Government Integrity Project

Congressional Committee Asks FTC for Info on End of Google ‘WiSpy’ Probe

Jeff Bliss of Bloomberg reported yesterday:

A U.S. House committee chairman asked the Federal Trade Commission to provide details of Google Inc.’s collection of data from unsecured wireless networks.

The FTC on Oct. 27 announced it was ending its investigation into possible privacy violations by Google in its gathering of data for its Street View mapping project.

“I am sending a request to the FTC for a staff briefing on a number of privacy investigations including Google Street View,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns said in an e-mailed statement.

Congress Must Investigate Google-Obama Ties

Obama Schmidt photoYesterday I wrote Reps. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and Darryl Issa (R-CA), the chair and ranking member of the House Government Oversight Committee, urging a thorough investigation of both Google Street View and the FTC’s recent conduct during its investigation of the program. Click here for a 6-page pdf of the letter that includes additional background on Google’s extensive and close lobbying connections with the Obama Administration.

As part of Google’s “Street View” operation, fleets of specially outfitted cars drove through multiple countries collecting photos, video and, as Google now admits, sensitive personal information from WiFi connections. Yet in late October, the Federal Trade Commission abruptly ended its investigation of “Street View” – a decision that came on the heels not only of Google’s admission that its surveillance was much more serious than previously disclosed but only days after a $30,000-a-head fundraiser for President Obama at the home of a Google executive.

GM IPO is Wealth Redistribution Scheme

UAW/GM logosThe term "wealth redistribution" has been used by political pundits on the right who accuse Democrats of having a misguided agenda wherein the wealthiest Americans will be able to subsidize a government spending spree in order to redistribute wealth to the less affluent populace. General Motors, through its reorganization plan, has contrived its own version of wealth redistribution. This action was orchestrated by the Obama Administration as it took control of the GM bankruptcy process. Old GM shareholders and bondholders, along with taxpayers, lose out as new wealth is created for bankruptcy attorneys and advisers, investment banks and the politically connected UAW.

Bernanke Should Heed Election Results and Abandon Quantitative Easing

BernankeThe Fed is supposed to be insulated from politics but it is not supposed to be divorced from reality. In the face of the election results, Ben Bernanke's reported plan for hundreds of billions in additional government bond purchases seems ill advised.

The American people have spoken. Government spends and borrows too much. The electoral repudiation of Big Government was preceded by the emergence of the Tea Party movement, which is transforming debate over our financial nation's future. Public debt has become Public Enemy #1.

USDA Capitulates to Native American Farmers; Settles for $760 Million

money photoThe scenario is all too familiar: A corporation or government agency, having knuckled under to a group of "civil rights" activists and their lawyers, renders itself an easy target for successful copycat shakedowns. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for over a decade has epitomized such capitulation. And once again it has come through. On October 19 the department announced the settlement of a longstanding lawsuit in which thousands of American Indian farmers and ranchers had claimed discrimination by USDA credit program administrators. The $760 million agreement, which gained preliminary court approval yesterday, follows the agency's capitulation earlier this year in separate lawsuits filed by black and Hispanic farmers. Taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.

Election Day Prompts Rosy Projections for GM IPO

According to unnamed sources, the GM IPO will offer approximately 22% of the company for proceeds of about 10 billion dollars. Shares will be sold at $26 to $29 after a stock split. This puts the company's value at approximately 50 billion dollars, in the same area as Ford's market cap. Arguments can be made whether or not GM is worth more than Ford, but there are other more important facts to ponder. Why did Ed Whitacre recently disclose that the IPO would price between $20 and $25, only to see the media hype a higher figure based on leaks that no doubt came from the company itself.

Probably because today is Election Day. The auto bailout is even more unpopular than the stimulis spending or ObamaCare. The pressure is on GM to shed the "Goverment Motors" label.

Google Lobbied White House on FTC Privacy Policy; Was Fix In on WiSpy Probe?

Obama Schmidt photoYesterday 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:

GM IPO: Buyer Beware

GM logoGeneral Motors is expected to begin soliciting for its IPO within the next few weeks. Some warning signs are surfacing regarding the risks relating to investing in New GM. These risks will be easily recognized by astute money managers and may require GM (and its owners, the US Treasury) to rely more upon the Mom and Pop investors who are less sophisticated and more susceptible to being taken advantage of.

Prior to filing for bankruptcy, General Motors funded its operations by borrowing from small investors. This funding came in the form of "baby bonds" that were traded on security exchanges and made readily available to retail buyers. Around the same time that unethical practices led to predatory lending in the mortgage industry, GM engaged in its own practice of predatory borrowing. The individuals who lent money in good faith eventually had their rights subordinated to the politically powerful labor unions.

Politico: Rangel in Disarray

John Bresnahan of Politico reports today:

Rep. Charles Rangel is heading into a Nov. 15 ethics trial with no lawyers, little money and a risky strategy that may turn his trial into a political showdown, rather than a legal face-off, according to sources close to the New York Democrat.

It's not even clear if the ethics trial will start on time. Rangel has asked for a delay in the proceedings, but the ethics committee - with members off running their own reelection campaigns - has not publicly ruled on the request.

Google Execs Raise Money for Obama as FTC Drops Probe

Obama Schmidt photo

From the White House blog yesterday:

As special interest billionaires continued to pour secret donations of millions of dollars each into front groups supporting Republicans, we asked the obvious question: "What do they expect in return?

Congressional Republicans have made clear that lobbyists have a seat at the table even when they are formulating their party's broader strategy and governing vision.

People in glass White Houses shouldn't throw stones. Consider these recent news items:

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