Posts tagged ‘bribes’

When Did the Senate Hit Peak Dysfunctionalality?

Kevin Drum argues that the Senate currently could not get any more dysfunctional, so unprecedented changes in the cloture rules by simply majority vote were justified.

But to my mind the peak of recent Senate dysfunctionality was when it passed the PPACA.  It passed a rushed piece of legislation 2000 pages long full of holes and errors that no one had even read.   When bribes (e.g. in Louisiana, Nebraska) were openly being offered to holdout Democratic Senators to gain their vote.

To this day, even Democratic supporters are expressing surprise at what they voted for.  Most of its key provisions (employer mandates, restrictions on individual policies) have turned out to be unenforceable.  While the Obama Administration has done plenty to screw up the exchanges, the problems began in the legislation itself that did not actually fund or specify a home for the web site development.  And because of implementation delays, we have not even gotten to the point where we can see the real problems with the law that many of us expected.

The Dems said that the filibuster made the Senate dysfunctional.  If the PPACA is what results from a "functional" Senate, I will take dysfunctional.

Protecting Public Employees From Accountability

Mark Tapscott writes:

Legislators in the California Assembly have approved on a 68-0 vote a bill that would exempt multiple categories of state and local government employees from having their names disclosed in public property records, according to Steven Greenhut....

Greenhut, who is vice president of the Franklin Center for Government Public Integrity points out that such a measure has implications far beyond public safety concerns: "Public officials and their family members will be able to hide their identities, which will undermine the reliability of property transactions. Dirty officials will pull off real estate scams without scrutiny," he said.

As it turns out, Arizona has a prohibition from publishing the home addresses of government officials over the Internet.  Which Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who else) has used to try to thwart investigations of his real estate dealings

In 2004, during an election cycle, reporter John Dougherty found that Arpaio had over a million dollars of investments in commercial real estate parcels.  Dougherty asked the question, how does a lifetime public official making $78,000 a year have so much real estate?  Arpaio could have replied that his family was independently wealthy or that he had parlayed his real estate investment from rags to riches.  Instead, Arpaio used an obscure law aimed at protecting the home addresses of government officials to remove access to any public records of his commercial real estate transactions at the same time he removed his home address from these data bases.  Instead of explaining where the money came from, he used his power to cover his tracks.

If passed, this means that California officials can take bribes with impunity, as long as they take these bribes in the form of real estate.

Wal-Mart's Bribery Problems

Walter Olson has been writing a lot about Wal-Mart and FCPA.  I don't have a lot to add except my own experience working for a large corporation in third world countries.

I worked for a manufacturer of industrial equipment for years.  In most countries in Europe and North America, part of our strategy was a dedicated in-house sales force that could provide a high level of technical support.  But we went away from that strategy when we went into third world countries, just the place where we needed more rather than less technical support for our customers.

Why?  A big reason was the FCPA.  There are many countries where it is simply impossible to do business without paying bribes.  Bribes are absolutely wired into the regulatory process.  In Nigeria, public officials are paid less with the expectation they will make it up on bribes, similar to the way we pay waiters who get tips.  The only way to legally work in these countries is to work through third party resellers and distributors and other such partners, and then tightly close your eyes to how they get things done.

What always ticks me off about these cases is the fake attitude of naivite in the press that seems to be constantly amazed that corporations might have to pay bribes to do basic things we take for granted here, like get the water turned on or have your goods put on a ship.  But in fact reporters can't be this naive, as they almost certainly have to deal with many of the same things in their business.  I would love to see an accounting of the grease payments the NY Times pays in a year in foreign countries.

I think most people when they hear these foreign bribery cases assume corporations were paying to get a special advantage or to escape some sort of fundamental regulation.  And this is possibly the case with Wal-Mart, but more likely they were simply paying because that is what you have to do just to function at all.

