Goldman Sachs In Government Pushes Profits Of Goldman Sachs

clayton

By Marcus Stanley for Inequality – Goldman Sachs has been a conspicuous presence at the scene of one disaster after another in the past half century. The bank is a leader in a Wall Street business model that relies on market manipulation and unsustainable financial bubbles to enrich a few insiders, but that produces disastrous consequences for the rest of us. We are witnessing what may be a new Golden Age for Goldman Sachs. After running a campaign in which he lambasted the “corrupt” ties between Wall Street and Washington, President Trump has handed the job of shaping economic policy over to Wall Street insiders generally, and to alumni of Goldman Sachs in particular. These appointments add up to a level of inside influence that is unusual even by Goldman’s historic standards. And future picks could produce even more Goldman influence. In choosing Gary Cohn as National Economic Council Director and Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, along with Jay Clayton at the Securities and Exchange Commission, Trump has turned to Wall Street veterans with deep knowledge of the financial crisis—knowledge gained as champions of the dangerous practices that helped cause it. In areas ranging from financial regulations, to taxes, to infrastructure, to trade, this Goldman-heavy Administration is promoting policies that would boost Goldman Sachs’s profits, in many ways, at the expense of taxpayers and the broader public. Goldman’s stock price has already soared.

Is Dominion's Grip On Political Power At A Crossroads?

59dfcdc9caccc.image

By Robert Zullo for Richmond Times-Dispatch – Sen. David R. Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, partnered with Sen. J. Chapman Petersen, D-Fairfax City, last session on a bill that would have repealed the rate freeze law. The measure died early in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, and attempts to revive it during the session illustrated how lonely it can be for lawmakers on the wrong side of a bill Dominion wants to pass or fail. “As a regulated monopoly, Dominion is very involved at the General Assembly and the State Corporation Commission is constitutionally responsible for overseeing a lot of things related to Dominion’s business,” Suetterlein said. “Unfortunately, they’ve been able to convince the General Assembly to kidnap the SCC’s authority.” But that hasn’t stopped the State Corporation Commission from pushing back in some cases, and in one recent example exerting its power in defiance of the General Assembly. Last month, for a second time, the commission rejected the bulk of a Dominion plan to bury several thousand miles of electric lines. The commission’s decision came despite explicit legislative direction from the General Assembly last session to cast a more favorable eye on the program. The SCC’s three commissioners, who are elected by the legislature, unanimously concluded that at an eventual price tag of $6 billion to ratepayers, the cost outweighed the benefits.

The ‘Monopoly Man’ Just Owned The Senate’s Equifax Hearing

BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES
A demonstrator sits in costume behind Richard Smith, former chairman and chief executive officer of Equifax Inc., right, before a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017.

By Jenna Amatulli for The Huffington Post – Rich Uncle Pennybags apparently likes to spend his free time at Senate hearings. A person dressed up like the iconic monocled Monopoly mascot (who, in the game, does not actually wear a monocle) was seen sitting in the audience during the Senate Banking Committee hearing on the Equifax data breach on Wednesday. Amid former Equifax CEO Richard Smith’s testimony, many photos with the mysterious Rich Uncle Pennybags in the background cropped up on social media. The mascot’s appearance was the work of Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy organization that identifies itself as standing up to “corporate power” and holding the government accountable. They took credit for Pennybags’ appearance and tweeted that the intention behind the mascot’s presence was to say that “forced arbitration gives Equifax a monopoly over our justice system.” Additionally, Amanda Werner, a campaign manager for Public Citizen, tweeted a photo of herself as the Monopoly man with the following explanation: “The Monopoly Man is here to raise attention to Equifax’s get-out-of-jail-free card, forced arb.” Attached in that tweet is a press release from Public Citizen that features this quote by the organization’s president, Robert Weissman: “Forced arbitration gives companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax a monopoly over our system of justice by blocking consumers’ access to the courts.

Jimmy Carter Says America Is More An ‘Oligarchy Than A Democracy’

Carter said America has become more like an "oligarchy than a democracy." (JOHN BAZEMORE/AP)

By Staff of The Associated Press – ATLANTA — Former President Jimmy Carter offered a damning indictment of U.S. foreign policy and domestic affairs Tuesday, saying money in politics makes the nation more like an “oligarchy than a democracy” and casting President Donald Trump as a disappointment on the world stage. Carter’s criticisms, offered at his annual presentation to backers of his post-presidency Carter Center in Atlanta, went beyond Trump, but he was particularly critical of the nation’s direction under the Republican president’s leadership. The 39th president, a Democrat, offered this advice to the 45th: “Keep the peace, promote human rights and tell the truth.” Carter, 92, did not mention explicitly Trump’s threatening exchanges this summer with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, but the former president said the U.S. should engage directly with the insular leader and discuss a peace treaty to replace the cease fire that ended the Korean War in 1953. “I would send my top person to Pyongyang immediately, if I didn’t go myself,” Carter said, noting that he’s been three times to the country, even as successive U.S. administrations have refused to deal with the regime. The North Koreans, Carter said, want a treaty that guarantees the U.S. will not attack unless North Korea attacks the U.S. or an ally, particularly South Korea.

