Congress Is More Corrupted Than Ever!


Congressional corruption is a very complex and shrouded subject.  Special interests are experienced and savvy.  Fogcutters will be presenting many Internet links for those seeking the underlying facts.  The problem is that there is so much information!  So much so that overload and frustration can lead to discouragement.  These issues cross all political boundaries!

First of all, official corruption and self-serving behavior has probably been with us for thousands of years ever since civilization became, well, "civilized."  Power begets power.  Power begets wealth. Further, the political "Golden Rule" simply states that "He who has the gold, rules!".

We are limiting this discussion to four areas of deep concern. 
     1.  Congressional Insider Trading; The current hot topic!
     2.  Campaign finance and how the rules are circumvented;
     3.  Influence of lobbyists The shrouded influence in the halls of Congress.  
     4.  Political pressure to conform to party dictates extends even to blackmail.

Fogcutters has been researching these issues for a number of months. Every time we thought there was sufficient verifiable information to publish a whole set of new issues cropped up and we needed to delve even further.  Obviously, this subject will need to be frequently updated as political leadership start rushing to cover their butts.  Pompous denials and inside maneuvering can be expected to maintain Congressional privilege while presenting a public spin show. 

Congressional Insider Trading
 
    This is probably one of the most heinous examples of Congressional arrogance and expectation of entitlement. Actually, insider trading has been around for hundreds of years.  Equity and bond markets were first established in Europe 500 years ago. In 1790 the United States created the first open market for bonds and it took only 2 years for the first case of insider trading to crash the market!  Insider trading has long, established history!
     So what does our value system indicate should be done here?  The fallout from the Penn State scandal saw both Coach Paterno and President Spanner
removed even though neither was accused of any wrong doing.  The feelings persisted that maybe they could have done more....  Given the need to sweep house as being a common process during a scandal, how hard do we need to address insider trading in Congress?
     There remains little doubt that insider trading is, and has been, widespread within Congress.  Legislative attempts to limit and disclose insider trading (Stock Act) has been submitted every year since 2004 in H.R. 1148. (Note: to use this link one must initiate a new search for "H,R. 1148.)  Since 2006, only six congressmen have been willing to co-sponsor the bill.  Now that this arrogance was exposed, 2 corresponding bill have been presented in the U.S. Senate.  Everyone is scrambling and talking about "investigations." Also, since exposure, 174 Congressmen have jumped on H.R 1148 as cosponsors!

Unfolding of the "current" trading crisis. Check out the following video interviews!
Jack Abramoff, CNBC, 11/11/11 - Congress Members in Insider Trading (Must See!)
Insider Trading, 60 Minutes - Interview with Jack Abramoff,  11/13/11 (Must See!)
Congress Exempt fro Insider Trading Laws - CBS News video
Insider Trading -
05/28/2011 Economic Policy Journal
Opposite view - From FactCheck.org, challenges false rumors about Congress
And there is more!
Jack Abramoff on CNN - 11/09/2011
Pelosi and Boehner Deny Profiting
Cafferty on CNN examines how Congress gains wealth while in office.
     Peter Schweitzer, author of "Throw Them All Out," CNBC interview - discusses the ethics of the House and Senate and the problem of insider trading in the Congress. He doubts the willingness of the SEC to enforce the rules, given that they have to answer to Congress. (Must See!)
     Read more at the Washington Examiner (editorial)

Summary: Initially few Congressmen acknowledged knowing about the problem or the "Stock Act" and they are now running for cover.  There is nothing like the public spotlight to bring politicians in line!  Congressional entitlements will be a hard and long battle where we must keep these issues on the front burner throughout the entire coming election cycle and for years thereafter. Even with all the publicity the Congressional leadership has delayed further consideration until next year even though there are enough votes to pass it now!

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 Campaign Finance
     At the deepest levels of Congressional motivation is campaign financing and personal profits!  Many observers contend that the first order of business for elected congressmen is re-election.  Within the escalating polarization of the political scene decisions are being made for re-election, dogma, personal power, the benefit of financial supporters and, at the bottom of the list, the benefit of the nation. 
     Current estimates now put the cost over $1 million for the house and $4.3 million for the Senate.  Some campaigns run as high as $15 million.  Once in office a senator needs to raise more than $10,000 every day.  Many Congressmen report spending nearly half of their time raising funds for re-election! (See "Power of Money" on the side bar.)
     Congressmen are being openly coerced on the house floor to vote along party dictates or face diminished re-election funding.  With the changes made under the guise of “campaign finance reform” the various political parties are now controlling the re-election purse strings.  “He/she who has the gold, rules.” 
     A brief explanation of campaign finance is available from Wikipedia . However, whatever attempts to control campaign financing that were in place was swept away by the Supreme Court last year.  “In early 2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited pursuant to the right of these entities to free speech.” 

