Perhaps it says a lot when we hear that Congress is putting “pork” in the huge bailout bill. So what else is new?

The press is not much help, since they go out of their way to interview congressmen who have taken money from the two quasi government programs that started the mess, i.e. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It’s a long list, and makes one wonder:

From the Open secrets website (a public watchdog group):

Current members of Congress have received a total of $4.8 million from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with Democrats collecting 57 percent of that. This week we also wrote about how much money lawmakers had invested of their own money in the companies last year–a total of up to $1.7 million.

All Recipients of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Campaign Contributions, 1989-2008

Name Office State Party Grand Total Total from
PACs
Total from
Individuals
Dodd, Christopher J S CT D $165,400 $48,500 $116,900
Obama, Barack S IL D $126,349 $6,000 $120,349
Kerry, John S MA D $111,000 $2,000 $109,000
Bennett, Robert F S UT R $107,999 $71,499 $36,500
Bachus, Spencer H AL R $103,300 $70,500 $32,800
Blunt, Roy H MO R $96,950 $78,500 $18,450
Kanjorski, Paul E H PA D $96,000 $57,500 $38,50

Yup. Bipartisan donations. McCain is there too:

McCain, John

S

AZ

R

$21,550

$0

$21,550

as is Biden:

Biden, Joseph R Jr

S DE D $3,300 $0 $3,300

Hmm…maybe we can split our vote for McCain and Biden…whose tiny amounts were over a 19 year period, in contrast to Senator number two, whose got quite a bit of money for a junior senator in office for only three years. And of course, raise your hands if you really believe that employees with a tight budget happily gave away all that money “voluntarily”.  (I write “voluntarily” donations by employees who are expected to donate where the boss or union tells them).

But of course, FannieMae is a private company:

Today, Fannie Mae operates under a congressional charter that directs us to channel our efforts into increasing the availability and affordability of homeownership for low-, moderate-, and middle-income Americans. Yet Fannie Mae receives no government funding or backing, and we are one of the nation’s largest taxpayers.

But anyway, here you have those in Congress who are supposed to regulate these organizations getting money from them.

What’s wrong with this picture? From a Forbes Magazine article:

The large Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight bureaucracy was incapable of reining in Fannie and Freddie, and Congress ignored warning calls from the then secretary of the Treasury and Fed chairman. In September 2003, John Snow proposed legislation to tighten oversight of Fannie and Freddie, but he was rebuked by Barney Frank for conjuring frightful scenarios about GSEs that were “fundamentally and financially sound.” In 2005, Alan Greenspan warned that Freddie and Fannie could put the “total financial system of the future at risk” but Chuck Schumer insisted that “Fannie and Freddie have done an incredible job.”

Congress seemed more focused on Fannie’s and Freddie’s political donations and preferential mortgages than on the damage that was being inflicted on financial markets

But there is plenty more corruption in the mix.

This Forbes Magazine report, that tells a sorry story of banks and investment companies caught lying to clients….and since theses are the ones who were caught, one has to wonder how many got away with similar shennanigans…

There are few good guys in either party. The Glass-Steagall Act was repealed during the Clinton administration, and that repeal has taken less than a decade to bring the banking system to its knees. The Bush administration has effectively gutted the fraud provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley by having those in charge of enforcing the laws biased in favor of fat cat contributors. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reported that records show the government has ruled in favor of corporate whistle-blowers a mere 17 times out of 1,273 complaints filed since 2002. An additional 841 cases have been dismissed outright. Is it possible that so few complaints filed under this law had no merit? You tell me.

Well, let’s look at how graft and kickbacks work when the pretty words are removed.

The joke in the Philippines is that bribes are taken “over the table, under the table, and with the table”.  So when a large amount of fertilizer fund money slated to help small farmers was diverted to politicians election funds; no one was responsible, indeed no one was actually sure what happened to all that money. But that is the tip of the iceburg.  Then there are large “gifts” given in thanks for getting contracts, diversions of government funds, or “double billing” of contracts in the government budget will ever be proven so that prosecutions can occur. And lots of Congressional investigations that go nowhere, because much of the political class is related by marriage, extended family ties, or friendship.

In contrast, in America, the bribes and corruption is shrouded in honorable language. Congressmen didn’t overlook the problems of these mortgage companies because they were bribed, it was because they wanted poor people to own houses. And large industries were helping people invest money for high interest so they could retire early, they weren’t really lying about the ratings of the investments.

So some of the shenanigans of the FannieMae contributions to politicians seems like an American version of “buying someone to look the other way”.

But it looks like those of us who work by the rules who will pay. So now, the taxpayers who follow the rules and invest carefully and try to pay their bills are going to have to bail out a “crisis” that was a combination of greed and lack of oversight by a Congress that was paid to look the other way, and government that failed to see that regulation was needed.

And then people wonder why taxpayers are angry…

McCain, who was one  unindicted Congressmen in the Keating Five scandal (about political donations from that failed Savings and Loan), but unlike others, he has expressed remorse and shame on repeated occasions, did try to stop the kickback mess by the McCain Feingold bill.

But no good deed goes unpunished: as we see this year, his “thanks” is that Senator Obama will merely “just say no” and decline government funding (which would limit the amount he can spend), figuring he can raise a lot more money from rich cats and poor, and win the prize.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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