Interview, Democracy Now!, December 22, 2008
AMY GOODMAN: While many environmental groups launched campaigns to oppose the sale of the land [environmentally sensitive federal lands in Utah being sold to oil companies], one student in Salt Lake City attempted to block the sale by disrupting the auction itself. Twenty-seven-year-old Tim DeChristopher posed as a potential bidder and bid hundreds of thousands of dollars on parcels of the land, driving up prices and winning some 22,000 acres for himself, without any intention of paying for them. The Bureau of Land Management must now wait over a month before it can auction off these properties, but by then the bureau will no longer be run by the Bush administration....
TIM DECHRISTOPHER: I started off, actually, at a final exam at the university and went straight from there down to the BLM office. And I saw some protesters walking back and forth outside, and I knew that I wanted to do more than that and that this kind of injustice demanded a higher level of disruption. And so, I just decided that I wanted to go inside and cause a bigger disruption.
And from there, I found it really easy to get inside and become a bidder, and went inside and was in the auction room. And once I was in there, I realized that any kind of speech or disruption or something like that wasn't going to be very effective, but I saw pretty quickly that I could have a pretty major impact on the way this worked. And it just took me a little bit of time to build up the courage to do that, knowing what the consequences would be. And so, I started bidding and started driving up the prices for some of the oil companies. And throughout that time, I knew that I could be doing more and could really set aside some acres to really be protected. And so, then I started winning bids and disrupting it as clearly as I could....
Frank Bass and Rita Beamish, Associated Press, December 22, 2008
"Banks that have their hands out in Washington this year were handing out multimillion-dollar rewards to their executives last year. The 116 banks that so far have received taxpayer dollars to boost them through the economic crisis gave their top tier of executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses and other benefits in 2007, an Associated Press analysis found.
"That amount, spread among the 600 highest paid bank executives, would cover the bailout money given to several banks that have shared in the $188 billion that Washington has doled out in rescue packages so far.
"Some banks trimmed their executive compensation in the face of faltering performance that foreshadowed the current economic crisis, but they still granted multimillion-dollar packages. Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found."
Amit R. Paley, Washington Post, December 15, 2008
"Congress wanted to guarantee that the $700 billion financial bailout would limit the eye-popping pay of Wall Street executives, so lawmakers included a mechanism for reviewing executive compensation and penalizing firms that break the rules. But at the last minute, the Bush administration insisted on a one-sentence change to the provision, congressional aides said. The change stipulated that the penalty would apply only to firms that received bailout funds by selling troubled assets to the government in an auction, which was the way the Treasury Department had said it planned to use the money.
"Now, however, the small change looks more like a giant loophole, according to lawmakers and legal experts. In a reversal, the Bush administration has not used auctions for any of the $335 billion committed so far from the rescue package, nor does it plan to use them in the future. Lawmakers and legal experts say the change has effectively repealed the only enforcement mechanism in the law dealing with lavish pay for top executives. 'The flimsy executive-compensation restrictions in the original bill are now all but gone,' said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), ranking Republican on of the Senate Finance Committee....
"Congressional leaders are also concerned that the Treasury might simply choose not to enforce the rules or be unwilling to impose financial penalties that could further weaken a firm and send the economy deeper into a tailspin."
Michael Tarm, Associated Press, December 10, 2008
"Jubilant workers, cheering and chanting "Yes We Can," celebrated outside a Chicago factory after approving a $1.75 million agreement to end their six-day sit-in, a dispute that became a symbol of the plight of labor nationwide. Republic Windows & Doors, union leaders and Bank of America reached the deal Wednesday night.....
"Each former Republic employee will get eight weeks' salary, all accrued vacation pay and two months' paid health care, said U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who helped broker the deal. He said it works out to about $7,000 apiece."
Don Babwin, Associated Press, December 8, 2008
The nation's grim economy now has a rallying point: Employees at a window-and-door factory that went out of business have taken over the building in a siege that has come to symbolize the woes of the ordinary worker.
The Republic Windows and Doors factory closed abruptly last week after Bank of America canceled the company's financing. Since then, about 200 of the 240 laid-off workers have taken turns occupying the factory, declaring that they will not leave until getting assurances they will receive severance and accrued vacation pay....
Blagojevich on Monday ordered all state agencies to stop doing business with Bank of America to pressure the bank into using federal bailout money it received to help the laid-off workers. "We hope that this kind of leverage and pressure will encourage Bank of America to do the right thing for this business," Blagojevich said outside the plant. "Take some of that federal tax money that they've received and invest it by providing the necessary credit to this company so these workers can keep their jobs."
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said he wanted to ask his fellow senators to remind banks that the bailout wasn't to be used for dividends and executive salaries. "They're for loans and credit to businesses just like Republic," he said.
Sign the Jobs with Justice petition to support the workers occupying the Chicago factory & hold Bank of America accountable.
