All posts by Jimmy Zuma

Unraveling Herman Cain’s Money Laundering Scheme

Cross-posted from technorati.com.

___

Newt Gingrich does it. Ron Paul does it. Running for president in order to raise expense money isn’t news. But Herman Cain has adopted an entirely new strategy for converting campaign contributions to other uses. Cain’s tactic is a way to convert campaign contributions directly into personal cash — sell your product to yourself.

Bloomberg reports that the Cain campaign spent $36,511 on books and $64,000 on other expenses to a company named “THE New Voice, Inc.” THE New Voice, Inc. is solely owned by Herman and Gloria Cain.

Of course it’s not quite that simple. Herman Cain’s corporation (that exists to promote Herman Cain) is selling Herman Cain’s books (that were written to promote Herman Cain) to Herman Cain’s campaign (which some argue was created to promote Herman Cain’s books.) Sheesh! No wonder this guy speaks in the third person so much.

“They are buying my books and my pamphlets,” one Herman Cain told Bloomberg of another Herman Cain. Is his use of “they” an indication of something to hide? Are we to believe no Herman Cain had anything to do with the insider deal? C’mon, Herman Cain’s. Seriously?

Unraveling the nature of this money laundering scheme (which might turn out to be sort of – but not entirely – legal) requires some understanding of the book publishing industry, a little knowledge about the Federal Elections Commission, a look inside Cain’s company, “THE New Voice, Inc.,” and at least a dab of inference, since Herman Cain won’t speak candidly about what he bought from Herman Cain.

Why wouldn’t Herman Cain buy discounted author-distribution copies directly from his publisher? In traditional publishing, a publishing house can’t sell directly to bookstores – the big giants like Borders and the late Barnes and Noble don’t allow it, and the cost of servicing small independents is just too high. So publishers sell through book wholesalers, one of the largest being Ingram Book Company. Ingram buys books for 35-40% of the cover price, marks them up 15-20% and order-fulfills them to bookstores. Cain’s publisher, Simon and Schuster, has its own wholesale division — with roughly comparable wholesale pricing.

Here’s why this matters: Every author’s contract specifies a price for buying author-distributed copies. It falls somewhere between the distributor cost and the bookstore cost — 35-60 percent of the cover price. In the case of “This is Herman Cain” he can buy copies of the $25 book for somewhere between $8.75 and $15, probably closer to the lower amount since Amazon currently retails it for $15.

Cain’s company offers the book for the cover price of $25 on its website. If Cain’s campaign paid more than Cain’s company, paid inflated shipping, or paid a handling charge, he violated campaign finance law.

Is Herman Cain breaking the law? Bloomberg asked Bill Allison, of the electoral watchdog group the Sunlight, Foundation, if the transactions deserve further investigation. “All candidates publish books and they offer them as premiums to donors, but most candidates aren’t buying them from their own companies,” he said. “It raises the question of his campaign contributions ending up in his own pocket.” Making a profit from your campaign is a no-no.

I can’t remember a recent case where the candidate was so brazenly putting money directly in his own pocket. Even that dipsy-doodle Christine O’Donnell was using it to pay her rent. Cain deliberately created a strategy to turn donations into cash. Diverting campaign donations directly into one’s bank accounts represents a whole new level of audaciousness.

Is Herman Cain unaware of the law? And what happened to that resident agent guy? THE New Voice, Inc. has always listed only two corporate officers, Herman and Gloria Cain. But since its founding in 2004 and up until 2011, it listed Stefan Passantino as its resident agent. Passantino is the Washington, DC Partner for McKenna, Long and Aldridge, the firm that filed THE New Voice Inc.’s original incorporation. And yes, it’s unusual for a large-firm partner to be anyone’s resident agent.

Passantino, however, is not your ordinary business lawyer. It turns out he’s the “head of McKenna Long & Aldridge’s Political Law Team.” According to the company website, he specializes in “state and federal election law, campaign finance, pay-to-play and lobbying laws, and ethics issues.” Not your typical resident agent. So why, after serving Cain’s company for six years, did he disappear from corporate filings just before Cain started running for office? Did this election law expert see something that caused concern? Certainly, insider dealing would raise red flags, wouldn’t it?

I smell a RICO case, you crazy Herman Cain’s. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. All of you.

