Wall Street Shorts Democrats, Goes Long on GOP

Via the Washington Post:

Commercial banks and high-flying investment firms have shifted their political contributions toward Republicans in recent months amid harsh rhetoric from Democrats about fat bank profits, generous bonuses and stingy lending policies on Wall Street.

The wealthy securities and investment industry, for example, went from giving 2 to 1 to Democrats at the start of 2009 to providing almost half of its donations to Republicans by the end of the year, according to new data compiled for The Washington Post by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Commercial banks and their employees also returned to their traditional tilt in favor of the GOP after a brief dalliance with Democrats, giving nearly twice as much to Republicans during the last three months of 2009, the data show. At the same time, total political donations by the major banks and investment houses alike dropped in the waning months of that year.

On the bright side, it might encourage the Administration to press forward with meaningful regulatory reform of the financial sector now that Wall Street donor base has pivoted back to the GOP.

Our Birds of a Feather Congress

It is hard at times to distinguish a member of Congress from a trained parrot. I suspect that parrots are of higher intelligence and don't sell themselves to the highest bidder. These other birds of a feather who allegedly represent us in Congress certainly flock together in the most unusual of ways. From the New York Times:

In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care, the speeches of many lawmakers echo with similarities. Often, that was no accident.

Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world's largest biotechnology companies.

E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans.

The lobbyists, employed by Genentech and by two Washington law firms, were remarkably successful in getting the statements printed in the Congressional Record under the names of different members of Congress.

Genentech, a subsidiary of the Swiss drug giant Roche, estimates that 42 House members picked up some of its talking points -- 22 Republicans and 20 Democrats, an unusual bipartisan coup for lobbyists.

In an interview, Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, said: "I regret that the language was the same. I did not know it was." He said he got his statement from his staff and "did not know where they got the information from."

Members of Congress submit statements for publication in the Congressional Record all the time, often with a decorous request to "revise and extend my remarks." It is unusual for so many revisions and extensions to match up word for word. It is even more unusual to find clear evidence that the statements originated with lobbyists.

The e-mail messages and their attached documents indicate that the statements were based on information supplied by Genentech employees to one of its lobbyists, Matthew L. Berzok, a lawyer at Ryan, MacKinnon, Vasapoli & Berzok who is identified as the "author" of the documents. The statements were disseminated by lobbyists at a big law firm, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal.

In an e-mail message to fellow lobbyists on Nov. 5, two days before the House vote, Todd M. Weiss, senior managing director of Sonnenschein, said, "We are trying to secure as many House R's and D's to offer this/these statements for the record as humanly possible."

Human is not a word I associate with our Congress critters when I read stories like this. These are parrots who can't even write their own speeches or think for themselves.

There's more...

No Trace of Meg

The billionaire former CEO of eBay and Mitt Romney acolyte Meg Whitman wants to be Governor of California. One must wonder why given her heretofore lack of interest in public affairs. A review by the Sacramento Bee found billionaire Meg regularly skipped elections in California and several other states where she lived and worked. There's simply no trace of Meg in voter registration logs.

The review covered six states and a dozen counties, including towns and counties in Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Rhode Island and California where public records indicated that billionaire Meg lived, worked or attended college.

Whitman, now 53, turned 18 and voting age in Suffolk County, N.Y., in 1974. Officials say they have no record of her registering or voting there.

She lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, from 1979 to 1981 after completing a master's degree in business administration at Harvard.

Neither Ohio state elections officials nor Hamilton County Board of Elections officials found a record of Whitman registering or voting there.

For much of the 1980s, she lived in San Francisco as a management consultant at an investment firm, Bain & Co.

The San Francisco County elections office no longer retains records prior to 1992, but said that had she been registered and voting, her registration information would have been transferred to the current system. They have no record of her registration.

Similarly, Los Angeles County has no record that she registered or voted between 1989 and 1992, when she worked for Walt Disney Corp. as a senior executive.

Whitman and her husband, Griffith Harsh, a neurologist, lived in Brookline, Mass., a suburb just outside Boston, for several years in the 1990s. She worked for Stride-Rite, FTD and Hasbro until 1997.

"We had her as a resident for a while, and she was captured by the census, but she was never registered and she never voted," said Patrick Ard, town clerk in Brookline.

Whitman returned to the Bay Area in 1998, when she was hired to be eBay's first chief executive officer and take the company public.

She told delegates at the convention that she had "been a registered 'decline-to-state' voter since 1998." The Bee was unable to find any public record of that registration.

The first registration record The Bee found, in San Mateo County, was dated Sept. 12, 2002.

At that time, she told San Mateo elections officials that she had been registered in San Francisco County, a county official said, after reviewing electronic records.

Yet San Francisco County officials, whose database records active registrations as far back as 1992, said they had no record of voter registration for Whitman at either of her two San Francisco addresses during the period.

Let's be clear what is driving billionaire Meg to the polls in 2010. Fear of her taxes going up. Up and down the length of the Golden State, billionaire Meg can only talk about the plight of her fellow billionaires. "We do not have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem of epic proportions," whines billionaire Meg. Her favorite statistic is that twenty-five percent of California's revenue comes from income taxes paid by the 144,000 richest taxpayers, so "if one of them leaves, it's a really bad thing." Gee Meg, you'd think you could afford a richer vocabulary.

The single largest stream of state revenue in California is the personal income tax which generates about 40% of state income. The income tax is progressive, which means that rates rise as income rises, from a low of 1.0% to a high of 10.55%. Because of the system's progressive tax structure and the distribution of income among taxpayers in California, the income tax system derives a disproportionate amount of its revenues from a small number of taxpayers. Over the past decade, on average, the top 1% have accounted for 50% of tax receipts in this category and for about one-fifth of the total state revenue from all sources.

Part of our problem here in California is the volatility of state tax receipts due in part to the tax behavior of the supra-wealthy who generate taxable income in ways where they have discretion about how and when they realize the income for tax purposes.

In pure tax theory, the volatility of the income tax, as Betty Yee, chair of the state Board of Equalization, points out, is a good thing. It goes up when incomes rise, and up very sharply when taxpayers benefit from capital gains and stock dividend windfalls, and down in bad times when they can't afford it. But such fluctuations require a state whose leaders - and, yes, its voters - are disciplined enough to put aside some of those gushes of revenue against rainy days when the resources are needed.

Furthermore, if California were taxing property at roughly the same rate as other states, which it did before the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, the income tax and its cyclical fluctuations would bear a much smaller burden in the state's overall revenue picture. But there's no trace of Meg talking about these issues. Sort of like her voting record.

There's more...

Diaries

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