Which group is slimier...bankers or politicians?
With all due respect to the good bankers out there in CAPS land (nuf2bdangerous comes to mind), I've had it up to here with the criminal ways of our nations banks and bankers. HOWEVER, I'm beginning to think our nations leaders are just as bad, if not worse, than the bankers. Here's another article showing how disgusting this is becoming (link and excerpts):Senator's husband's firm cashes in on crisis
On the day the new Congress convened this year, Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to route $25 billion in taxpayer money to a government agency that had just awarded her husband's real estate firm a lucrative contract to sell foreclosed properties at compensation rates higher than the industry norms.
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 reviewed by The Washington Times show Mrs. Feinstein first offered Oct. 30 to help the FDIC secure money for its effort to stem the rise of home foreclosures. Her letter was sent just days before the agency determined that CB Richard Ellis Group (CBRE) - the commercial real estate firm that her husband Richard Blum heads as board chairman - had won the competitive bidding for a contract to sell foreclosed properties that FDIC had inherited from failed banks.
About the same time of the contract award, Mr. Blum's private investment firm reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it and related affiliates had purchased more than 10 million new shares in CBRE. The shares were purchased for the going price of $3.77; CBRE's stock closed Monday at $5.14...
Senate ethics rules state that members must avoid conflicts of interest as well as "even the appearance of a conflict of interest." Some ethics analysts question whether Mrs. Feinstein ran afoul of the latter provision, creating the appearance that she was rewarding the agency that had just hired her husband's firm...
Mrs. Feinstein and Mr. Blum, a wealthy investment banker, are a power couple in both Washington and California who sat behind President Obama during his inauguration in January. Mrs. Feinstein also is mentioned as a candidate for California governor.
The FDIC contract "highlights the problem of a senator with a spouse who has extensive business interests that intersect frequently with the federal government," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)...
Real estate specialists also question the government's generosity in the CBRE contract.
The firm, known for its commercial real estate services, is to be paid monthly maintenance fees for each foreclosed property it handles, as well as commissions and incentives. The total compensation can range from 8 percent of the sales price on many residential properties to 30 percent for properties worth $25,000 or less...
Most real estate agents earn no more than 6 percent on residential, even on foreclosed properties, and CBRE doesn't have as much experience in foreclosure sales as other firms, the experts said.
"From everything I know about it, it is a very sweet deal and went to somebody who is less than qualified in dealing with foreclosed residential properties. Their expertise is in commercial real estate," said Cynthia Kenner, a Colorado real estate agent who specializes in selling bank-owned residential properties and last year helped sell more than 600 foreclosed properties.
"There are companies that are more experienced in selling such properties than CB Richard Ellis," she added...
As for Mrs. Feinstein, Mr. Duran said she did not learn of the contract until The Times asked her office about it in late January, even though the contract was publicly announced by the company and had been mentioned in an article in the Los Angeles Times in late November. Her spokesman said her office was not aware of the article.
Ethics analysts question whether Mrs. Feinstein had an obligation to track her husband's business dealings with the government to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.
"I find it amazing that they did not know that CB Richard Ellis had gotten the FDIC contract," said Mr. Cooper, the ethics expert and former regulator. "Why wasn't she or a staff person regularly watching for possible conflicts?"
Other experts said they do not think that the Senate Ethics Committee will take any action because Mrs. Feinstein's legislation did not directly financially benefit her husband and was aimed at solving a problem affecting a broad section of America.
Robert L. Walker, a former chief Senate Ethics Committee counsel, said the Senate conflict rule is so narrow that it "almost requires a senator's sponsorship of a private bill resulting in some personal or family benefit before a violation of the rule would be found."
Mr. Walker added that the Senate usually relies on the senator to police against improper appearances, but the policy "assumes that a senator and his or her staff will know about and remain alert to investments and other financial ties, including family financial ties, that could be the basis of such appearance concerns."
Mr. Duran said Mrs. Feinstein and Mr. Blum make "an intensive effort" to maintain a wall between their financial interests.
"Her staff carefully reviews all votes," he said. "Senator Feinstein complies with all required congressional disclosure requirements. She follows the guidance of the ethics committee and its requirements."
Mrs. Feinstein, who declined to answer detailed question about the steps she takes to avoid conflicts, is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, mainly from Mr. Blum's holdings. Together, they are worth at least $52.3 million, according to her 2007 personal financial disclosure forms filed with the Senate and analyzed by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors money and politics.
"When a spouse has so many business interests, it will always raise questions about how contracts are acquired or decisions made," said Ms. Sloan, CREW's executive director.
You'll have to excuse me, I need to go take a shower now!