Earlier this month corporate climateers including Nike and 3M were given awards -- supposedly "the equivalent of an Oscar for the climate change mitigation world" -- for their efforts to reduce their carbon emissions. The honors were bestowed by the Carbon War Room, which "harnesses the power of entrepreneurs to implement market-driven solutions to climate change." The Virgin Group's Richard Branson is one of the nonprofit's co-founders.
Patronage and corruption at the U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is not exactly a well-kept secret. A widespread scam in a BIA loan program in Montana has brought home this reality with full force. And fully six persons have been sentenced as a result. On October 21, one of those persons, Dolly Diane Crowe, a former employee of the credit office at Fort Peck Indian Reservation, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Montana to two years in prison and three years of probation for theft and conspiracy to obstruct a federal audit. She also will have to make $143,120 in restitution, though the grand total of the scam was much higher. The details of the case underscore the necessity of better oversight at the BIA and indeed call into question why the agency should exist at all.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) has formally opened a legal defense fund in an apparent acknowledgement of our accusation that he illegally used almost $400,000 in PAC funds for his legal defense. According to a statement Rangel made to Politics Daily:
The repeated filings of allegations, no matter how unsubstantiated, by the National Legal Policy Committee (sic), a politically-motivated right wing group dedicated to eviscerating civil rights and labor union protections, have led me to this action.
On November 29, we filed a Complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Rangel violated the Federal Election Campaign Act by using almost $400,000 in funds from his National Leadership PAC to pay legal bills related to the House Ethics Committee actions against him.
The scenario has a familiar ring. A country goes on a credit binge. Borrowers in large numbers receive approval for home mortgages and other loans that they can't afford to repay. A sharp upswing in defaults and foreclosures of these now-securitized loans helps trigger a world financial crisis. And a frantic government bails out investors to prevent a depression and defuse political chaos. That's Ireland we're talking about.
Earlier this month, General Motors made a $4 billion cash contribution to its UAW pension fund. Reports state that an additional $2 billion worth of GM common stock will be contributed to the fund. What is not being reported is where the stock is coming from.
In addition to public ownership since the IPO, GM common shares are currently held by the US Treasury, Canadian Government, the UAW and Motors Liquidation Company (creditors of Old GM). Unless the US Treasury is giving away taxpayer shares, new shares will have to be issued for an additional $2 billion worth of common shares to fund UAW pension plans.
One way to view Benjamin Louis King's situation is that it could be worse. That's because his total theft may have been good deal higher than the amount for which he was prosecuted. King, for three decades the chief of finance for the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, along with an accomplice, Wendell Jackson, was sentenced in Baltimore federal court on December 14 for embezzling over $1 million from the bureau. U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake gave King 30 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release; she gave Jackson 15 months in prison. Each also must make restitution. "Bennie King abused his position of trust for over a decade and stole more than $1 million through a longstanding fraud scheme," said U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein. "What makes the case even more offensive is that the $1 million would have paid for legal services for the poor.
General Motors has recently disclosed on more than one occasion that "we have determined that our disclosure controls and procedures and our internal control over financial reporting are currently not effective." It remains to be seen how this warning affects future earnings reports, but we can review GM's past to see how previous financial reporting internal control flaws played out.
If Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Solicitor M. Patricia Smith are pushing the limits of radical advocacy, Leon Rodriguez might just be the person to push them further. Rodriguez, for nearly a year the chief of staff at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, is President Obama's presumptive nominee for administrator of DOL's Wage and Hour Division. The president announced on December 2 his intent to name him to the long-vacant post. But like the previous (unsuccessful) nominee, Lorelei Boylan, Rodriguez, an experienced prosecutor, has an expressed belief that what counts is equality of result, not equality under the law - even if employers have to pay the toll. If Obama is genuine about his recently stated desire to promote business development, he should find another candidate.
I discussed President Obama's CEO "summit" today with David Callahan, the author Fortunes of Change: The Liberal Rich and the Remaking of America. CNBC hosts are Melissa Francis, Sue Herrera and Michelle Caruso-Cabrera. Here is a transcript:
After the failure in Copenhagen last year for countries who hoped for a successor agreement to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming, lower expectations surrounded this year's version of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun. That's not the same as saying desires for a massive wealth transfer from developed countries to developing countries was diminished -- it's just that they went about it differently.