Ending An Illegal Practice

Heritage.org posted an article today about the ending of Operation Choke Point. Operation Choke Point was the brainchild of the Obama Administration that was used to isolate financially businesses the administration did not approve of.

The article reports:

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), who helped lead a multi-year effort to shut the program down, highlighted some of theses newest findings and pointed out that stopping Operation Choke Point is not a partisan issue.

Luetkemeyer’s legislation to prevent a redo of Choke Point – The Financial Institution Customer Protection Act of 2017 – overwhelmingly passed the House, with only two nay votes. Operation Choke Point was an egregious affront to the rule of law, so it is good to see that so many lawmakers want to prevent a repeat.

For those unfamiliar, Choke Point consisted of bureaucrats in several independent federal agencies taking it upon themselves to shut legal businesses – such as payday lenders and firearms dealers – out of the banking system. Given the nature of the U.S. regulatory framework, this operation was easy to pull off.

The Operation was carried out by the people in the F.D.I.C. who are supposed to be engaged in insuring that Americans who have placed money in American banks will not be bankrupted by a financial crisis.

The article explains:

Officials at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), for instance, simply had to inform the banks they were overseeing that the government considered certain types of their customers “high risk.” The mere implication of a threat was enough to pressure banks into closing accounts, because no U.S. bank wants anything to do with extra audits or investigations from their regulator, much less additional operating restrictions or civil and criminal charges.

Banks are incredibly sensitive to any type of pressure from federal regulators, and they know that the regulators have enormous discretion.

The article concludes:

It is now clear that these unelected government officials set out to harm law-abiding citizens. Yet many of the government officials named in these documents are still employed by the same government agency. Most of these folks work at the FDIC, and one has even moved up from a regional director position to FDIC Ombudsman.

At the very least, the Trump administration owes the public a full investigation into Operation Choke Point and an explanation for why many of the people involved in this abuse of power are still working for the government.

Operation Choke Point was mainly directed at banks dealing with payday lenders or any business related to gun sales. It was obviously a government shakedown of banks doing business with legal businesses. Hopefully the legislation passed to prevent this from happening again will be successful. Meanwhile, there are people in government who need to be held accountable.

 

How Do You Acquire A Net Worth Of $80 Million While Making $174,000 A Year?

Although the information about to be shared deals with only one person, the story is not unique. I am posting this example because it was very easily researched. More diligent research could probably find at least fifty more examples of what I am about to illustrate.

The following was posted by a Facebook friend today:

THE TRUTH ABOUT FEINSTEIN
The US has entered into a contract with a real estate firm to sell 56 buildings that currently house U.S. Post Offices. All 56 were built, operated, and paid for by tax-paying American citizens. Now enjoy reading the rest: The government has decided it no longer needs these buildings, most of which are located on prime land in towns and cities across the country.

The sale of these properties will fetch about$19 billion!

A regular real estate commission will be paid to the company that was given the exclusive listing for handling the sales. That company is CRI and it belongs to a man named Richard Blum.

Richard Blum is the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein!(Most voters and many of the government people who approved the deal have not made the connection between the two because they have different last names).

Senator Feinstein and her husband stand to make a fortune, estimated at between $950 million and $1.1 BILLION from these transactions!

His company is the sole real estate agent on the sale!

CRI will be making a minimum of 2% and as much as 6% commission on each and every sale. All of the properties that are being sold are all fully paid for. They were purchased with U.S. taxpayers’ dollars.

The U.S.P.S. is allowed free and clear, tax exempt use. The only cost to keep them open is the cost to actually keep the doors open and the heat and lights on. The United States Postal Service doesn’t even have to pay county property taxes on these subject properties. QUESTION? Would you put your house in foreclosure just because you couldn’t afford to pay the electric bill?

Well, the folks in Washington have given the Post Office the OK to do it! Worse yet, most of the net proceeds of the sales will go back to the U.S.P.S, an organization that is so poorly managed that they have lost $117 billion dollars in the past 10 years!

No one in the mainstream media is even raising an eyebrow over the conflict of interest and on the possibility of corruption on the sale of billions of dollars worth of public assets.

How does a U.S. Senator from San Francisco manage to get away with organizing and lobbying such a sweet deal ? Has our government become so elitist that they have no fear of oversight?

It’s no mere coincidence that these two public service crooks have different last names; a feeble attempt at avoiding transparency in these type of transactions.

Pass this info on before it’s pulled from the Internet. You can verify it on TruthorFiction and Snopes:

http://www.truthorfiction.com/…/Blum-Post-Office-Sale-06101…

http://www.snopes.com/politics/business/blum.asp

If this doesn’t upset you, don’t complain about the corruption and the ineptness in D.C.

It didn’t take a lot of research to verify most of this. I found a few interesting tidbits. Snopes describes the claims as ‘mixed.’ In case you are not aware, Snopes has a bit of a mixed record itself.

From a website called The New American:

It’s unfortunate that Snopes didn’t dig any further into the matter. It could have, for instance, sourced an 11-page exposé of Blum and Feinstein published by the online site FoundSF entitled “Richard C. Blum and Dianne Feinstein: The Power Couple of California.” There Snopes would have found how this couple, through a continuing series of events that could only be called crony capitalism on steroids, grew their wealth, starting in 1980 when they were married, from a modest sum to well over $100 million.

