Was Landrieu Senate Phone Bugging A Foreign Espionage Operation?

Here’s a scenario to consider.
Right-wing hero James O’Keefe got caught trying to bug Senator Landrieu’s office. Senator Landrieu is on the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. This is serious shit and bugging the office of a Senator on this committee is serious shit.
O’Keefe is a true believer, but just suppose that he wasn’t working for who he thought he was working for. If you were looking to get intelligence info, who would be more obvious to turn to than the true believers of the conservative movement? They start out hating the government. These clucks will believe literally anything if it’s worded correctly. So all you have to do is tell them they’re engaged in an action that will “expose liberals” or something, and they’ll do anything to help you.
I started thinking about this back when Reagan was running against Carter, and the story came out that the Reagan campaign was running an intelligence operation stealing secret documents right out of the White House. They got a military aide to steal Carter’s briefing book, and columnist George Will to help them, without reporting it. So I started thinking, what if the Soviet Union was aware of this? And of course they were. What better way for them to penetrate the US Government? Surely the Reagan campaign’s security had a lower bar than the US Government. The Republicans might have been using the documents to win elections, but who else was looking at them?
So let’s not just dismiss this as some prank. They attempted to bug the office of a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which handles secret information. Maybe O’keefe was just going to listen for stuff to put on Fox News, but who else was able to listen to his bugs?

Republican Operatives Caught Bugging Dem Senator’s Phones

A Republican operative has been arrested along with others, for attempting to bug the office of Democratic senator Mary Landrieu. From the Shreveport Times,

An FBI affidavit says the incident happened Monday. At least two of the suspects were dressed in work clothes and construction hats and claimed they were technicians for a telphone company.
The four were identified by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Tuesday as James O’Keefe, 25; Stan Dai, 24; Robert Flanagan 24; and Joseph Basel, 24.

Before this, O’Keefe was known for filming ACORN employees and editing the tapes to make it appear the employees were engaged in improper behavior. An investigation by the Congressional Research Service found that O’Keefe and the videotapers were the only party to the affair that had violated any laws.

Another investigation by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger found that,

The videos that have been released appear to have been edited, in some cases substantially, including the insertion of a substitute voiceover for significant portions of Mr. O’Keefe’s and Ms. Giles’s comments, which makes it difficult to determine the questions to which ACORN employees are responding. A comparison of the publicly available transcripts to the released videos confirms that large portions of the original video have been omitted from the released versions.

m4s0n501

The Spending Freeze

Obama is proposing a “spending freeze” because the public believes Fox News when they say that the huge deficit in Bush’s last budget is because of Obama. The huge deficit is the fault of conservative policies, and they have successfully deflected blame.
A spending freeze is bad policy. You need to invest now, so that the deficit can be brought down as the investments pay off.
It is bad politics because it means the government won’t be able to do a badly-needed second stimulus to create jobs. The public will blame Obama and Democrats for the employment crisis caused by conservative policies.
It is extremely bad messaging because it just validates right-wing anti-government nonsense. It says government is bad, spending is bad, etc.
But the thing I am most disappointed about is that it is a cheap gimmick. This is the first time I have seen the Obama administration play cheap politics and use cheap gimmicks. This is beneath them. Until now I thought that their heart was into solving problems and treating the public with respect. This breaks that.

My Main Beef With Obama

The first problem I have with President Obama stems from his refusal to uphold the rule of law and hold the Bush administration accountable for possible criminal activity. It doesn’t matter if we need to look forward, have big problems on the table, whatever. The first job of government is to uphold the rule of law, or the legitimacy of that government is undermined.
The conspiracy to invade Iraq needs to be investigated. If it is determined that these people lied, planted evidence, etc. in order to cause us to invade that country, this is the most serious crime imaginable. Enough people in this country and the world think this is a possibility that it undermines law and democracy not to look into this and see what we can find out.
Next move on to torture. This must be investigated, or else everyone will come to believe first that there are different standards in the law for people in power, and that it is the accepted policy of our country.
Now move on to the appearance of bribery, embezzlement, cronyism, favors to campaign contributors, selective prosecutions, no-bid contracts, improper political appointments, etc. These, if fond to have actually occurred, are all crimes. They are all supposed to be investigated and prosecuted. The rule of law demands that this is done. If they did these things and get away with it, then these things will happen again, with the bush administration as only a starting point next time.
President Obama’s failure to uphold the rule of law is inexcusable.

