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Tom Noe, a prominent coin dealer and former Bush fundraiser was found guilty last week of money laundering, corrupt activity, forgery, tampering with records and theft. This morning he was sentenced to a stiff 18 years in prison. This comes on top of a 27-month sentence for violating federal campaign laws when donating to Bush's re-election campaign in 2004. He will also pay a $213,000 fine and $3 million for the cost of the prosecution.
The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) gave $50 million to Noe to invest in rare coins. It is reported that Noe stole between $2 million and $13 million to pay off business loans and buy a house in the Florida Keys.
Thomas Osowik, the presiding judge has this to say: "You continued to spend the bureau's money at what I thought was a shockingly, alarmingly large rate, and done for one purpose: to present some type of a facade that you had a bottomless cup of wealth and luxury at your disposal, when in fact it was at the state's expense."
Noe may still end up in Florida; retiring at one if of its fine federal prisons.
This shows the corrupting effect of our current campaign finance system and the pressure to increase political influence in a high-stakes money game. A system for public funding of elections would mean that candidates would no longer need to rely on fundraising by crooks.
Roll Call reports (subscription only) that DeLay's replacement knows at least how to clean out an office. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R-Texas), who won the special election to replace DeLay, but lost the midterm election to Democrat Nick Lampson, managed to provoke the remaining DeLay staffers in her office to walk out and resign all at once this past Tuesday.
According to now-lobbyist, Carl Thorsen, who hired most of the vacating staff when he was the former general counsel for DeLay, said they were exceptional, talented and loyal and couldn't imagine what she did to make them all quit at the same time.
Sources close to the office say she was "mean."
She, herself, must vacate the office January 3.
It's still hard to believe that all this change is imminent in Congress. Election day is one of the few times when politicians answer directly to their employers --the public.
Can you handle more good news? We can look forward to a new Congress with 96 signers of the Voters First Pledge, which called for lobbying and ethics reforms as well as public funding of elections, and over a hundred members who supported campaign finance reform laws in the past.
As I said here, we expect strong lobbying and ethics reforms from the new Congress, but we are also pushing for a critical improvement to the Pelosi proposal -- an independent enforcement authority.
This is critical to whether the rules will continue to matter.
Just as in 1994, corruption is not a partisan issue -- it happens whenever power is concentrated in the hands of few. For this reason, strong rules are nothing without a meaningful authority to enforce them.
It turns out that the editorial boards for the New York Times and the Washington Post agree with us. And anyone who can should mention to Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) that a ban on privately-funded travel doesn't seem so "childish" anymore.
View this corruption-laden special goodbye to a "special majority" from the Colbert Report last night. Via The Silent Patriot.
Voters in three Western states saw through Howie Rich’s expensive con job for what it was and handed him a solid drubbing on Tuesday. Initiatives that would have wreaked havoc on land use controls and threatened to sap billions of dollars from state treasuries were rejected by voters in California, Idaho and Washington state.
Only in one state, Arizona, was Rich successful.
Nonprofits funded by Rich spent $8.6 million to finance campaigns that collected signatures in eight states to get the takings initiatives on the ballot and then promote their passage. In four states, Missouri , Montana, Nevada and Oklahoma, the initiatives were barred from the ballot either by the courts or state officials.
Here’s how sanity prevailed on Nov. 7:
In a report published before the Nov. 7 election, Public Citizen said,
“These initiatives, falsely advertised as necessary to prevent state governments from intruding on property owners, are actually intended to serve as cash cows for developers. If approved, the initiatives would leave state governments with an unacceptable choice between rolling back decades of environmental protection rules – such as those to combat sprawl, protect wetlands and preserve clean air and water – or paying bounties to developers as ‘compensation’ for being prevented from using their land however they please.”
Big ideas win campaigns.
New Speaker-elect Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), has been vocal for weeks about her intentions should the Democrats become the majority in the House, and lobbying and ethics reforms are the first order-of-business on "day one" of the new session. She also promises to set a high bar, saying that "the Democrats intend to lead the most honest, most open, and most ethical Congress in history.'' There is now no excuse not to pass real reform.
Pelosi's bill, H.R. 4682, for the most part, is a very strong bill. It would:
Increase transparency of lobbyists' activities - enabling searches online showing which lobbyists are talking to which Congressmen;
Slow the revolving door - the time a Representative must wait before becoming a lobbyist is doubled;
Prohibit privately-sponsored travel for members and require detailed itineraries on trips;
Ban gifts from lobbyists to members or staff;
Expose who is putting earmarks in our bills; and
Create an Office of Public Integrity (OPI) to monitor and initiate investigations against lobbyists (but not members of Congress).
(Read the full summary here.)
The bill does lack two key items.
First, the ban on gifts from lobbyists is great but should be applied to everyone else as well. Gift giving has an obviously corrosive effect and must be banned across the board.
Second, we need an OPI for monitoring members of Congress and not just lobbyists. As we have seen in the current Congress, the Ethics Committee is a joke because Congress doesn't, and probably can't, do a very good job of policing itself. (Congress: "I told myself to go to my room!") The OPI must be able to monitor and initiate investigations against Congress members and staff about ethics violations.
This Democratic sweep opens up a huge opportunity to change business-as-usual in Washington. These chances, and this momentum for change, must not be squandered on mere half-measures. The American people have said, loudly and clearly, that they want leadership. Democrats must now answer the call.
CNN conducted exit polls yesterday asking voters which issues were "extremely important." The results:
42% - Corruption
40% - Terrorism
39% - Economy
37% - Iraq
Despite the relative lack of attention that corruption received compared to the Iraq War in recent months, it came out on top for importance to the voting public. This is good news for all of us to keep commitments outlined in the Voters First Pledge. For the new Congress, there is no excuse not to pass real lobbying and campaign finance reform.
Watch the analysis here: