UNITED STATES: by Joseph PoprzecznyNews Weekly
Sarah Palin castigates congressional corruption
, December 10, 2011
Although former Alaskan Governor and 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, hasn’t entered the coming presidential race, she’s far from being a spent political force.
Palin has fired a broadside at American national politicians, alleging that too many of them have been feathering their own nests ahead of the public interest.
In an opinion column carried in The Wall Street Journal, headlined “How Congress occupied Wall Street” (WSJ, November 18, 2011), she has said that it is time American voters were told how it was that so many politicians reached Washington as people of modest means and left as dollar-flush millionaires.
“How do they miraculously accumulate wealth at a rate faster than the rest of us? How do politicians’ stock portfolios outperform even the best hedge-fund managers’?,” asks Palin. “Politicians derive power from the authority of their office and their access to our tax dollars, and they use that power to enrich and shield themselves.”
Her article uses some of the findings of Stanford University-based Hoover Institution research fellow, Peter Schweizer, whose recently-released book, Throw Them All Out (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), reveals how politicians clandestinely enrich themselves. Schweizer is a member of Palin’s political action committee as a foreign-policy adviser.
Palin writes: “The money-making opportunities for politicians are myriad, and Mr Schweizer details the most lucrative methods: accepting sweetheart gifts of IPO [initial public offering] stock from companies seeking to influence legislation, practising insider trading with non-public government information, earmarking projects that benefit personal real estate holdings, and even subtly extorting campaign donations through the threat of legislation unfavourable to an industry. The list goes on and on, and it’s sickening.
“Astonishingly, none of this is technically illegal, at least not for Congress. Members of Congress exempt themselves from the laws they apply to the rest of us.”
In March 2010, documents were obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act revealing how Democrat congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, then speaker of the House of Representatives (currently House minority leader), had used a US military aircraft for political self-promotion.
One report said: “Traditionally, the House speaker has flown in a 12-seat Air Force jet. However, Pelosi demanded and got a 200-seat C-32 — the military version of the Boeing 757 — because she wanted to take along as many of her voters as possible on her free trips.
“Pelosi’s air travel costs in 2009 and 2010 amounted to $2.2 million, out of which $101,429 was spent on food and alcohol used on board.
“Purchases for just one Pelosi-led trip in ‘her’ C-32 included: Johnny Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Bailey’s Irish Crème, Maker’s Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewar’s scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniels whiskey, Corona beer, and several bottles of wine.” (PJ Media, November 25, 2011).
Sarah Palin, in her exposure of congressional self-enrichment, has stressed that this problem “isn’t confined to one political party or just a few bad apples”; it is “an endemic problem encompassing leadership on both sides of the aisle”.
She says she wasn’t surprised to learn of these practices in Washington, as she first encountered similar behaviour on entering Alaskan politics.
She recalls: “I’ve been fighting this type of corruption and cronyism my entire political career. For years Alaskans suspected that our lawmakers and state administrators were in the pockets of the big oil companies to the detriment of ordinary Alaskans.
“We knew we were being taken for a ride, but it took FBI wiretaps to finally capture lawmakers in the act of selling their votes. In the wake of politicos being carted off to prison, my administration enacted reforms based on transparency and accountability to prevent this from happening again.”
She pleads for greater transparency in public life, with “more detailed financial disclosure reports”, and politicians being required to submit them “much more often than once a year”.
She says: “We need equality under the law. From now on, laws that apply to the private sector must apply to Congress….
“Trading on non-public government information should be illegal both for those who pass on the information and those who trade on it. (This should close the loophole of the blind trusts that aren’t really blind because they’re managed by family members or friends.)
“No more sweetheart land deals with campaign contributors…. No earmarks where the congressman receives a direct benefit.… No lobbyists as family members, and no transitioning into a lobbying career after leaving office. No more revolving door, ever.”
Palin says that it is absolutely crucial that such reform “transcend political parties” and argues that members of America’s two current major grass-roots movements — the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street — should fall in behind her reform program.
“The Tea Party’s mission has always been opposition to waste and crony capitalism, and the Occupy protesters must realise that Washington politicians have been ‘Occupying Wall Street’ long before anyone pitched a tent in [New York’s] Zuccotti Park,” she says.
Joseph Poprzeczny is a Perth-based historian and journalist.
Jim Kouri “House Speaker Pelosi exposed by legal watchdog group”, The Examiner (Denver, Colorado), March 20, 2010.
URL: www.examiner.com/law-enforcemen t-in-national/house-speaker-pelosi-exposed-by-legal-watchdog-group?render=print#print
Sarah Palin, “How Congress occupied Wall Street”, The Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2011.
Ion Mihai Pacepa, “Stealing as policy from the Iron Curtain to Robert Byrd”, PJ Media (Los Angeles), November 25, 2011.