 

Jimmy Zuma is a longtime advocate for disability rights and a strong voice from the left.  Jimmy blogs at Smart v. Stupid and his writing is published in the The Tucson Sentinel, DC Water Cooler, Open Salon and OpEd News.

___

Follow MarioPiperniDotCom on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

.

Republicans Debate, Anarchy Wins

Cross-posted from Jimmy Zuma’s blog at Tucson Sentinel.

___

There were clear winners and losers in the latest Republican debate, held at the Reagan Library. But before we score the candidates, it’s worth noting the two über winners. The first was Ronald Reagan. While I remember Reagan as the affable con artist who decided kids were properly fed if their school lunch included ketchup, the candidates invoked him some two dozen times.

The other big winner of the night was the political model known as Anarchy. The elephant now has a circle-A tattooed on his butt. One after another these candidates proved that the Republican Party no longer stands for conservative principles like small government. It now stands for dismantling government altogether.

From ending all regulation (Paul) to ending progressive taxation (Cain) to ending Social Security (Perry) to ending Medicaid (Perry again) this group of candidates is running on a platform of ending a federal role in government. (The party was previously on record for wanting to end Medicare, product safety regulation, the EPA and the Department of Education.)

Rick Perry even talked about “cutting off the head of the snake.” It was an odd analogy. He’s running to be the head, isn’t he? But enough meta-analysis, here’s how the winners and losers stack up.

Biggest winner: Rick Perry
Perry didn’t win the debate. But he did perform well enough to solidify a two person race. He made the biggest gaffe of the night, calling Social Security a “Ponzi Scheme.” But otherwise, he answered every attack credibly, accomplishing what he needed to.

Perry also got the biggest applause of the night, when the moderator noted he’d executed more prisoners than any other governor. Apparently revenge is pretty darn popular in the R-party these days.

Best performer: Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney won the debate. He gave the best performance and was only one of two candidates (with Huntsman) who seemed presidential. He made no major gaffes and successfully answered attacks from Perry—obscuring his record on health care (he used to be for it) and deflecting his record on job creation (he wasn’t very successful at it.) Most notably, he deflected the factual criticism that his private sector experience was as a corporate raider.

The One Trick Pony who got put out to pasture: Michele Bachmann
No better analogy fits Michele Bachmann than the tired, old ride-pony that limps around the same corral all day. Supporters are abandoning her in droves. In the debate none of the other candidates showed any interest in her. Even the moderators didn’t seem to be interested in asking her a question. But every time they did, she’d shout “ObaaaamaaCare!” no matter what the question or what the topic.

At one point, she didn’t speak for twenty-two minutes. It was a pleasant relief.

Running for Vice President: Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich never thought he could be president. For Newt, running for president is a way to pay the bills. Now, he is positioning himself to be someone’s vice president. He doesn’t care who. But neither Romney nor Perry would ever choose him. Running for VP at the debate simply shows that neither would even take his calls.

Best qualified: John Huntsman
If we have to have a Republican as our next president (and it looks like we probably do) John Huntsman is the best of the lot. He’s an old school conservative who eschews signing pledges because “they can limit your ability to govern.” Huntsman is the strongest on governing experience, the deepest on foreign policy and the most compelling on cooperation. He was Obama’s Ambassador to China and a successful governor of Utah. And he respects both science and literacy.

Of this motley lot, Huntsman is the only one who believes in government. But he’s too moderate to win the nomination.

Former Oddball: Ron Paul
Ron Paul gave up his oddball role to accept the position of cranky-drunk uncle. Consider this bit of circular logic. Paul posits that we should get the government out of the business of regulating drugs. He argues the government does a bad job because of influence by drug company lobbyists. So we should let the drug companies regulate themselves. Scratching your head yet? He also spoke out against federal air traffic control.

In the last election Paul suffered from having repulsive supporters. And, well, his girly-shrill voice doesn’t help. Realistically, he could only be president on Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

Current Oddball: Herman Cain
Cain’s major platform is a consumption tax. He’d impose a nine percent sales tax on top of whatever your state now charges. He’d then lower individual and corporate taxes to an alliterative but otherwise nonsensical nine percent as well. He also argues that we should replace Social Security with “the Chilean model.” As the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson noted, “I covered Chile. That model is privatization. He just doesn’t want to use the word.”

