April 22, 2014

Book review - Extortion by Peter Schweizer

April 22, 2014. After 25 years of grassroots activism on behalf of regular old Americans, it’s not often that your author has his mind blown by new revelations. But Peter Schweizer’s new book ‘Extortion’ does just that. It reveals Washington and Wall Street corruption in a whole new light. While most people look at corporations as the predatory beasts they are, the reality is that they’re also the victims of predators even more ruthless - your Congressmen.

Extortion, by Peter Schweizer.

The world of power and money, located at the intersection of Washington and New York, can be described as a human food chain. We the People are the seemingly mindless school of minnows, aimlessly following the leader into the mouths of a large mouth bass, or US corporations in this analogy. But like America’s oceans and lakes, the carnage doesn’t stop there. Great white sharks are out there gobbling them all up. And those great whites go by the titles of US Senator, US Representative, Attorney General, and even US President.



EXTORTION, by Peter Schweizer

The above analogy sums up Peter Schweizer’s new book Extortion. Americans are reminded every day that they are victimized by nameless, faceless corporations. Those Wall Street titans contribute billions to America’s elected officials. And in return, those officials allow companies to write their own legislation, legalizing a host of seemingly unethical practices. It would appear that our Congressmen and women are at the mercy of these wealthy corporations and their money. But according to Peter Schweizer, the reality is the exact opposite. Corporations aren’t bribing Congress. Congress is extorting payments from America’s businesses.

‘While we have focused on the power that contributors have over officials, we have largely ignored the power that officials have over contributors,’ Schweizer writes in the opening paragraphs of Extortion, ‘We have focused on the buyers of influence (those outside special interests), but paid little heed to the sellers of influence - bureaucrats and politicians. In short, we have come to believe the problem in Washington is a sort of legalized bribery. If outside interests can only be held at bay, we can and will get better leadership. But what if we are wrong? What if the problem is not bribery, but extortion?’

Exposing how rampant the seemingly criminal behavior is, one person can’t even be credited with first calling it ‘extortion’. Because that’s pretty much the one word that is used by everyone who’s participated in the practice, on both sides. Former Senator Russ Feingold became one of them when he remarked, “It’s not like businesses and business leaders call up politicians and beg them, could I please give you some money? It goes the other way, which is that people are called constantly by politicians when you have a system like this, or their representatives, or their allegedly independent agents. And it’s more like extortion than it’s like bribery.”

Giving examples

In his book Extortion, author Peter Schweizer gives countless examples of corporate and Congressional bribery, or extortion, depending on how one views it. One of those examples was AT&T. In 2005, when the company was having regulatory problems with its subsidiary Cingular Wireless, AT&T hired a new lobbyist, one sporting a goatee, pierced tongue, and with no experience other than owning a small record store in Illinois. His name was Joshua Hastert, son of then House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois.

As recently as 2011, the book describes how AT&T played the game once again. To lobby over the Wireless Tax Fairness Act being debated in Congress, the telecom giant hired William Clyburn Jr, the cousin of Democratic Whip, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina. But additional details show that it may not have been AT&T seeking to bribe Congressman Clyburn by paying his cousin $10,000 per month to ‘monitor’ the Bill.



William Clyburn, it turns out, has other clients besides AT&T. He also represents the US Telecom Association, which separately paid him $60,000. That’s an awful lot of money to use to influence one legislator on one piece of legislation. But as Schweizer reveals, Rep. Clyburn also has his daughter Mignon strategically placed as a sitting member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the same government body that regulates both AT&T and the member companies of the USTA.

Another example Peter Schweizer cites is that of the late Congressman Bill Young. First elected in 1971 and serving until his death last year, the Florida Republican was the Chairman of the powerful House Subcommittee on Defense. Nearly every defense spending Bill went through his hands. When he announced in 2012 that his Committee was putting together a priorities list for future military spending, his fundraisers simultaneously reached out to defense contractors and their lobbyists.

‘On March 30, Young collected thirty-seven checks totaling over $30,000, mostly from defense contractors, employees of defense contractors, and lobbyists who worked for defense contractors,’ Peter Schweizer writes, ‘During the two weeks preceding that date, he had already collected another fifty-two checks totaling over $58,000 from a similar group.’ The author points out that Young collected more than twice as much during those three months than he did during the remaining nine months of the year combined.

Every American is a criminal

The American media rarely reports it, but the United States puts a higher percentage of its citizens in prison than any other country on Earth. Why? Are Americans more inherently evil than any other nationality? Some might say yes, but the roots lie in the fact that every American commits crimes every single day, usually without even realizing it. And that’s no accident. People don’t complain about corrupt politicians or criminal cops when they could go to jail themselves at any moment.