Starnesville, Greece

One of the things that Ayn Rand did particularly well in Atlas Shrugged was to set the rules of collectivism in motion and see them carried to their logical extreme.  To this end,  I have always considered the hobo's tale to Dagny on the train about 20th Century Motors to be the climax of the book.  It pulls a lot of plot threads in the book together, and the story represents the ultimate expression of how a true socialist society would evolve.  "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is taken to its extremes, and rather than brotherhood, everyone ends up hating and resenting their fellow workers.  In retrospect, it seems dead-on prescient of this bit about Greece:

The Greek state was not just corrupt but also corrupting. Once you saw how it worked you could understand a phenomenon which otherwise made no sense at all: the difficulty Greek people have saying a kind word about one another. Individual Greeks are delightful: funny, warm, smart, and good company. I left two dozen interviews saying to myself, "What great people!" They do not share the sentiment about one another: the hardest thing to do in Greece is to get one Greek to compliment another behind his back. No success of any kind is regarded without suspicion. Everyone is pretty sure everyone is cheating on his taxes, or bribing politicians, or taking bribes, or lying about the value of his real estate. And this total absence of faith in one another is self-reinforcing. The epidemic of lying and cheating and stealing makes any sort of civic life impossible; the collapse of civic life only encourages more lying, cheating, and stealing. Lacking faith in one another, they fall back on themselves and their families.

The structure of the Greek economy is collectivist, but the country, in spirit, is the opposite of a collective. Its real structure is every man for himself. Into this system investors had poured hundreds of billions of dollars. And the credit boom had pushed the country over the edge, into total moral collapse.

Pay to Play

From the WSJ:

The wide-ranging pay-to-play probe concerns whether investment firms like Mr. Rattner's former firm, Quadrangle Group LLC, were held up for fees and favors to secure access to lucrative business from New York's $125 billion public-pension fund.

So government officials, who have all the power, demand bribes from businesses in order for those businesses to participate in a certain market, and when discovered it is the private businesses that are being investigated?

This is just so typical of government, where pay-to-play rules are in fact legislated for businesses from bars to taxicabs.  I can't do anything new in Ventura County without bringing a whole series of checks to the County planning offices -- nearly every single department must be paid off before I can do something as simple as remodel a bathroom or revamp a store.  None of this is under the table, mind you, it is entirely up front and nominally legal.

And You Thought I Was Cynical and Paranoid?

July 16, 2009

It is totally clear to me that Obama and Pelosi will spend any amount of money to pass their key legislative initiatives.  In the case of Waxman-Markey, the marginal price per vote turned out to be about $3.5 billion.  But they didn't even blink at paying this.  That is why I fear that some horrible form of health care "reform" may actually pass.  If it does, the marginal cost per vote may be higher, but I don't think our leaders care.

Instapundit, December 21, 2009

CASH FOR CLOTURE: "You can't even dignify this squalid racket as bribery: If I try to buy a cop, I have to use my own money. But, when Harry Reid buys a senator, he uses my money, too. It doesn't "˜border on immoral': it drives straight through the frontier post and heads for the dark heartland of immoral."

Plus, Oh, Nebraska. So what exactly was different about what Rod Blagojevich did?

Plus, keeping track of the bribes.

Don't Get Too Hopeful

Those of you who may be encouraged by the reports of disagreements and problems among Democrats in reachi9ng consensus on a health care takeover, don't be too encouraged.    This appears to be exactly like the run up to Waxman-Markey.  If this is the case, these cries by certain Democrats of problems in the bill are really thinly disguised pleas for bribes.

Recalcitrant Democrats  in Congress know that Obama will be happy to spend tens of billions in taxpayer money to buy off the votes he needs to pass these bills.  This is how they got over the hump in the House with Waxman-Markey, and you can expect the same thing to happen again, and happen fast, on health care.  In fact, I expect the bribes to be higher than the $3.5 billion per vote clearing price on Waxman-Markey.  Obama knows that only steamroller tactics will pass a bill -- if he pauses even for a second to let opponents have time to take their case to the public (or even to finish reading the bill) he will likely lose.  Sunlight is his worst enemy right now, and he will gladly spend our money for porkbarrel projects in key districts to avoid it.

On Congressional Bribery

Normally, if I were to contemplate resorting to bribery to change someone's decision, I would have to face two hurdles.  First, of course, I would face legal consequences because in many contexts., bribery is illegal.  Second, I would have to consider the cost -- is the price being demanded worth it.  After all, it makes little sense to spend a million dollars to bribe someone to make a decision worth a hundred thousand dollars to me.

