Tuesday wrap

Bamelot: It's all about Pay-to-Play ... “Barack Obama’s transition team pressed Bill Richardson about a federal probe into ‘pay to play’ allegations against his office. ... But a Democratic source said Obama’s questioners came away empty-handed.” Jake Tapper of ABC News recently reported that “officials on the Obama transition team feel that, before he was formally offered the job of commerce secretary, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was not forthcoming with them about the federal investigation that is looking into whether the governor steered a state contract towards a major financial contributor.” See something slightly off-kilter in both of those examples? I do. Maybe it’s because I was a criminal courts reporter for several years, but in my experience, people with something to hide often hide it. (politico.com)

The Left defunds itself ... The giant Picower Foundation had the misfortune to choose Madoff to manage its more than $1 billion in assets. The charity has given away more than $189 million since 1999 ... The foundation gave $200,000 to Project Vote (a.k.a. Voting for America), an affiliate of the radical Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) ... Another affected charity is the JEHT Foundation, which said it expects to close down in January because its benefactors invested in Madoff’s hedge fund. JEHT, an acronym that stands for Justice, Equality, Human dignity and Tolerance, is a reliable funder of far left causes and has given away more than $72 million in grants since heiress and Democratic donor Jeanne Levy-Church founded it in 2000 ... JEHT gave $250,000 to the American Institute for Social Justice, an ACORN affiliate. The Saul Alinsky-inspired Institute trains community organizers and in recent years has served as a shadowy financial clearinghouse, directing $9 million to ACORN and two of its other affiliates. (spectator.org)

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Mrs. Bam's Pay-to-Play Health Care ... It is no secret that, immediately following Obama's election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, UCMC created a new position called "Vice President for Community and External Affairs" and bestowed it-along with a lavish salary-upon Michelle Obama. It is less well known, however, that one of her husband's cronies subsequently received preferential treatment in a UCMC contract bidding process. Specifically, the medical center altered its normal procedure for soliciting contact proposals so that longtime Obama "friend" and political donor, Robert Blackwell, could submit a bid to upgrade UCMC's intranet. Naturally, officials of the medical center deny that the expanded process was in any way connected to Obama's influence, but Blackwell Consulting was awarded the $600,000 contract. What does this have to do with national health care policy? (americanthinker.com)

NYT unit raps Hillary's Pay-to-Play ... A developer in New York state donated $100,000 to former President Bill Clinton's foundation in November 2004, around the same time that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton helped secure millions of dollars in federal assistance for the businessman's mall project. Hillary Clinton helped enact legislation allowing the developer, Robert Congel, to use tax-exempt bonds to help finance the construction of the Destiny USA entertainment and shopping complex, an expansion of the Carousel Center in Syracuse. She also helped secure a provision in a highway bill that set aside $5 million for Destiny USA roadway construction. The bill with the tax-free bonds provision became law in October 2004, weeks before the donation, and the highway bill with the set-aside became law in August 2005, about nine months after the donation. Congel and Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton, both said there was no connection between his donation and her legislative work on his project's behalf. (iht.com)

SEIU's enormous Pay-to-Play payback starts with Job-Killer Act ... The 2 million-member Service Employees International Union plans to announce Wednesday a major drive to enact labor-friendly legislation in Congress. SEIU has committed more than $85 million in funding and other resources — more than it gave last year to President-elect Barack Obama and other candidates — to finance a three-pronged initiative. One of the key components is passage of the controversial Employee Free Choice Act, a measure that would make it easier for unions to organize workers. The other initiatives are for quick passage of federal economic-recovery provisions and a call for comprehensive health-care reform. "There's going to be a lot of investment from our union in this effort," said SEIU spokeswoman Dawn Le. (denverpost.com)

Losing track of SEIU Pay-to-Play ... As the Public Disclosure Commission collects final figures on the 2008 election, the cost of Washington's gubernatorial election has soared to a mind-boggling $41 million, when the candidates' spending and "independent" hits are totaled ... Other big spenders: The BIAW shelled out more than $7.2 million, but failed to oust Gregoire. The Realtors Political Action Committee and Realtors' Quality-of-Life PAC spent more than $2.4 million. The Service Employees International Union was tops in labor's ranks at $1,068 million, with the SEIU's Local 925 at $366,795. (blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com)

Newhouse unit blames corrupt Dem-Labor Pay-to-Play on Capitalism ... "Pay to play" cynically recasts politics as a cross between bribery and highway robbery. Such influence peddling is legal as long as it isn't an explicit quid pro quo. But public disclosure can limit excessive or illegal contributions for favors, even as it underscores what an integral part donations play in a capitalist society's political process. (syracuse.com)