Google Critic Ousted From Google-Funded Think Tank

Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman and former chair of the New America Foundation think tank, at a White House meeting in June. (Susan Walsh/AP)

By Emily Wells for Truth Dig – The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the New America Foundation, an influential Washington think tank that has received $21 million from Google, fired a scholar, Barry Lynn, over criticism of the tech giant, in the form of a blog post praising the European Union’s penalty against Google: Mr. Schmidt, who had been chairman of New America until 2016, communicated his displeasure with the statement to the group’s president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, according to the scholar. The statement disappeared from New America’s website, only to be reposted without explanation a few hours later. But word of Mr. Schmidt’s displeasure rippled through New America, which employs more than 200 people, including dozens of researchers, writers and scholars, most of whom work in sleek Washington offices where the main conference room is called the “Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab.” The episode left some people concerned that Google intended to discontinue funding, while others worried whether the think tank could truly be independent if it had to worry about offending its donors.

Trump’s New FERC Commissioner Rob Powelson Accepted Gifts From Energy Industry

Screen shot of Robert Powelson during his FERC nomination hearing. Credit: U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, public domain

By Itai Vardi for Desmog Blog – Robert Powelson, President Donald Trump’s newly appointed commissioner to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), received both gifts and reimbursements for travel, lodging, and hospitality from the energy and utility sectors in his previous position as a state regulator. He will now regulate those sectors at the federal level. Powelson, a Republican, began his tenure at FERC last week. Documents and emails recently uncovered by the Energy & Policy Institute, a watchdog monitoring attacks on renewable energy, indicate that he maintained a close relationship with industry groups as a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. In addition, earlier this year, Powelson said pipeline opponents are engaged in “jihad,” a statement which drew criticism from activists and further solidified his pro-industry image. NFL Game and Industry Conferences. DeSmog has found that according to Powelson’s financial interest disclosures at the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission, in September 2013 he accepted two tickets from NRG Energy to attend a football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers. Each ticket cost $105. Powelson attended the game with James Steffes, a senior vice president at NRG Energy, a large energy company operating numerous power generating stations throughout the U.S.

The Corruption Of Mike Pence And The Privatization Of Infrastructure

Gov. Mike Pence (R) signing Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” while surrounded by anti-LGBT activists. CREDIT: TWITTER/MICAH CLARK

By David Sirota for IB Times – In 2015, then-Gov. Mike Pence made the controversial decision to keep the Indiana Toll Road under the control of a consortium of private corporations, which was represented by a local lobbying firm that had funneled large donations to Pence’s gubernatorial campaign. This year, the same lobby firm signed up to press the Donald Trump administration on behalf of IFM Investors — the same foreign company that Pence originally approved to run the toll road consortium. In fact, documents reviewed by International Business Times show the lobbying firm that bankrolled Pence has been in direct contact with the vice president on federal infrastructure policy. The firm has lobbied Pence on behalf of Melbourne-based IFM as Pence has explicitly extolled IFM in his work spearheading a White House plan to privatize roads, bridges and airports. That trillion-dollar initiative, which Trump is scheduled to promote on Tuesday and which could enrich foreign investors, comes as Trump has said he is focused on “putting America first.” In response to IBT’s questions, White House spokesperson Natalie Strom said in a written statement that Trump “has made it clear that his priority is investment in American infrastructure” and that White House staff “welcome foreign companies who recognize that under President Trump, building American infrastructure is a good investment.”

Youngstown Residents Push To Oust Corporations From Election Campaigns

After several attempts to ban fracking in Youngstown, Ohio, the community rights movement is focusing on ending outside industry contributions to local election campaigns.   (Image: protectyoungstown.org)

By Staff of In These Times – Today, a long-standing community rights group in Youngstown, Ohio, submitted over 1,900 signatures to qualify their Youngstown Fair Election Bill of Rights initiative for the November ballot. The measure is the first of its kind in the state, limiting campaign contributions to registered voters within the City, and capping those contributions at $100. The Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee drafted the initiative with the support of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). CELDF has been assisting Youngstown residents to advance their democratic and environmental rights since 2013, when residents launched their community rights work to protect themselves from fracking activities. Fracking threatens their drinking water and has caused earthquakes in the area. “We have fought to keep fracking projects out of our City for several years, with six ballot measures that asserted our right to clean water and to local community self-government,” says Lynn Anderson, a lead organizer with the Youngstown Committee.

