that its "Street View" video cameras were intercepting emails, passwords and website addresses sent by unsuspecting Internet users.
Now we've learned that on September 28, 2009, Becky Burr, a Google lobbyist at Wilmer Hale, emailed White House officials Susan Crawford and Andrew McLaughlin asking for a meeting to request the White House's assistance in urging the Federal Trade Commission to back off on privacy. Her email reads in part:
Google Inc. cut its taxes by $3.1 billion in the last three years using a technique that moves most of its foreign profits through Ireland and the Netherlands to Bermuda.
Google’s income shifting -- involving strategies known to lawyers as the “Double Irish” and the “Dutch Sandwich” -- helped reduce its overseas tax rate to 2.4 percent, the lowest of the top five U.S. technology companies by market capitalization, according to regulatory filings in six countries.
Of course, Google executives were among Barack Obama largest campaign contributors. CEO Eric Schmidt stumped for candidate Obama, and he and other senior executives contributed $150,000 to help pay for the inaugural celebration.
Information about General Motors' Chevy Volt surfaced last week that caused the blogosphere to light up. It seems that the much-hyped Volt is technically a hybrid vehicle as opposed to a true electric car since at certain acceleration points it relies on a gas powered engine to assist its electric powertrain. This comes after three years of GM touting the Volt as a "one of a kind, all-electrically driven vehicle." Sites such as Edmunds' Insideline.com proclaimed that "GM Lied: Chevy Volt is Not a True EV." There appears to be a disturbing picture developing at GM of a government owned corporation that is fostering a culture of deceit in order to generate public acceptance.
The abrupt departure by Andrew Stern this spring as president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), after 14 years on the job, blindsided a lot of observers. After all, he was a shadow cabinet member of the Obama administration. Reported ongoing federal investigations into two unrelated, and possibly illegal, financial arrangements may shed light on his motives. The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times each ran stories last Tuesday stating the FBI and the Department of Labor have been interviewing persons potentially knowledgeable about the possibility that Stern: 1) received unauthorized funds from a book he'd authored several years ago; and 2) approved the disbursement of funds to pay for a Southern California SEIU local official's no-show job who eventually was convicted in an unrelated kickback scheme. Stern denies his involvement in these activities and indeed even the fact of an investigation.
Call it a paradox. The U.S. economy officially has been out of recession for 15 months. The stock market enjoyed a record-high September; durable goods orders are up; and consumer spending is growing. Yet homeowners continue to lose their properties at a frequency not seen since the Great Depression. And this is despite - and possibly to some extent, because of - an emergency federal program in place for the past year and a half designed to stave off foreclosures. Call it instead, then, a consumer bailout. But don't expect it to end soon.
Yet, inside the Beltway, it’s business as usual. The Obama Administration plans to award the company a sweetheart, no-bid contract for satellite imagery and access to classified data. After protests, the Administration backtracks, allowing other companies to bid, but still intends to award the contract to the company. According to industry sources the total spending in that segment on intelligence outsourcing in 2009 was $161 billion. This is no small contract.
Barack Obama, like any Democratic president, has serious IOUs to labor unions. And AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, more than any other labor leader, is one ally he can't afford to alienate. About the last thing Obama wants, especially as his party faces heavy losses in congressional elections this November, is the subject of Trumka's lengthy track record of aggression and corruption to come up. Major media, for the most part, have obliged him in the wake of the round of speeches yesterday at the Milwaukee Area Labor Council Laborfest, making little or mention of inconvenient facts. It isn't as if Obama or top members of his administration are complaining.
It's been a week since the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation swept away ShoreBank's bad assets (cost: $367.7 million), changed its name to Urban Partnership Bank, and left it largely in the hands of the same people (and investors) who ran it before. Since then there have been several articles that called the process and new arrangement "unusual." I guess institutions loved by two presidents call for special treatment.