Can anyone else imagine the Republican Party taking its cues from Latin America? Cain also doesn’t know he can’t win.

No longer a candidate: Rick Santorum
Like most Americans, I can’t remember a word he said. His campaign is so bereft that he had to do his own spin room.

And there you have it, the Republican candidate pool. Yahoo is also looking for a new CEO these days. I wonder if they will choose someone who doesn’t believe in the internet.

 

Jimmy Zuma is a longtime advocate for disability rights and a strong voice from the left.  Jimmy blogs at Smart v. Stupid and his writing is published in the The Tucson Sentinel, DC Water Cooler, Open Salon and OpEd News.

___

Follow MarioPiperniDotCom on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

.

American Exceptionalism Fuels Republican Obstructionism

Cross-posted from Jimmy Zuma’s blog at Technorati.

___

As near as I can tell, “exceptionalism” is a made up word only found in the phrase “American exceptionalism.” Yet that hasn’t stopped the creation of a cottage industry asserting the mythological idea. Underpinned by both religion and hubris, American exceptionalism argues that the United States is the land chosen by God to enjoy the miracles of capitalism. According to the belief, Americans are a modern day chosen people – sorry Jews; you’re so yesterday — meant to lead the world by divine right. Divine right, of course, is a concept that used to be associated only with kings. Nowadays, it’s associated with morons.

In the ethos of American exceptionalism, we are the best at everything. We have the best health care, the best economy, the best civil society, the most freedom and the greatest opportunity. God made it so. And who are you to question God? Never you mind any facts to the contrary. Everyone knows that only over-educated liberal snobs like to use facts to find the truth.

This belief is a big factor in why Republicans in Congress imagine we can default on our debt without consequences. Because this same American exceptionalism – borrowing from its 1st cousin, Neoconservatism – argues that we can do whatever we want. Who can stop us, after all? We’re the top of the food chain. Everyone else is dependent on us. Screw ‘em!

Did I mention that most believers have never been outside of the US? Never seeing (Or is it never looking?) is a necessary part of any self-delusion.

So here we are at the brink. Many in Congress are ready to renege on paying the debt created by a decade of government underfunding. A sneering Eric Cantor, for example, has voted to spend the money since 2001. Now he won’t vote to pay what he owes.

Republicans like to say that running the government is just like running a household. If so, then this is deciding to default on the mortgage, refusing to move out of the house and saying that’s OK because God says you are the greatest neighbor on the street. You can also forget this whole notion of just paying the interest, like the chronically under-informed Michelle Bachmann likes to argue. When a loan is due, both the interest and the principal are due. Try just paying just the interest on your car loan next month.

Meanwhile, investors are beginning a selloff of US Treasuries in anticipation that they’ll lose value. The Greece crisis is near-solved and the Euro is poised to restart its march to displace the dollar as the world reserve currency. And China continues to prosper by cornering the market for green tech manufacturing. They’re competing mostly with Germany in this market, not at all with us. Meanwhile, we’re focused on protecting coal and oil profits.

Today, the word “patriot” has been co-opted by dumb crackers and “Founding Fathers” has been stolen by high school dropouts. These words now make us cringe because we know that they are used as cover for some utterly selfish argument. Real history is competing with a belief-based version that imagines great leaders and great doers were promoting not democracy, but unfettered survival of the fittest. Selfishness is exactly the opposite of what our great patriots and Framers practiced. They were defenders and creators of cooperation through government.

But I wouldn’t expect these mooks to know that. They practice a weird kind of faith-based history. It’s true because I believe it’s true. Presented with a fact, they’re reply with an “I believe…” as if it trumps as evidence. I believe that lower taxes create jobs, they say, even though there is zero evidence of that. Lower taxes didn’t break the economy, eight years of no regulatory oversight did. Lower taxes only broke the government.

House Republicans intend to default. They don’t know what they don’t know. Through the foggy lens of American exceptionalism, default has no negatives. So if default is to be avoided, it can only happen by force. The President, the Senate, House Democrats and smarter House Republicans will need to shove it down the throats of these right-wing anarchists.