"Campaign Finance Reform" Centralized Political Power with Party Leadership!
     The much heralded campaign finance reform 10 years ago was a complete sham! Wherever there is money, influence and power to be had you can be sure those with the power are not going to give it up easily!  Even while the popular media touted earlier reforms as a path to eliminate the over-influential effects of large contributors it became obvious to those reading more deeply into the details that the "reforms" actually vested even greater power with the central party committees.
     Individual candidates became beneficiaries of party generosity but only through obedience to the central dictates.  Without funding by and mostly directed by the central party could one hope to succeed at the polls.  Since these reforms were enacted, voting along party lines has become more the norm with each successive Congress. 

     Meanwhile, the leadership has become increasingly ridged and unwilling to compromise on such a great number of issues that Congress is becoming paralyzed, even in the face of mounting debt and world-wide concern.  The U.S. credit rating has now been downgraded for these reasons.  Congress has become factionalized into defiant caucuses and, according to political news letters and internet blogs, the national mood is worsening.  The grip of political ideologues and special interests MUST be broken!  Campaign financing does find many ways to circumvent the law.
     Wikipedia -  History, PACs, Bundeling, 527's, etc. Traditional funding is long gone!

Who's Who in the World of Super PACs?
     Super PAC's acquire unlimited capacity to raise money for candidates!  "Today, a political committee has the power to make one phone call and get an unlimited amount of money from a corporation, union or individual."  

Campaign finance evolution in 2010 - Wikipedia:
     At issue here is who can inject money into the financing of political campaigns, in what manner, and up to what limits. Campaign finance is a broad activity.  On September 18, 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in Emily's List v FEC. The case’s main impact was to invalidate certain rules of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) as to what constituted a “solicitation” by a federally registered PAC, the proceeds of which were subject to reporting under federal regulations.  Based upon technical reasons Emily's List remains unfettered.

Campaign finance in the United States - Wikipedia:  PACs. Bundlers, 527 organizations, hard money and soft money!  Many ways exist and are created to get around the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and regulations that try to limit "big money" from becoming overly influential in American politics.

Wiki World Order: Here's another interesting viewpoint.

Summary: Congressional Integrity is our #1 National Issue!  
     If voters are to have any hope of directing the course of American politics in a fashion that better reflects the desires of the nation we must bring Congress and the presidency back in line where what is best for the nations comes before party agendas.  Naturally there will always be great divisions in perspective and priorities.  The problem is that far too much of Congress favors big money and party dictates even if hurts the nation at large!

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Lobbyists Congressional Influence
     For years now it has been common knowledge that lobbyists have been gaining power in the halls of Congress.  Often referred to "K Street", where many of the lobbyists have offices, lobbyists have become enormously influential in influencing legislation on behalf of their clients.  It wasn't until Jack Abramoff, one of Washington's most powerful lobbyists got out of prison and published his book Capital Punishment did the the extent of K Street influence and their tactics become openly available to the public.
     This is a critical issue for the citizens of this country to face. The scope and depth of influential lobbyists is just now being brought to light in many media sources listed below.  Plain, pure and simple; this is an issue of who holds the power in Washington.  Only persistent public awareness will create the pressure to bring things back in balance.  And "balance" is the key word here. Citizens, businesses, unions and the like do need a voice in congress as vital legislation is being considered.  Unfortunately the Congressional environment has become corrupted with gifts, promises of future employment and favoritism. The end result is that we, the citizens, are ignored and left to pay the bill for the benefits given to the privileged and influential.  On this point the various "occupy" groups have a valid point.
     Now, please check out the depth and breadth of the influences within Congress at the links below.  If you haven't been glued to the TV in recent weeks it will amaze you!
     The United State Senate does have a database of lobbyists that provides an initial view of the scope of lobbying. However, this site is useful only if one knows the name of the lobbyist, organization, etc.
     Abramoff- Members of Congress Took Part in Insider Trading
     Congress Insiders: Above the law?
     Cafferty Files - Congress Got Rich During the Recession
     Politics 'Revolving Door' Investigation
     Wikipedia explanation of various 501 organizations such as lobbying, fund raising, etc.
     Lobbyists have too Much Power
     Washington Post, Lobbyists and the Super Committee
     Top Lobbyist Associations
     Top Lobbyists: Hired Guns
     Huffington Post, Deficit Committee Members Have Former Lobbyists As Top Staffers

Summary: Lobbyists and their excessive influence are robbing the American people of equal representation.  One Senator,  after leaving Congress following a scandal, became one of the highest paid lobbyists in Washington. He later privately admitted, "I should have made the change earlier." One TV commentator discouraged by the barrage of Congressional dealings that this sounds like "the end of empires." This and the other issues on this page represent a major power struggle.  The ONLY way that the citizens of this nation can hope for a brighter and fairer future is to stay knowledgeable and persistent in demands that Congress responds to what is best for the nation and not special interests.

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Party politics including Blackmail
See Fogcutters expanded report! (Sources are disappearing!)