Zell: News Union death watch

Disgraced Teamster organizer goes on trial ... The embezzlement case against former Metro police officer and labor union organizer Calvin Hullett is scheduled to begin today in U.S. District Court. Hullett was working as a national organizer for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters when he was arrested on charges he broke into a camp run by the rival Fraternal Order of Police and installed surveillance equipment, purchased with Teamsters funds, in the summer of 2007. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in March on charges of embezzlement from a labor organization, conspiracy to commit embezzlement, identity theft and bribery. Hullett faces a total of up to 30 years in prison if convicted on all counts. (tennessean.com)

AFSCME prison nurses mull strike ... Unionized health care workers at 27 Illinois prisons are mulling whether to go on strike over wages. The 350-plus workers are employed by Wexford Health Sources of Pennsylvania, which recently received a two-year, $210 million extension in its contract to provide health care to inmates within the state's sprawling prison system. The health care workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union say they want a wage increase similar to a 4 percent boost the union recently inked with a different prison health care contractor. (pantagraph.com)

Labor-state forces workers to pay unions ... North Dakota’s 2008 Teacher of the Year is the first known nonunion member to receive the award in the union’s history. But she’s not the only teacher without union membership. About 80 percent of the state’s teachers – more than 7,300 – are members of the North Dakota Education Association. In Minnesota, that figure reaches 99 percent – or 70,000 teachers in all. The discrepancy is, in large part, due to different state laws. Minnesota is not a right-to-work state as North Dakota is – meaning in North Dakota, any teacher or administrator can refuse to join a union. Across the river, state law requires teachers to pay a portion in union fees – called a “fair share fee” – because, Minnesota union officials argue, those teachers still benefit from their representation. (dglobe.com)

Union official guilty of embezzling dues, faces wrist-slap ... A Pevely union officer pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $24,000 from Glass Molders Plastics Local 30, U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway said Monday. According to an October 2008 indictment, between October 2003 and December 2007, Michael St. John, secretary and treasurer of the union, embezzled $24,085 of union funds by writing himself checks drawn on the organization's accounts. St. John, 32, of Festus, pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement by a union officer. He now faces a maximum penalty of five years prison and fines up to $10,000, when he is sentenced March 31. (bizjournals.com)

Progressive, union-backed fraud ... A voter registration recruiter working for the group ACORN has been indicted on two felony counts of voter registration fraud. Deidra Humphrey, 44, of East St. Louis, is expected to appear in U.S. District Court in St. Louis this week after a federal grand jury indicted her on the charges Dec. 31, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. Humphrey is accused of submitting forged and false voter registration cards for the November general election, including forging cards for nursing home residents, U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway said Monday. Humphrey worked for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition, not-for-profit organizations that conducted voter registration drives. (stltoday.com)

International Collectivism

ALBA Rising ... In response to the G20 Summit in Washington D.C. last month, Chávez established an equivalent, the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas) Summit in Caracas, Venezuela on November 26th. This 6-member group consisting of Venezuela (2004), Cuba (2004), Bolivia (2006), Nicaragua (2007), Dominica (2008), and its most recent member Honduras (2008), represents an alternative vision to neoliberal economics, one with a socialist agenda in trade relations attempting to re-embed 'the social' back into economic and political relations in the region. This ad hoc meeting was a response to the discontent expressed by many Latin American nations to the lack of representation from poorer nations in the G20 summit. It was also an attempt to confirm the notion that neoliberalism is at its end, a remark expressed by Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega during the Summit, who called the crisis as the 'funeral of Capitalism', naming ALBA as 'an alternative model of development'. (venezuelanalysis.com)

Chávez abandons U.S. poor, Kennedy ... Citgo, the Venezuelan government's Texas-based oil subsidiary, has suspended shipments of heating oil for poor families in the United States, citing falling oil prices and the world economic crisis, the nonprofit organization that distributes the fuel said Monday. The controversial program gave fuel from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's government to 400,000 households in 23 states through Citizens Energy, a charity organization run by Joseph Kennedy, the eldest son of late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Started in 2005, the program sent 100 gallons of free oil a year to eligible households but drew fire from critics who said it was just a ploy by Chávez to undermine the Bush administration. (bradenton.com)

Latin socialist leader waxes on Mideast ... "It is necessary to denounce the Israeli government as a killer government, a genocidal government and the world should stand up - the United Nations, the governments of the European continent, of the Mideast, of Arabia, the Arab world, the great countries of the world - we should all state and demand - as Venezuelan demands - with our voice and our morality to cease the invasion on the Gaza border and the killing of thousands of innocents," he said. Earlier, Chávez condemned Israel for its air raids, saying, "The US is the only government compliant in the attacks." (presstv.ir)
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