American exceptionalism? It means we’re the only country heading over a cliff because we decided to believe that dumb was the new smart. Now isn’t that special…

___

Jimmy Zuma is a longtime advocate for disability rights and a strong voice from the left.  Jimmy blogs at Smart v. Stupid and his writing is published in the The Tucson Sentinel, DC Water Cooler, Open Salon and OpEd News.

.

Republicans Conspire To Cut American Wages

Wherever Republicans have had the votes, they have used them to attack unions, attack retirement, attack health benefits and attack salaries. What do these assaults on personal prosperity all have in common? They increase the number of workers in the labor force. Why would that be good public policy? It’s not.

Labor is a demand commodity just like oil or water or soy beans. When the labor pool includes everyone who should be retired, it means more workers are competing for each job. Too many workers (more than a few percentage points more than total jobs) and employees lose bargaining power. When supply exceeds demand, workers are compelled to work longer and harder for less money. After the last few years, that problem probably seems familiar.

“It’s just Capitalism” Republicans will tell you. But government that is organized to favor corporations and the rich is an economic theory called Fascism. I’m not using the word just to get your attention. President Franklin D. Roosevelt framed it in 1942, at a time when Fascism was fresh in the mind of every American:

“…democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism—ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”

Governor Walker’s vision for Wisconsin is a perfect example. He argues evidence that unions lead to better pay is de facto evidence of harm. Harm to whom? Walker demonizes the very notion of good pay whenever he can. He likes to repeat this story about his brother, whom he describes as a “banquet manager”:

“In every way, they are a typical middle-class family here in Wisconsin. David mentioned to me that he pays nearly $800 a month for his health insurance and the little he can set aside for his 401k. He—like so many other workers across Wisconsin—would love a deal like the benefits we are pushing in this budget repair bill.”

To him, this story is not about why his brother’s job stinks. It is an argument for lowering the pay of government workers. The median salary for restaurant managers is $10.28 an hour. So by Walker’s logic, teachers should make $21,382. On the face of it, Walker’s brother doesn’t appear to have amounted to much. But maybe he is struggling because he doesn’t have the benefit of collective bargaining. Just sayin’.

By the way, Wisconsin teacher’s pay averages $51,121. They make what a loan officer makes, or an insurance salesman. They just don’t make a low wage, which seems to irk Walker.

Paul Ryan’s cynical Plan to Eliminate All Services to Citizens, is another example. He wants to end Medicare. He’d replace it with vouchers, but since everyone is wise to the voucher thing, he calls it a “payment support plan.” Ryan’s plan pays some. The rest, old guy, is your problem. Does anyone actually believe that an 80 year old man who spent his career as a banquet manager going to be able to afford the additional cost of commercial health care for a man his age? Not without a job, he won’t.

Still not convinced? Ryan’s plan keeps tens of billions in oil subsidies. Defense, as America’s biggest source of corporate welfare, is sacrosanct. Today, corporations pay less than ten percent of all taxes. In the Ryan plan, government collects taxes from you, gives you nothing in return, and passes your tax payments along to corporations. Fascism? Yep. In the age of kings, it was called “tribute.”

Lastly, Speaker John Boehner is fond of saying “Where are the jobs?” His party ran on “job creation” but has no intention of creating any. So they’ve thrown up two smoke screens. One is that government spending is responsible for high unemployment. Don’t look for the logic because there isn’t any. Spending of any kind—public, private, or piggy bank—leads directly to jobs.

Boehner’s other slippery explanation is “uncertainty.” It’s an invaluably generic concept he uses to justify claims that otherwise make no sense. Yet while the government has wasted fully two weeks preparing to shut down, Boehner has made every effort to increase uncertainty. In doing so he has revealed just how little he really believes of what he says.

So keep your eyes open. Whenever someone proposes an idea, ask yourself if it will make the labor pool bigger or smaller. Whatever else is good about it, this is a critical measure of how the plan will change your daily life. If it makes the pool of workers bigger, your wages will be lower. If it makes it smaller, your wages will grow. If it tanks the economy once more, you’ll be back to doing two jobs for the price of one. Again.

___

Jimmy’s post first appeared on Technorati.

.

The Tea Party’s Mad Hatters

Jimmy originally posted this piece at the Tucson Sentinel.

___

The Tea Party’s B-team Mad Hatters are back in the news after a few months of wallowing in election-season failures. Now back in the game, they will once again try to bury substance under a giant pile of tea.

