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Full Version: Crime Can Pay if It’s Big Enough
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Wow, $5 billion.

That’s the stunning amount Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay to settle federal criminal charges over its shameful financial scams, which helped wreck America’s economy in 2008. That’s a lot of gold, even for Goldman.

Yet the Wall Street powerhouse says it’s “pleased” to swallow this sour slug of medicine. Is that because its executives are contrite? Oh, come on — banksters don’t do contrite.

Rather, they’re pleased with the settlement. Thanks to backroom dealing with friendly prosecutors, it’s riddled with loopholes that may eliminate nearly $2 billion from the publicized punishment.

If prudent investors can make only 0.5% on short-term assets, how does Goldman Sachs prosper? Robert Rubin was a very powerful man.

After 26 years and rising to the level of co-senior partner, he left Goldman Sachs in 1994 to become Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration. His first major undertaking was during the Mexican bailout of 1995.

... Rubin drew criticism in Congress for using a Treasury Department account under his personal control to distribute $20 billion to bail out Mexican bonds, of which Goldman was a key holder.

2012 - Goldman Sachs CEO: Government Gives You Too Much! (But Our Bailout Was Cool)

Goldman Sachs running the government?

Central Bankers Are Creating A World Where We Are All Serfs: Charles Hugh Smith
Apparently they will start using the more descriptive terms of "Wall Street banker" or "politician"

The Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs is eschewing the terms “felon” and “convict” when officials refer to individuals convicted of crimes, opting instead for less “disparaging labels,” Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason announced Wednesday.

The Office of Justice Programs plans to substitute terminology such as “person who committed a crime” and “individual who was incarcerated” in speeches and other communications as part of an effort to remove barriers that officials say hinder progress of those who re-enter society after completing their prison sentences.

Corruption is Legal in America

How Corrupt Are U.S. Politicians? Money in Politics, Integrity & Finance (2002)

Charles Lewis is an investigative journalist based in Washington D.C. Lewis founded The Center for Public Integrity and several other nonprofit organizations and is currently the executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University School of Communication in D.C.

He was an investigative producer for ABC News and the CBS news program 60 Minutes. He left 60 Minutes in 1989 and began the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan group which reports on political and government workings, from his home, growing it to a full-time staff of 40 people.

When commenting on his move away from prime-time journalism, Lewis expressed his frustration that the most important issues of the day were not being reported.

Lewis has given interviews for various publications and appeared in the 2003 documentary Orwell Rolls in His Grave and the 2005 documentary Why We Fight and others. He has discussed the difficulties facing media in trying keeping the public informed when television, newspaper and radio outlets are owned almost entirely by a few major corporations such as Comcast, Disney, and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

He was a Ferris Professor at Princeton University in 2005, a Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard University in the spring of 2006, and is currently a tenured professor of journalism at American University in Washington, D.C.

Lewis' 2014 book is 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity.

If the highest echelons of the governments also take advantage from corruption or embezzlement from the state's treasury, it is sometimes referred with the neologism kleptocracy. Members of the government can take advantage of the natural resources (e.g., diamonds and oil in a few prominent cases) or state-owned productive industries. A number of corrupt governments have enriched themselves via foreign aid, which is often spent on showy buildings and armaments.

A corrupt dictatorship typically results in many years of general hardship and suffering for the vast majority of citizens as civil society and the rule of law disintegrate. In addition, corrupt dictators routinely ignore economic and social problems in their quest to amass ever more wealth and power.

The classic case of a corrupt, exploitive dictator often given is the regime of Marshal Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the Democratic Republic of the Congo (which he renamed Zaire) from 1965 to 1997. It is said that usage of the term kleptocracy gained popularity largely in response to a need to accurately describe Mobutu's regime.

Another classic case is Nigeria, especially under the rule of General Sani Abacha who was de facto president of Nigeria from 1993 until his death in 1998. He is reputed to have stolen some US$3–4 billion. He and his relatives are often mentioned in Nigerian 419 letter scams claiming to offer vast fortunes for "help" in laundering his stolen "fortunes", which in reality turn out not to exist.

More than $400 billion was stolen from the treasury by Nigeria's leaders between 1960 and 1999.

More recently, articles in various financial periodicals, most notably Forbes magazine, have pointed to Fidel Castro, General Secretary of the Republic of Cuba since 1959, of likely being the beneficiary of up to $900 million, based on "his control" of state-owned companies.

Opponents of his regime claim that he has used money amassed through weapons sales, narcotics, international loans, and confiscation of private property to enrich himself and his political cronies who hold his dictatorship together, and that the $900 million published by Forbes is merely a portion of his assets, although that needs to be proven.

Measuring corruption statistically is difficult if not impossible due to the illicit nature of the transaction and imprecise definitions of corruption. While "corruption" indices first appeared in 1995 with the Corruption Perceptions Index CPI, all of these metrics address different proxies for corruption, such as public perceptions of the extent of the problem.
he Supreme Court, in its Citizens United decision, ruled that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts in elections. Now politicians in Kentucky are claiming they have a Constitutional right to receive gifts from lobbyists.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Republican Kentucky state Sen. John Schickel, along with two Libertarian political candidates, are suing to overturn state ethics laws, claiming that the campaign contribution limit of $1,000 and a ban on gifts from lobbyists and their employers are a violation of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Kentucky’s ethics laws were passed in 1992 after an FBI investigation exposed a number of local politicians selling their votes.

Corporations have increasingly turned to new interpretations of the First Amendment as a legal strategy. Bond-rating agencies that gave high grades to toxic mortgage-backed securities claimed in court that doing so was their First Amendment right. Lobbyists have argued that food-labeling laws undermine the meat industry’s right to free speech. And similarly, AT&T recently argued that net neutrality violates the ISP industry’s First Amendment rights.

From last year’s post: Kentucky Politician Files Lawsuit Claiming a First Amendment Right to Accept Bribes

The above story related to Kentucky. Today’s story zeroes in on Virginia. The key theme here is obvious, that the U.S. court system seems intent on making it easier and easier for the already widespread corruption endemic to American politics to grow further.

Jeffrey Toobin noted the following yesterday in the New Yorker:

Supreme Court Corruption Grows with Clarence & Ginny Thomas, Samuel Alito

Unprecedented Video Inside Supreme Court Shows Anti-Corruption Protestor Forcibly Removed
Spend a million of your super-PAC dollars to elect a governor, and you can expect him to take your calls and set up meetings with state officials. Courtesy of the Supreme Court and its 2010 Citizens United decision, it’s all protected by the First Amendment.

But give the same governor a Rolex before asking for the meetings -- and both of you might be convicted of bribery.

Is there a meaningful difference? That’s the question in McDonnell v. U.S., which the court is currently considering. The bribery conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell follows the second pattern -- complete with the Rolex.
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