The book Extortion quotes Professor Alan Dershowitz when he estimates that, ‘today the average professional commits three felonies a day without realizing it, thanks to the complex layers of regulation and legal requirements that have been built up over time.’ That’s an interesting revelation to this author, who can recall progressive Democrats insisting that it’s against the law to be poor, at the same time conservative Republicans complain that it’s against the law to run a successful business. It would probably be too much of an editorial for this author to suggest that they’re both right.

It’s at this point where the book Extortion quotes Ray Plank, founder and longtime CEO of Apache Corporation, a large oil and gas company. Speaking of the way he’s been approached by Congressional fundraisers, he says, “They basically come to you and say, ‘We are going to shove this bat up your *ss and give you an enema. You better play ball.’ We saw a great deal of it. It’s an insidious blight.”

Obama and the Holder Justice Dept

It isn’t only Congressmen that are extorting money from American businesses. According to Peter Schweizer, the tactic is practiced by none other than President Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder. Schweizer writes, ‘When President Obama established his Justice Department staff after the 2008 election, something unprecedented happened. For the first time, at least half a dozen senior positions were occupied by individuals who had been campaign bundlers (fund raisers) for a presidential candidate, including not only Attorney General Eric Holder but also senior officials who dealt with criminal and civil prosecutions.’



Those senior Justice Department appointees include, according to Schweizer’s book Extortion, ‘Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, Deputy Associate Attorney General Karol Mason, and Associate Attorney General Tony West.’ As the author reiterates, these are the same new law enforcement officials that will be tasked with policing the same corporations they just took large payments from.

The book goes on to quote John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil. He recalled, “If you are invited, you are expected to be there. There is an implicit aspect of the request that makes that clear. And when you get there, you better show up with a check.” Hofmeister went on to give explicit details of how the shakedown takes place.

“You are standing in the room and there is a glass bowl in the center,” Hofmeister describes, “You are supposed to place your check in that bowl. Someone who works for the politician is watching from the corner to make sure everyone puts their check in the bowl. It’s public. If you don’t, they are going to come and ask you why. That is the expectation.”

Scamming the system

Schweizer’s book Extortion doesn’t only look at how America’s politicians collect all those campaign contributions, it also looks at what those seemingly criminal politicians do with that money once they get their hands on it. In many instances, they scam the system and embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars into their own personal bank accounts. And apparently, it’s perfectly legal.

One of many examples is Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA). In 1998, she loaned her election campaign $150,000. After she won, instead of paying herself back from the flood of new campaign contributions, she left the debt on her campaign’s books, at 18% interest. That meant that she created a five-figure yearly check from her campaign fund, which she’s legally not allowed to spend on personal use, directly to her personal use. During her first decade in office, that nifty scam transferred $200,000 in interest payments from her campaign fund to her personal account. During 2008 and 2010, the book reports, she pocketed another $94,245 in interest from her campaign fund.

The author gives other examples showing that Napolitano is certainly not alone in using this scam. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) used the tactic to pocket $31,000 in interest in 2008 and 2010. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) is another official that used the trick. He collected $29,000 in interest from his own campaign in 2010, and that was after he told the FEC he wasn’t charging his campaign any interest at all, until someone let him in on the secret.



Making family members rich

Another widespread trick elected officials use to embezzle campaign funds meant only for campaigning is to hire family members to do unspecified, unimportant jobs, often titled ‘adviser’ or ‘consultant’. Author Peter Schweizer says, ‘During the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, 82 members of Congress had their family members on the campaign payroll or hired them as consultants.’

Among the examples cited are Rep. Alcee Hastings who paid his girlfriend $622,747. Rep. Jerry Lewis paid his wife $512,293. Rep. Maxine Waters paid her daughter and grandson $495,650. The author even mentions the libertarian former Rep. Ron Paul. Schweizer says Paul had six different relatives on his campaign payroll.

Making the scam even more obvious, the author points out, is when the elected officials pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to work on the re-election campaign, when they are running unopposed. Among the Congressmen and women cited by name for this tactic are Rodney Alexander, Bobby Rush, Buck McKeon, Collin Peterson, Ralph Hall, Joe Barton, and Sue Myrick.

All in all, the book Extortion by Peter Schweizer is a wonderful compilation. We don’t review books often here at Whiteout Press. But when we do, it’s because we really believe our readers and subscribers would love the book. Not only did it surprise us with some of the unbelievably legal revelations, but it’s one of those books that names the names and gives the dates and dollar amounts. Pick up a copy for yourself.

 

 

Order your own copy of EXTORTION by Peter Schweizer.


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