Supreme Court Shifts Business Playing Field Away From Marketplace

The Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations to use their vast resources to directly influence the political process shifts the business playing field away from competing in the marketplace with products and services, to purchasing government/legal/reguatory advantages, subsidies and monopolies.
The marketplace is now irrelevant – only company size matters. It is just more efficient to beat your competitors by buying legislation than it is by competing in the marketplace. When you can purchase $1 billion in tax breaks, subsidies, mandates, contracts, whatever by spending a few million on candidates/influence, etc. it just makes more sense to do so. The return on investment is just so much higher than building factories, spending on research, paying employees, and other tedious, time-consuming, capital-intensive work.
For some time companies have recognized that the rewards from lobbying outperform the rewards from competing in the marketplace, and this ruling just amplifies that. This 2006 New York Times article, Google Joins the Lobbying Herd, discussed how Google felt it had “no choice but to get into the arena” to start “spreading its lobbying dollars” around to politicians and quotes Lauren Maddox, a lobbyist for Google, saying the “policy process is an extension of the market battlefield.” This supreme court ruling just clinches this shift away from markets.
The game is necessarily going to be to use the superior resources of larger companies to purchase barriers that block smaller, innovative companies from getting anywhere, and force them to be absorbed.
Companies that think they can opt out of this and continue to compete with innovation, superior products and services are just mistaken. Any company that doesn’t see this change will find that their competitors are working to buy legislation/rulemaking against them, and won’t last long.
It’s going to take a little while for this to sink in, but it is inevitable now.

Hey, It’s Copyrighted — The STF Rule!

From the post, Balloon Juice サ Blog Archive サ There Is Your Opening, President Obama,

And, as a side note, this merely confirms what we already know- whenever the Republicans accuse someone of something, they are already doing it. Class warfare? Has he watched the GOP the last twenty years?

Now just a minute, that’s copyrighted. And trademarked. And patented. And placed in a lockbox. It’s called the Seeing the Forest Rule. (Click and scroll down…)

The old “Seeing the Forest Rule” is “When right-wingers are accusing others of something it is usually a cover for something THEY are doing.”

You’ll be getting a letter from my lawyers.

How To End Corporate Domination Of Government – And Our Lives

The Supreme Court yesterday allowed corporate executives to tap into their company’s resources and use that money to directly influence elections instead of for the profitable operation of the company. This use of company funds isn’t considered bribery because the company executives can claim they are only engaged is “speech” to promote good government, not influence public officials to bring a return to the company.
To fix this we should pass a law that tightens up corporate governance and explicitly spells out – as law – that for-profit companies can only use company resources for the profitable operation of the company. This would make it illegal to use company money to “promote good government” or any other excuse currently used to get around the bribery laws. If by law executives can’t use the company’s money except for activities that return a profit, then use of this money in politics can’t be just “speech” — it is to return a profit. Therefore the federal bribery of public officials statute would apply to any use of corporate resources to elect candidates:

18 U.S.C. § 201 : US Code – Section 201: Bribery of public officials and witnesses
(b) Whoever –
(1) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official or person who has been selected to be a public official, or offers or promises any public official or any person who has been selected to be a public official to give anything of value to any other person or
entity, with intent –
(A) to influence any official act; …
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than two years, or both.

