In today’s New York Times, Frances Robles provides new details of the extensive political giving of two wealthy Ecuadoran brothers, Roberto and William Isaias, who are wanted in their home country for allegedly looting a bank. From the Times:
“There is a certain mercenary aura on the Hill when it comes to overlap of fund-raising from wealthy individuals with problems,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a research group. “The key elements are all there: They are wealthy and have problems that are solved by the discretionary judgment of someone in the administration. They have tons of money and are willing to write checks all over the place.”
Remember President Obama promising “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan?” PolitiFact.com has identified 37 instances of Obama or another top administration official making this claim, or something close to it.
Today we received this email from United HealthCare informing us that our health plan that we like “will no longer be offered:”
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) disclosed on Friday that he accepted a third flight on a jet owned by Dr. Salomon Melgen, his largest donor, who is apparently under investigation for Medicare fraud. Last year, when Menendez was forced to admit to that he accepted two flights from Melgen, his office asserted that there were no more flights. Menendez’ failure to reimburse Melgen was characterized as an “oversight,” the same term his office used in reference to the first two flights.
Menendez also disclosed that he has paid more than $400,000 in legal fees associated with investigation of his relationship with Melgen. In 2012, Melgen contributed $700,000 to a super PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that spent the bulk of the funds for Menendez’ re-election.
New York TV station NBC 4 reported today that the federal criminal probe of New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is expanding:
The Department of Justice is investigating Menendez’s efforts on behalf of two fugitive bankers from Ecuador, multiple current and former U.S, officials tell NBC 4 New York. The probe into Menendez’s dealing with the bankers comes as federal authorities are also investigating his relationship to a big campaign donor from Florida.
The donor is Salomon Melgen, Menendez’ largest contributor. In 2012, Melgen contributed $700,000 to a super PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that spent the bulk of the funds for Menendez’ re-election. The report notes:
Federal investigators have searched Dr. Melgen’s offices twice in connection with an $8 million Medicare billing dispute. Separately, they are looking into whether Sen. Menendez improperly advocated for the doctor in that dispute. They are also looking into whether the
Yesterday, I confronted outgoing General Motors CEO Dan Akerson, the speaker at a National Press Club luncheon. At a press conference beforehand, and through the first question at the conclusion of his remarks, I requested that GM repay taxpayers the $10 billion in direct GM bailout costs.
Akerson’s refusal dominated much of the media coverage of the event. This was clearly not the story line that Akerson intended. In short, we happily stepped all over his message that the bailout is a success and that GM is back.
The USA Today/Detroit Free Press story is headlined. “GM’s CEO rejects repaying Feds for bailout losses…” Drudge linked to it. The Associated Press story centers around Akerson’s reasons for not repaying the government. If the comments by readers at various newspapers are any indication, we touched a nerve.
I made these remarks today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC before the luncheon speech of outgoing General Motors CEO Dan Akerson:
President Obama justified the auto bailout by predicting it would make money for the taxpayer. With Treasury now selling its remaining shares, the direct loss is about $10 billion. So on its most fundamental level, the auto bailout is a failure.
But that $10 billion figure dramatically understates the true cost. There were separate multibillion dollar bailouts of Ally Financial, formerly know as GMAC, and Delphi and other suppliers. There was cash for clunkers, the government guarantee of warrantees, accelerated fleet purchases, etc., etc.
Treasury also allowed a novel application of the tax-loss carryforward provisions of the tax code during the GM bankruptcy, shielding $30-$40 billion in GM profits from taxation.
I will hold a press conference on Monday, December 16 at 11:00am to pose key questions to General Motors leadership, including whether and when the company will repay to taxpayers the $10 billion direct cost of the auto bailout.
News that the U.S. Treasury Department has sold its remaining financial stake and that Mary Barra will take over as GM’s new CEO have put the spotlight on the company and its future. GM executives have pointed to the company’s gigantic cash position as evidence of its improved finances. Analysts have raised the possibility that the company will buy back shares or institute a dividend.
The NLPC press event will precede current Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson’s scheduled luncheon to present an update on the company’s progress before a National Press Club audience in Washington, DC.
As the Palm Beach Post reports, the offices of Dr. Salomon Melgen were yesterday again raided by the FBI, evidencing an ongoing investigation into what appears to be Medicare fraud. Melgen is the largest campaign donor of Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). In 2012, he contributed $700,000 to a super PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that spent the bulk of the funds for Menendez’ re-election.
The Post notes that Menendez went to bat for Melgen on a port security deal in the Dominican Republic. These actions on Melgen’s behalf were first reported by the New York Times on February 1, 2013, based on information provided by NLPC. The Washington Postreported in March that Menendez’ advocacy on behalf of Melgen is the subject of a grand jury investigation in Miami.
A consumer survey taken last week on behalf of the National Legal and Policy Center confirms that public disapproval of the auto bailout continues to dog General Motors, and is likely hurting pickup truck sales, a highly profitable segment of its line.
When 500 consumers in Texas were asked, “Would your decision to buy a specific brand of truck be influenced by whether that company received financial assistance from the federal government?,” 40.08% answered “absolutely.” Another 11.75% responded “very likely,” and 10.60% responded “likely.” Thus, more than 60% said that the bailout would have some influence on their decision.
Only 23.89% responded “not too likely.”
Texas is the largest truck market in the country, with more sales than the next three states combined.
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) deserves credit for engaging Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) during the Cruz’s recent marathon speech critical of ObamaCare. The only problem is he misrepresented key facts about his now-deceased daughter’s heart condition, and her ability to receive coverage under health insurance plans.
Moreover, he did not mention that the hospital that treated his daughter Christine was the recipient of huge earmarks of taxpayer money that he arranged. One can assume that Christine was treated as a Very Important Patient. With the full implementation of ObamaCare, will political connections become increasingly important to getting expensive medical treatments, which will not be available to everybody?
Sen. Dick Durbin movingly described his sick child’s preexisting condition as a reason to support Obamacare last week, but the Illinois Democrat neglected to mention that his late daughter was easily covered by existing insurance, and that he