"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Talk About Your Motley Fools! 

There is a good argument that members of Congress are underpaid, but that's no excuse for supplementing one's income by means of illegal insider trading:
After a comment by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) on Air America's Majority Report Wednesday evening, RAW STORY has learned that House Democrats are pushing the ethics committee to investigate allegations of congressional offices providing privleged information to Wall Street investors.

An article that ran below the radar in November revealed the "day trading" practice, in which little-known firms use sources in Congress to glean information relevant to publicly-traded stocks. As Washington turns its eyes to fallen conservative superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, new focus has come to other allegations of congressional wrongdoing.

Independently, RAW STORY has received word that such activity -- which involves passing on information to stock brokers on how the House is going to vote on legislation that affects large companies, such as Defense Appropriations bills -- is a practice that may go beyond a single individual or congressmember's office. Individuals on Capitol Hill have pointed to others already ensnared in the Abramoff probe as possibly having engaged in "day trading."

AMERICAblog is reporting that two of the legislators involved in this criminal activity are - go ahead, act surprised - Rep. Tom DeLay and Sen. Bill Frist. DeLay, of course, never met a felony he didn't like, but I would have thought that Frist (who is already the target of an apparently-unrelated SEC investigation) would be maintaining a little lower profile these days. But then again, he never really was all that bright.

Update: USA Today has more:
One day after a New York investment group raised $110,000 for Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis, the House passed a defense spending bill that preserved $160 million for a Navy project critical to the firm. The man who protected the Navy money? Lewis.

The USA Today piece also has an interesting detail buried in the middle. If you follow the link above to the Raw Story article, you see a bit of "everyone does it" spin:
"Everybody, to a degree, does this," Brian Hale of Patton Boggs, a Washington lobbying and legal firm, told The Hill.

Well, Mr. Hale ought to know, since his firm is experienced in such matters - back to USA Today (emphasis supplied):
On May 16, 2003, the House Armed Services Committee voted to cut 10% of the Navy project's $1.6 billion budget for the upcoming year. Federal lobbying records show that two months earlier, Cerberus [i.e., the very people who shoveled $110,000 to Rep. Lewis] hired its first lobbyist, the powerhouse firm Patton Boggs.

The firm's lobbyists for Cerberus included Laurence Harris, a former FCC staffer who would join MCI's board of directors that August; retired Marine colonel John Garrett; and Marcus Dunn, a former aide to two members of the House Armed Services Committee.

Cerberus paid Patton Boggs $1.1 million for lobbying from 2003 to the middle of 2005, the last date that records are available. Separately, Cerberus hired former senator Jake Garn, a Utah Republican, as a lobbyist for $410,000 over the same period, lobbying records show.




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