In that exposé they would have uncovered another source, this time from the Los Angeles Times, which noted the couple’s illicit activities from the beginning:

A review of the senator’s first two years in office found that Feinstein supported several positions that benefited Blum, his wealthy clients and their investments. She was a vocal proponent of increased trade with China while Blum’s firm was planning a major investment there. She also voted for appropriations bills that provided more than $100 million a year in federal funds to three companies in which her husband is a substantial investor.

Visiting the Times article would have led them to another source that explained in detail her votes as head of the Military Construction Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee (MILCON), which funneled $1.5 billion worth of military construction contracts to URS Corporation, an engineering, design, and construction company located (where else?) in San Francisco — in which Blum had a significant financial interest. Her committee also funneled millions into Tutor Perini, one of the largest general contractors in the country, also located in California, and in which Blum also had a significant financial interest. When Blum sold his interests in URS and Tutor Perini, he booked profits estimated at between $5 and $10 million.

Another example from Breitbart:

On April 21, 2009, the Washington Times broke an exclusive story that Feinstein proposed legislation to direct $25 billion in taxpayer money to the Federal Depository Insurance Corporation

The alleged Blum connection was that the FDIC had just awarded Blum’s real estate firm a profitable contract to resell foreclosed properties at compensation rates higher than the industry norms. 

According to the Washington Times, “Mrs. Feinstein’s intervention on behalf of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was unusual: the California Democrat isn’t a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with jurisdiction over FDIC; and the agency is supposed to operate from money it raises from bank-paid insurance payments–not direct federal dollars.”

Documents obtained by the newspaper exposed that Feinstein had sent a letter to the FDIC on October 30, 2008 offering to help it secure funds to help them stave off ensuing foreclosures. 

That letter was sent only a few days before CB Richard Ellis Group (the commercial real estate firm that Blum serves as board chairman) had won a contract to sell foreclosed properties that FDIC was taking on from failed banks. 

According to Weiss, “this is an allegation that has totally been discredited.” 

Feinstein’s explanation was that the senator simply introduced legislation to allocate $25 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in 2009 because California had the third highest number of foreclosures in the nation.  

“Senator Feinstein learned of FDIC Chair Sheila Bair’s proposal for foreclosure relief from news reports, expressed her support in a letter, and introduced legislation to implement it,” Weiss wrote to Breitbart News. “She was unaware of CBRE’s bid for an FDIC contract so it clearly played no role in her decision to introduce legislation. The Inspector General at the FDIC reviewed this and concluded there was ‘no improper influence’ in the awarding of the contract.” 

LaJuan Williams-Young, a spokeswoman for the FDIC, declined to explain why CBRE was chosen and instead simply defended the agency: “There are four other contractors that perform similar work for the Corporation.”

According to Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch, a non-profit organization dedicated to monitoring Washington ethics, Feinstein’s explanation isn’t adequate. He says that neither the FDIC nor MILCON connections pass muster under the U.S. Senate Ethics Rules or the U.S. Criminal Code.

“In these cases, she was voting on bills that ultimately benefited her husband’s companies . . . she knew, everyone knew what would come out of those bills, and at the least she should have known where that money could have gone, and that simply doesn’t stand scrutiny.” 

When asked about Feinstein and her husband benefitting from all of these contracts as well as the FDIC legislation, Weiss simply responded, “All items referred to above are Richard Blum’s separate property relating to his business . . . Senator Feinstein is not involved with and does not discuss any of her husband’s business decisions.” 

Blicksilver mirrored Weiss’ response, saying that, “Blum Capital Partners has a strict confidentiality policy which Mr. Blum and other members of the firm adhere to. As such, he does not discuss the Firm’s investments with the Senator.” 

Not only does it pay to be a Senator, it pays to be married to one.

This is only one example of the swamp in Washington that needs to be cleared out.

Politicizing Finance

On Friday The Conservative Treehouse posted an article about a recent policy change by Citibank.

This is the new policy:

[…] Today, our CEO announced Citi is instituting a new U.S. Commercial Firearms Policy. […] Under this new policy, we will require new retail sector clients or partners to adhere to these best practices: (1) they don’t sell firearms to someone who hasn’t passed a background check, (2) they restrict the sale of firearms for individuals under 21 years of age, and (3) they don’t sell bump stocks or high-capacity magazines. This policy will apply across the firm, including to small business, commercial and institutional clients, as well as credit card partners, whether co-brand or private label.

Citibank has every right to do what they are doing. However, the American public has every right to choose whether or not to do business with Citibank. Unfortunately the American public did not have any say in the $476.2 billion in cash and guarantees that Citibank received from TARP, the FDIC, and the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis .

The article notes:

However, with more and more organizations deciding to limit the use of their products and services based on political ideology; and with Citibank now openly stating their intent to create national legislation without actually applying congressional laws to their endeavors; it’s a fair request to say Citi-group should no longer be permitted any favorable benefits from the FDIC.

As a private company, Citibank has the right to a company policy about guns, but restricting the sale of firearms for individuals under 21 years of age is contrary to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  I wonder if a retail sector client has a legal case against Citibank if he refuses to abide by these terms and his business is prohibited from using Citibank credit cards.

The idea of injecting political views into business practices can be a problem. What if a bank decides it will not grant car loans to cars that run on gasoline because they believe in the concept of electric cars? What if a bank refuses loans to homes unless they have solar power? A corporation has the right to set their own company policies, but those policies should be in line with the U.S. Constitution if they are a business based in America.