Not News: Politicians Take Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars From Pipeline Companies

"We will fight back through through the courts, protests, and any means available and necessary," says Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Chippewayan First Nation. (Photo: Pax Ahimsa Gethen/flickr/cc)

By Lorne Stockman for Oil Change International – Legislators in Virginia got 75% of the money as the state has lax campaign finance rules, with unlimited contributions from corporations and individuals. But every signatory has received something from one of these two companies over their electoral career; even those in West Virginia where contribution limits are the tightest. The proposed 600-mile pipeline, which would carry fracked gas from West Virginia over the Allegheny highlands through Virginia to North Carolina, has become a hotly contested project. Opposition along the pipeline route has flared up around the threat to mountains, rivers, local water sources, public safety, environmental justice, climate change and use of eminent domain for private gain. It’s even become an issue in Virginia’s upcoming gubernatorial race. Tom Perriello, who emerged earlier this year as a challenger to Democratic establishment favorite Ralph Northam, has distinguished himself in large part by his opposition to both the ACP and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

‘Gyrocopter Guy’ Still Has A Message To Deliver

Doug Hughes, 63, holds letters to Congress he intended to deliver nearly two years ago. His dog, Rosie, is at his feet. | Ben Montgomery

By Ben Montgomery for Politico Magazine – Ruskin, Florida—Two years ago this week, Douglas Hughes, a slender, bespectacled mailman, age 61, climbed aboard a one-man flying machine called a gyrocopter on the narrow runway of a small airport in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He wore a white helmet and blue postal jacket and his craft carried just enough fuel to reach Washington, D.C., about 60 miles south as the crow flies. He had strapped to the landing gear two mail trays containing 535 envelopes stuffed with letters over which he had had fretted, writing and editing until he had pared down his screed to two pages each, 837 words. He used three exclamation points, but the contents were short of explosive. “As I see it, campaign finance reform is the cornerstone of building an honest Congress,” he had written. “Erect a wall of separation between our elected officials and big money.” The first part of Hughes’ audacious, two-years-in-the-making plan—to penetrate protected airspace, buzz down the length of the National Mall and land his craft on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol—went off without a hitch. Somewhat miraculously he wasn’t shot down.

Paul Ryan Fundraised With Health Insurance Lobbying Firm Just Before His PowerPoint

Win McNamee/Getty Images

By Lee Fang and Nick Surgey for The Intercept – JUST HOURS BEFORE House Speaker Paul Ryan held a press conference to sell his health care overhaul legislation — using a PowerPoint presentation mocked for misrepresenting basic facts — he was doing something he’s much better at: fundraising. The two things were related. The Thursday morning breakfast fundraiser he attended was hosted by a lobbying firm working to unwind the Affordable Care Act on behalf of health insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of the big winners of Ryan’s proposed legislation. The breakfast, according to an invitation, was sponsored by McGuireWoods PAC, the political action committee for the lobbying firm McGuireWoods.

Trump’s White House Counsel “Architect” Of Corrupt Big Money Politics

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

By Jon Schwarz for The Intercept – Jon McGahn, soon to be Donald Trump’s White House counsel, bears as much responsibility as any single person for turning America’s campaign finance system into something akin to a gigantic, clogged septic tank. From 2008 to 2013, McGahn was one of the six members of the Federal Election Commission, the government agency in charge of civil enforcement of campaign finance laws. While there, he led a GOP campaign that essentially ground enforcement of election laws to a halt. “I’ve always thought of McGahn’s appointment as an FEC commissioner as analogous to appointing an anarchist to be chief of police,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president at Common Cause.

3 Reasons To Be Worried About Blackstone Group

Wikileaks releases show John Podesta and Neera Tanden, pictured here with Clinton in October 2013, planning for the campaign to cozy up with Blackstone executives. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

By Branko Marcetic for In These Times – Buried among the thousands of John Podesta’s emails released over the last week, you’ll find a short, revealing exchangebetween Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and Clinton advisor-in-waiting. “I saw Jon Grey [sic] today,” writes Podesta. “We both sang your praises.”

Is FCC Making It Difficult To Find Funders Of Political Ads

Media

By Soo Rin Kim for Open Secrets – Four years after it began requiring TV stations to upload their records of political ad sales to a central government website, the Federal Communications Commission maintains a recordkeeping system that makes finding out who an ad’s sponsor is feel like a treasure hunt. In 2012, the FCC approved a rule requiring broadcast stations in the largest markets to upload the files showing who bought time for political ads

Leaked Documents Reveal Secretive Influence Of Corporate Cash On Politics

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker holds up a dollar bill while speaking at the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2015. Photograph: Denis Poroy/AP

By Ed Pilkington for The Guardian – The pervasive influence of corporate cash in the democratic process, and the extraordinary lengths to which politicians, lobbyists and even judges go to solicit money, are laid bare in sealed court documents leaked to the Guardian. The John Doe files amount to 1,500 pages of largely unseen material gathered in evidence by prosecutors investigating alleged irregularities in political fundraising. Last year the Wisconsin supreme court ordered that all the documents should be destroyed, though a set survived that has now been obtained by the news organisation.