John Boehner’s Speakership was a setback for Congressional ethics. He backslid on a number of important reforms, and helped to return the Ethics Committee to its traditional role of covering up wrongdoing by incumbent members of Congress.
Boehner ally Rep. Charles Dent (R-PA), the Chairman of the Ethics Committee, is currently orchestrating a whitewash of apparent House rules violations related to a junket by ten House members to Azerbaijan in 2013.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ CEO Sergio Marchionne’s quest to merge his company with General Motors continues to garner attention and draw suggestions that GM might be shooting itself in the foot by ignoring the offer to talk. Two respected sources weighed in on the drama, most notably CNBC anchor and ex-hedge fund manager Jim Cramer who has lost confidence in GM management and dumped his shares of the company.
The latest batch of publicly-released State Department emails provide more evidence that a $10 million loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to Clinton Foundation donor Claudio Osorio was made as a result of pressure from Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The loan to a company named InnoVida, owned by Osorio, was supposed to be for building houses in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, but Osorio used the money to finance a lavish lifestyle. Osorio is currently in prison for fraud. OPIC is an independent agency but submits its budget through the State Department.
Lawyers for Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) recently asked that several of the counts in the indictment be thrown out because the investigation started after “unproven allegations” that Menendez has sex with underage prostitutes.
In response, the government says it has “corroborated” evidence of this misconduct, even though Menendez was not criminally charged with it. Paul Mulshine of The Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger, has a good account of this legal misstep.
The following letter was today sent to House Ethics Committee Chairman Charles Dent (R-PA), in photo, and Ranking Member Linda Sanchez (D-CA):
We are writing to express deep concern about the House Ethics Committee’s decision to withhold the findings of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) related to its investigation of Member and staff travel to Azerbaijan. The Committee’s action, along with its order to OCE to “cease and refer” without the Committee having officially started an investigation, sets a dangerous precedent that could fundamentally undermine the important benefits that OCE has brought to the House ethics process.
Rumors have circulated that General Motors is considering building Buick SUVs in China which would be sold both there and in the USA. The timing of the leaked plans could not be worse as China markets continue to collapse, spreading contagion to world markets. The timing also coincides with GM’s negotiations with the UAW, raising the suspicion that GM is using the rumor to leverage their bargaining power with the UAW.
Why is GM focusing so much on the Chinese market at the worst of times? Regardless of the weakening Chinese economy, it would be challenging to convince American consumers to purchase SUVs built in China given the perception of lower quality and safety standards. China also has not been the best of US allies considering ongoing computer hacking allegations, aggressive military build-ups and unfair currency devaluation tactics.
General Motors’ shares have taken a hit this week with the catalyst for the latest downturn being news out of China. Continued weakness in China (including weakening car sales) has led the country to devalue its currency in an attempt to bolster its economy at the expense of its trading partners. This latest news confirms my views that GM’s China gamble puts the company and its shareholders at increased risk. The horrible performance of GM’s stock over the past few months also brings into question the rationale for the much-hyped share buyback that was instigated by ex-Obama Auto Task Force member, Harry Wilson, in photo.
Observers lately have taken to calling Puerto Rico “America’s Greece.” That might qualify as an insult – to Greece. And the American public may have to cover the debts. On Monday, the island government announced that its Public Finance Corporation was unable to make its full scheduled loan payments over the weekend. The $628,000 in disbursements was a mere blip on the $58 million due, itself a blip on composite debt of over $70 billion, all of it rated at or near “junk” levels. Yet suddenly the specter of collapse has become real. Moody's Vice President Emily Raimes, terming the partial payment a “default,” stated: “This event is consistent with our belief that Puerto Rico does not have the resources to make all of its forthcoming debt payments. This is a first in what we believe will be broad default on commonwealth debt.”
General Motors recently announced that it will spend $5 billion on a joint venture with Chinese state-owned SAIC Motor to develop vehicles for emerging markets. The announcement came around the same time that GM reported results for 2015 second quarter earnings, which showed cash and cash equivalents decreasing $2.2 billion in the first six months of the year. Marketable securities also declined by $2 billion during that time frame.