Currently it is the fiduciary responsibility of the managers of a company to use corporate resources only for the profitable operation of the company, but not law, and executives largely ignore this responsibility and get away with it. Give this responsibility the force of law. Spell it out. And by doing so, protect the corporation’s shareholders from this misuse of their money by executives.
Would this end “corporate philanthropy? Yes it would! This is a good thing!
I completely agree with Milton Friedman that corporate philanthropy is nothing more than a scam – theft from the company by the few who make these decisions. If there is extra cash laying around and the money isn’t used to bring back profit to the company it should be distributed to the shareholders or taxed. That is what a company is FOR. We need to restore this understanding of what these companies are for.
We shouldn’t have our parks, symphonies, etc. decided by some executive’s vanity. In a democracy we should have these things because We, the People want them. Tax big companies and let US decide how to use the money, instead of begging some executive to let us have these things. This is why we set up the legal construct that allows these companies to exist.
There is a common misunderstanding of what a corporation is that led to the Supreme Court getting away with this. A corporation is not a sentient entity, but we tend to think of it that way and this leads us to bad decisions about where they fit in society. It is simply a legal construct that allows the pooling of resources to reduce individual risk, so that large-scale projects can be accomplished. One person can’t fund the building of a 747 airplane and even if one person had the resources it would be “putting all of the eggs in one basket.” By bringing in thousands that risk is reduced and the necessary capital is gathered. To further reduce risk we excuse the shareholders from personal liability for the debts of the company – they don’t have to pay the debts if the company goes bankrupt or is sued and they don’t go to jail if the company does something bad.
We through our laws set this construct up for our benefit – to accomplish large-scale projects, create goods and jobs, and to pay back a portion to us as taxes. In return for giving the investors these advantages we expected a return. The advantages would lead to profits that would be shared so we could build the roads, schools, courts and other public structures that enable these companies and us to thrive. But over time that understanding has also eroded and the tax burden has shifted ever downward – or just borrowed.
Companies don’t make decisions, think, act or speak and more than a book or a chair does. A few executives at the top make these decisions and then use corporate resources to implement them. Bob in Sales and Alisha in Accounts Receivable have nothing to do with these decisions. If the executives screw up or engage in schemes that enrich themselves Bob and Alisha get laid off, the executives have already pocketed their bonuses so they don’t really care and “the company” doesn’t “learn a lesson” because it can’t lean any more than a book or a chair can.
We must restore this understanding of the role of corporations in our society. They exist to accomplish certain things. We, the People set this up to benefit US. We enabled the aggregation of vast resources and assumed that the fiduciary responsibility to only use those resources for operating the company would be upheld. This turns out to have been a mistake. The executives who control those resources are using them to tilt the playing field and bring advantage to themselves, in ways that have nothing to do with delivering better products or services. They instead use these resources to influence government to just hand them competitive advantage – or just cash.
So if we want to end corporate domination of our politics and our lives we need to tighten up corporate governance and spell out in law that the resources of a corporation must not leak out of that corporation, and should ONLY be used for the profitable operation of the company and nothing else.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Bribery or Theft? Did Supreme Court Overturn Bribery Statutes Today?

I am sure that you have heard, over and over, that “the managers of corporations have a fiduciary duty to maximize corporate profits.” This means that when they use corporate resources it must be for the purpose of increasing the profits of the company. Any other use violates their responsibilities to the company.
The Supreme Court ruled today that corporate executives will be allowed to use corporate resources to influence our elections, even placing advertisements asking voters to vote for or against candidates, with no limit on the amounts spent.
But corporate executives can only spend company funds with the expectation that the elected candidate will then act in their official capacity to further the profits and interests of that corporation. There is no other reason that executives can use corporate resources to influence elections, except with the expectation that the company will profit if and when the candidate is in office.
So read what federal law says about giving something of value with the intent of influencing an official to act.

18 U.S.C. § 201 : US Code – Section 201: Bribery of public officials and witnesses
(b) Whoever –
(1) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official or person who has been selected to be a public official, or offers or promises any public official or any person who has been selected to be a public official to give anything of value to any other person or
entity, with intent –
(A) to influence any official act; …
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than two years, or both.

It is illegal to provide something of value with the intent of influencing official acts. Obviously campaign ads are “something of value.” And obviously the corporate executives are using corporate resources to influence the election with the expectation of influencing official acts for profit. Since corporate executives are violating their responsibilities to the company if they place campaign ads without the expectation that they are influencing official acts – which is bribery under the law – the only circumstances where a corporation does what the Supreme Court allowed today would be a violation of this federal statute. They can’t use corporate funds to promote good government, help the CEO’s friend get election, or any other reason except to make the company make money.
Did the Supreme Court overturn our bribery statutes?
It seems to me an opportunity for the Atty General to announce that the executives of any companies placing ads for a federal candidate will be given a choice of prosecution for attempted bribery or a shareholder suit for squandering company funds. They get to say whether they intended to influence official acts and be prosecuted, or were not trying to influence official acts and will be surd for misuse of corporate resources — theft.

Geithner Undercutting President

AMERICAblog News: Geithner reportedly told Wall Street that Obama is sacrificing good policy to politics.

Reuters reported two hours ago that multiple financial industry sources claimed that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was unhappy with the President’s plan he announced today to rein in the banks. The sources said that Geithner thinks Obama is sacrificing good policy for politics.

This is a BIG deal, and if true should mean immediate firing of Geithner.