"How Fumbling the Bailout Led to the Chicago Sit In," by Ian Welsh for Firedoglake, December 8, 2008
Al Kamen, Washington Post, November 25, 2008
"There's increasing talk that former director James Lee Witt, who took over the then-troubled agency at the start of the Clinton administration and left it eight years later with a much-enhanced reputation, is coming back from retirement to run FEMA for six months to a year, to whip it into shape....
"Witt, however, is likely to be grilled about his work on Katrina relief. Witt and Merritt began their work in the days after the hurricane, when Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) hired their disaster recovery firm with an open-ended no-bid contract.
"An NBC News investigation of Louisiana records found that James Lee Witt Associates was paid more than $40 million for its work. Merritt, who had been the firm's top manager in Louisiana, tallied $506,000 in billable hours over the 10-month span from September 2005 through June 2006, NBC News found in its July 2007 report. The firm allegedly billed the state double what it actually paid its subcontractors, the report said. For instance, the firm subcontracted an Indiana company to manage recovery grants. That company's workers were paid $19 to $20 an hour, but the company billed Witt Associates $37.50 an hour, and Witt Associates billed the state $75 an hour, according to the NBC report."
Anthony Fenton, Mother Jones, November 24, 2008
"In the history of the Iraq War, one name is perhaps synonymous with the collapse of the Bush administration's hopes for a post-Saddam world: Retired Lt. General Jay M. Garner. It was Garner who served as the first post-war administrator for Iraq, running the country during the fateful two months immediately following the invasion before being replaced by L. Paul Bremer III.
"However, Garner's frustrating tenure in Iraq wasn't entirely wasted. This year, he and a small group of former US military leaders, officials, and lobbyists have quietly used their deep connections in Kurdistan to help Canadian companies access some of the region's richest oil fields....
"As for Garner, the success of the Vast deal has evidently encouraged him and his associates to pursue more opportunities in Iraq. He and Hite are on the board of Eurocontrol, a company that designs oil theft technology. Eurocontrol's CEO, Bruce Rowlands, says the company is exploring opportunities in Iraq, and that Garner and Hite are helping to facilitate contracts there. Garner and Hite's ability to interpret Iraq's 'political sub-plots' and their understanding of the 'U.S. industrial military complex' is, Rowlands says, 'invaluable.'"
Justin Rood, ABC News, November 24, 2008
"AIG, Citibank and a number of other federally bailed-out financial institutions have no plans to cancel hundreds of millions of dollars in sports team sponsorships, even as they take billions in taxpayer support, ABC News has found....
"Struggling Citibank just sealed a multi-billion-dollar emergency "backstop" deal with the U.S. government. The financial behemoth, suffering with billions in bad mortgage-related assets on its books, recently shed 53,000 workers and saw its stock price lose over half its value. Yet it's in a 20-year contract to pay the New York Mets $400 million to name the team's new stadium 'Citi Field'....
"Citi isn't alone: Imploding insurance giant AIG is paying the British soccer team Manchester United $125 million for the privilege of having its logo appear on Man U's uniforms. That, despite the fact the firm is standing largely thanks to a $150 billion lifeline from the U.S. Treasury."
Amit R. Paley, Washington Post, November 13, 2008
"The Bush administration has committed $290 billion of the $700 billion rescue package. Yet for all this activity, no formal action has been taken to fill the independent oversight posts established by Congress when it approved the bailout to prevent corruption and government waste. Nor has the first monitoring report required by lawmakers been completed, though the initial deadline has passed.
"'It's a mess,' said Eric M. Thorson, the Treasury Department's inspector general, who has been working to oversee the bailout program until the newly created position of special inspector general is filled. 'I don't think anyone understands right now how we're going to do proper oversight of this thing.'"
Amit R. Paley, Washington Post, November 10, 2008
"The financial world was fixated on Capitol Hill as Congress battled over the Bush administration's request for a $700 billion bailout of the banking industry. In the midst of this late-September drama, the Treasury Department issued a five-sentence notice that attracted almost no public attention.
"But corporate tax lawyers quickly realized the enormous implications of the document: Administration officials had just given American banks a windfall of as much as $140 billion.
"The sweeping change to two decades of tax policy escaped the notice of lawmakers for several days, as they remained consumed with the controversial bailout bill. When they found out, some legislators were furious. Some congressional staff members have privately concluded that the notice was illegal. But they have worried that saying so publicly could unravel several recent bank mergers made possible by the change and send the economy into an even deeper tailspin."
Treasury to Review New Tax Break Plan, New York Times, November 19 Schumer Questions IRS Rule Aiding Wells-Wachovia, Reuters, October 30
Obscure Tax Breaks Increase Cost of Financial Rescue, Wall Street Journal, October 18
After Change in Tax Law, Wells Fargo Swoops In, Washington Post, October 4