The skeleton in Obama’s money closet
|By Judi McLeod (Bio and Archives) Thursday, July 24, 2008 |
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“…This crowded docket, combined with the UBS mea culpa, almost distracted us from the sordid details of the Levin Committee’s actual findings,” investigative journalist James S. Henry, wrote in The Nation on Tuesday.
It’s not as if Wolf is just another number in the contribution side of the ledger paying for Obama’s race to the White House.
Among the groupies pushing Obama’s rock star-status, Wolf stands at the front of the line.
“Within ten days, Obama had announced his intention to run and Clinton was officially in. A story in the Times reported that Obama had nailed two A-list New York donors: Soros and Wolf. But though Soros’s backing was a symbolic coup, it’s Wolf who has emerged as Obama’s most copious cash collector in the city so far—hosting two high-dollar cocktail parties, making countless calls, harvesting more than $500,000.
“As Wolf tells me about the soirees he’s hosted, he reaches into a meticulously organized scrapbook, takes out a photograph of him and Obama grinning madly, and tells me that I can keep it. “The way Barack has taken this nation with his rock-star status,” he says, “it’s very exciting!”
But Obama’s biggest New York groupie was nowhere around in last Thursday’s standing-room only hearing on tax haven banks and tax compliance held by the US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Michigan Senator Carl Levin.
Wolf’s financial institution’s parent company UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank and the world’s largest private wealth manager, with $1.9 trillion in client assets and nearly 84,000 employees in fifty countries, including 32,000 in the United States, was one of two exposed in the results of the Congressional Committee’s six-month investigation.
It was not UBS’s most honorable corporate moment.
“The Statement of Facts in the Birkenfeld criminal case describes additional actions taken by UBS bankers to help U.S. clients manage their Swiss accounts without alerting U.S. authorities. It states, for example, that UBS bankers advised U.S. clients to withdraw funds from their accounts using Swiss credit cards that “could not be discovered by the United States authorities”, to “destroy all off-shore banking records existing in the United States”; and to “misrepresent the receipt of funds from the Swiss bank account in the United States as loans from the Swiss Bank.”440. The Statement of facts also discloses that, on one occasion, “at the request of a U.S. client, defendant Birkenfeld purchased diamonds using that U.S. client’s Swiss bank account funds and smuggled the diamonds into the United States in a toothpaste tube,” presumably so that the U.S. client could obtain possession of his Swiss assets without alerting U.S. authorities.441. It also states that Mr. Birkenfeld and his business associate Mario Staggl “accepted bundles of checks from U.S. clients and facilitated the deposit of those checks into accounts at the Swiss bank” and elsewhere, presumably to assist the clients in making transfers to their Swiss accounts, again without alerting U.S. authorities.442.
But wait a minute, didn’t Obama tell AP last April, “We’re proud of the fact that we were able to do this (collecting just $1 million less than rival Hillary Rodham Clinton’s record haul) without any money from federal lobbyists or PACs”?
And does find it mind boggling that Obama was one of three congressional sponsors of the new “bundling disclosure” provision in the Disclosure of Contributions “Bundled” by Lobbyists as a key provision in new Lobbying Disclosure Law to be interpreted and implemented by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC)?
The bundling disclosure provision originated in the Senate as an amendment successfully offered by Senators Barack Obama and Russell Feingold (D-W) to the lobby and ethics reform bill that passed in January 2007. Senator Feingold described the bundling disclosure provision as “one of the most important provisions” in the lobbying and ethics reform legislation.
“In their Senate floor colloquy, Senators Feingold and Obama made clear that the bundling provision applies to fundraising events:
“Mr. Feingold: With respect specifically to fundraisers hosted or co hosted by lobbyists, my view is that virtually all such events would be covered by this provision. Is that how the senator from Illinois sees it as well?
Mr. Obama: “Yes, I agree with that view. At many fundraisers, the host of the event collects the checks and gives them to a representative of the campaign. So that would be covered because the contributions have been “forwarded” to the campaign. But at some events, a representative of the campaign, or even the candidate, physically receives the checks directly from contributions as they arrive or leave, and of course, some checks may, be sent in afterward. In that case, the campaign knows the total amount raised, and knows the lobbyist who hosted the fundraiser is responsible for those contributions. Even if no formal records are kept about the money raised at the event, although most campaigns do keep such records, the campaign has credited the lobbyist with that fundraising and it must be reported, as long as the threshold amount is met.” (www.democracy21.org).
In his floor statement, Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) urged the FEC in its regulations, “to maximize the disclosure of contributions that have been bundled by lobbyists. This will bring much needed sunlight to the intersection of bundling and public policy, and hopefully, will serve as a `disinfectant’ to clean up any undue influence brought to bear by the use of third party contributions by lobbyists.” (Cong. Rec. at H9209.)
From Attack of the Global Pirate Bankers, ˆ”In 2001, UBS had signed a formal “qualified intermediary” agreement with the US Treasury. Under this program, it agreed either to withhold taxes against American clients who had Swiss accounts and owned US stocks, or disclose their identities. However, when UBS’s American clients refused to go along with these arrangements, the bank just caved in and lied to the U.S. government. Eventually, it concealed 19,000 such clients, partly by helping to form hundreds of offshore companies. This cost the US Treasury an estimated $200 million per hear in lost taxes.”
Of the high fliers in the “utterly unprincipled global private banking industry”, Henry concludes: “They wield enormous political influence even without paying taxes, merely by making contributions, threatening to withhold them—or better yet, threatening to abscond with their capital unless certain conditions are met. In a sense, this is the ultimate libertarian pipe dream: representation without taxation. But it is a nightmare for the rest of us, and we must design and organize our way around it.”
Meanwhile, the calendar tells us it’s now less than four months to November elections.
The mainstream media owes it to the American public to let in Rep. Van Hollen’s yet to materialize sunshine and disinfectant when it comes to Barak Hussein Obama and his groupie friends.