Example of Political Power:
Washington Brief: "Official Backs Colleagues," Washington Post, December 5, 2003:
     Congressman Smith "said unnamed House colleagues had told him that 'interested groups' might help his son's congressional campaign if the lawmaker would vote for Medicare legislation that faced a showdown vote Nov. 22. But no one offered financial assistance, he said, despite news accounts to the contrary. '
     He refused, and some lawmakers reportedly said the decision could hurt his son Brad's hopes of succeeding his father.  (Smith was the last holdout against passing Medicare, Part D with limitations placed upon the government's ability to negotiate for lower prescription prices.  Prescription costs are now the single biggest threat to Medicare.  Smith also backed off his original claims that the House leadership had threatened his son's campaign if he (Smith) did not change his stand against the bill as presented to the House.)
     Political pressures can become intense when legislation is being considered. Rumors abound.  And, no one wants to talk about it!  There has always been the usual quid-pro-quo, support my bill and I'll support yours, etc.  Then there are extra "ear marks" for those who support high priority bills. But when all else fails party leaders threaten to withdraw campaign funding for the next primary election and run a candidate of their preference.  What the home constituency wants or needs is irrelevant.
     It has been observed that voting along party lines has been increasing for years ever since the earlier campaign finance reforms place far greater control with the central congressional committees.

Summary: It is impossible to control how political party leaderships behave out of sight.  It's just pure power politics.  However, if one wants to chip away at the dictatorial powers of Congressional leaders one might choose to make their campaign donations directly to their candidate and NEVER to the central committee, PACs or similar groups that could exert influence over the candidate.

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Additional Links

America's 'Oh Sh*t' Moment
Newsweek, 11/7/11

CBS 60 Minutes : Congress Trading Stocks Part 1 of 2

Steve Kroft heads to D.C Questioning Pelosi

Members of Congress Net Worth
Net worth gains for 80 Congressmen

House Bill 3 Beneath the abortion issue the government is prepping the law to control what individuals may do with their own money. See Inside HR3

Powerful Influences: Sen. Sanders explains how powerful oil speculators drove up oil prices.

Secret White House Power Grab: On December 10, 2010 I wrote a warning about S.3454 - Basically, it empowered two people in the DoD to decide that a company poses “an unacceptable supply chain risk” and then block that company from being awarded contracts. Two persons - exempt from disclosure or review under the Freedom of Information Act or review by any branch of the government. Fortunately, the notorious Section 815 was removed in the final bill, H.R. 6523.

Financial Terrorism – Real or Not? Evidence is emerging that several foreign nations are seeking to undermine the U.S. and the dollar. During these times of national and world economic turmoil, can Congress be counted upon to protect us?  See Financial Terrorism.

Exposure Works!!!
Senators propose rules stopping insider trading by Congress members

Lame Duck Congress exempts itself from everything, infinity

Political Pledges lock in Congressional deadlock.  Both political parties have created pledge lists reflecting ridged positions that prevent any true negotiation or cooperation.

What is a Sociopath?
Consider the behavior of our current-day politicians. Whether in Congress or State government (i.e., Ex-Gov. Blagojevich.)

The Sociopath Next Door, by Martha Stout Ph.D. is an intriguing look at these devious, tricky people who live a life without a conscience. "As many as 4% of the population are conscienceless
sociopaths..."

 

 

 

 

Campaign Finance Links

Costs of running a campaign

The Power of Money: The Ethics of Campaign Finance Reform

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission allows corporations to run political advertising without limits!

Re: Campaign Finance Reform, an interesting review...

(The U.S. isn't the only nation with this problem.)
Campaign Finance Reform - One Proposal! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congress Lacks True Leadership
Definition of Leadership -
Before we get started, lets define leadership. Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent.  Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.

Boss or Leader?
Although one's position as a manager, supervisor, lead, etc. provides the authority to accomplish certain tasks and objectives in the organization,  this power does not make one a leader, it simply makes you the boss.

 

 

Lobbyist Influence Links

Read more about Jack Abramoff

Lobbyist's Playbook

Follow The Money - Search lobbyists in various state politics
Follow The Money - Home

Lobbyist: Forcing contractors to disclose donations injects politics into policy
Pending executive order...

More than Just Lobbying -
What is the Political Intelligence Disclosure Act?

Using 'political intelligence' for personal gain - Chicago Tribune

It is Not just the Federal Government!
Justice-For-Sale Lobbyists Raising ‘Unlimited and Undisclosed’ Donations To Buy Supreme Court Seat

 

 

And There is Also Gerrymandering!

From Wikipedia: "In the process of setting electoral districts, gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage

Gerrymandering in Chicago! Classic Chicago Politics!  You just gotta check out this Congressional district!

 

 

"The person who won't read is no better off than the person who can't read."
Better Than Good
by Zig Ziglar

 

 

 

 

 

 

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