Losing Senate candidate Joe Miller

Miller was the Alaska Senate candidate (and Palin pick) that looked to be winning until he wouldn’t answer any questions and hired thugs to intimidate a reporter who was asking them. The bodyguards turned out to be Alaska National Guardsmen who were cheating on their employer, giving the 50th state yet another black eye.

Miller, it was revealed, had also tried to increase his influence in the Alaska Republican Party by putting a poll on his website, then secretly using his coworker’s government computers to vote on it. Then he’d lied about it, again and again. He also wanted to repeal the 17th Amendment, eliminating the election he was running in. But it was the handcuffing of a reporter that finally killed his campaign.

Miller will now become CEO of the Sparks, Nevada-based Western Representation PAC. Politico reports it isTea Party affiliated. But a search of Google News reveals their sole accomplishment is the hiring of Miller.

Former actress Victoria Jackson

Famously miscast as a funny person on Saturday Night Live, Jackson’s career was dead until she revived her singing-loudly-off-key shtick at Tea Party rallies. Her rally songs were mostly unintelligible and appeared entirely unrehearsed. But the crowds seemed to love her incredibly-dumb blond act.

She’s known for such idiotisms as “Obama bears traits that resemble the anti- Christ,” and, “I said he [Obama] was a Communist, and I got a lot of hate mail, but I got some that said I was a prescient, which means ‘a prophet.’”

Now Jackson’s completely jumped the shark. Her latest public pronouncement is,

“Why do liberals embrace Shariah [sic] law even though “beheading your wife” seems to go against the feminist movement’s mantra? Why do liberals embrace Islam knowing it frowns on homosexuality? Because they have the same goals. Progressives, communists, liberals, globalists and Muslims want to destroy America. When that goal is reached, they will fight for top billing. It will be bloody.”

Count the leaps of logic; I counted at least seven. She also thinks that gay men who kiss are “disgusting.” And she’s still not funny.

Losing Senate candidate Sharron Angle

Angle started her Nevada Senate race with a big mouth, spouting nutty-ism after nutty-ism. The most famous of these was her call for “Second Amendment remedies” if people like her weren’t elected. After national players took an interest in her campaign (and professional handlers arrived) she didn’t answer a single other question. There is funny video of her fleeing out the garage door three minutes into what was billed as her “press conference.”

Then she lost. Oddly, Angle didn’t shoot anyone. It turns out she was just another blowhard pretending that gun-waving is a sign of bravery rather than an act of cowardice.

Now thanks to the retirement of John Ensign – Nevada’s screw-your-friend’s-wife Senator – Angle has another chance. Let’s hope the Gabby Giffords shooting serves as a wakeup call to anyone who was seduced by her gunpowder politics.

Deposed Liberty Central founder Virginia Thomas

One could forgive you for thinking Ginny Thomas exists merely to funnel conservative influence into Clarence Thomas’ bank account. As far as we know, she’s never done much of value, she’s never successfully led anything, and her speeches at Tea Party rallies were mostly infomercials for the foam Statue of Liberty hats she sells.

Yet that didn’t stop her from getting a paycheck from the Heritage Foundation, where she wrote (or co-wrote) seven intelligent sounding documents, all totaling about 20 pages. For that, she was paid $686,589 –nearly $100,000 each. Later she founded Liberty Central, which never had a real address or a real office but was given a $500,000 startup donation (that smelled like Koch money). That’s not simply idle conjecture. When I and others started looking into Liberty Central, two operatives with Koch Brothers ties were quickly brought in to sideline Thomas. Then she started a lobbying firm, Liberty Consulting, but never registered as a lobbyist.

And now she’s a “journalist,” hired by Tucker Carlson to interview for The Daily Caller? Given that this town stinks of out-of-work journos with actual credentials, the hire seems awfully suspicious. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if The Daily Caller also got a new equity investment from some familiar dirty-industry capitalists. The Caller was started with $3 million from a guy named Foster Friess who attended at least one Koch Cabal meeting along with Justice Thomas. The notion that The Caller’s newest hire was bought and paid for is pure speculation at this point. But given the players, well, it already walks like a duck.

I can’t wait to hear what Christine O’Donnell is up to.

.