But, unfortunately, neither of these problems exist when Congressional leadership seeks to bribe recalcitrant lawmakers to vote their way.  Bribery in this context is not illegal, its just "horsetrading."   And the cost is meaningless, because folks like Nancy Pelosi do not bear the cost of the bribe, taxpayers do.

It is totally clear to me that Obama and Pelosi will spend any amount of money to pass their key legislative initiatives.  In the case of Waxman-Markey, the marginal price per vote turned out to be about $3.5 billion.  But they didn't even blink at paying this.  That is why I fear that some horrible form of health care "reform" may actually pass.  If it does, the marginal cost per vote may be higher, but I don't think our leaders care.

We Know What You Are -- Now We Are Haggling Over the Price

I predicted the climate bill would likely pass the House as Obama and Co.  would happily pull out the checkbook to spend taxpayer money to bribe Representatives to pass his legislative agenda.   I wrote:

I am again hearing rumblings that the climate bill may pass the House.  If so, it will be interesting to see what last minute bribes were added to make this happen.  The most recent bribe we know about is the commitment to pay farmers not to grow crops with the weak window dressing that this is somehow a carbon offset.

The Washington Times reports on one such payoff:

When House Democratic leaders were rounding up votes Friday for the massive climate-change bill, they paid special attention to their colleagues from Ohio who remained stubbornly undecided.

They finally secured the vote of one Ohioan, veteran Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo, the old-fashioned way. They gave her what she wanted "“ a new federal power authority, similar to Washington state's Bonneville Power Administration, stocked with up to $3.5 billion in taxpayer money available for lending to renewable energy and economic development projects in Ohio and other Midwestern states.

This is part of that mysterious 310-page ammendment that was revealed just hours before the vote.

Experience is in the Eye of the Beholder

Via TJIC, on Hillary:

In 1973 she worked for a non profit.

In 1974 she was a government employee.

In 1975 she failed the D.C bar exam, and married Bubba.

In 1976 she joined the Rose Law Firm, and somehow made partner
three years later in 1979, despite rarely appearing in court "¦a
stunningly quick rise!

Oh, and Bubba became the Governor of Alabama in 1976, but that's unrelated.

In 1976 she was made, through political appointment by Jimmy
Carter, head of a government funded non-profit corporation which did
nothing but launch lawsuits.

In 1978 she laundered $100,000 of bribes through cattle
trading contracts. Despite having never engaged in cattle trading
before, she somehow managed to pick the two best times to trade each
day: she bought cattle contracts at the absolute lowest price each day,
and sell them at the absolute highest price. After laundering the
bribes, she quite cattle trading forever.

From 1993 to 2001, Hillary attempted, from her unelected
position, to socialize American health care, and routinely violated
open meetings laws.

In 2000 Hillary carpet-bagged her way into a senatorship.

Women's groups seem to be supporting Hillary's contention that being married to the President counts as presidential experience.  Wow!  If that is the case, the glass ceiling is exploded!  Melinda Gates has 20 years of experience as Microsoft CEO!

I'd like to say that I would love to see someone who has actually tried to run his/her own business running for the White House, but most of the candidates who claim to have business experience seem to have the politically-connected rent-seeking business experience (e.g. GWB) rather than the real try to make a business work against the general headwind of government bureaucratic opposition type of experience.

What a Jerk

Via ABC News, comes this story of Congressman Randall Cunningham:

Prosecutors call it a corruption case with no parallel in the long
history of the U.S. Congress. And it keeps getting worse. Convicted
Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham actually priced the illegal services he
provided.

Prices came in the form of a "bribe menu" that detailed how much it
would cost contractors to essentially order multimillion-dollar
government contracts, according to documents submitted by federal
prosecutors for Cunningham's sentencing hearing this Friday....

The card shows an escalating scale for bribes, starting at $140,000
and a luxury yacht for a $16 million Defense Department contract. Each
additional $1 million in contract value required a $50,000 bribe.

The rate dropped to $25,000 per additional million once the contract went above $20 million.