Posts from the ‘Teachers’ Category

An Open Letter to Newt Gingrich From the Pastors of Poor Children


Mr. Gingrich,

For this you still owe our children an apology:

“Some of the things they could do is work in a library, work in the front office, some of them frankly could be janitorial; what if they clean up the bathrooms, what if they mopped the floors, what if in the summer they repainted the school; what if in the process they were actually learning to work, learning to earn money; if they had their own money, they didn’t have to become a pimp or a prostitute or a drug dealer. [If] they had the dignity of work and learned how to be around adults who actually wanted to mentor them and help them. This is not a casual comment… It grows out of a lot of thinking over many years of trying to figure out how do we break out people trapped in poverty who have no work habits.” — Gingrich

We, the students and faculty of the Delaware Annual Conference Ministerial Institute of the AME Church, representing over 34 congregations and their constituents throughout Delaware and southern Pennsylvania are outraged at your continued demeaning of poor children and their families.

As a candidate vying for the Republican Presidential nomination, to suggest that poor children collectively lack a work ethic and drive for legal and productive work is entirely classist. Your national platform is no place for such irresponsible remarks. Our children deserve better than your degrading rhetoric.

In fact, they deserve an apology, and we — their pastors and advocates — demand one.

Mr. Gingrich, what your remarks have demonstrated is a failure to acknowledge the resilience of many who work daily and yet are unable to escape poverty. For many, low wages, a poor economy, and sparse full time employment opportunities have landed many families into the category of what the U.S. Department of Labor & Labor Statistics call the working poor. Contrary to what your remarks propagate, a significant number of children in households below the American poverty line (and those one paycheck away from it) are in homes with working family members; many of them are in our congregations weekly and are active citizens.

Mr. Gingrich, not only did you get the “cause” of poverty wrong, but your “solution” is just as unsubstantiated and offensive. Mandating that poor children become the janitors of their own failing public schools to better their work ethic is not a well thought out, viable, or realistic solution. Such a proposal is not only insulting, it is ridiculous.

Where would the currently employed janitors work (obviously this is a back handed assault on union employees)? If poor children are to benefit from extracurricular employment, why not at least provide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) opportunities to increase their competitiveness in the global marketplace? Why not invest in education reform instead of cutting back early education/head start programs? Why not put forth solutions to the unemployment crisis in our nation, so that those who have the dignity, but not the work, can have an opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their children?

But, no — instead you fan the flames of prejudice to get votes. With a move right out of Lee Atwater’s Southern Strategy play book (i.e., “Welfare Mothers” = Lazy Blacks), you have managed to stir the xenophobia and racist fears of your far right republican base with the statement:

“I’ve been talking about the importance of work, particularly as it relates to people who are in areas where there is public housing, et cetera, where there are relatively few people that go to work.” (Emphasis added)

Mr. Gingrich, the poverty of many poor minority children is the byproduct of systemic injustices that bar them from participation in the American Dream because of their racial and social location — not laziness.

We understand that you are of the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” camp, but the last time we checked Mr. Gingrich, it is impossible to pull yourself up by your own boot straps, and even more difficult when you have no boots to begin with.

Consequently, as pastors and leaders of the poor and their children, we are called to champion those without the boots of opportunity, fair play, and justice. For us not to mandate an apology for such biased, erroneous and offensive remarks would be as irresponsible as the remarks themselves. Today, Mr. Gingrich, we extend to you the opportunity to recant your “war on poor children” rhetoric and the opportunity to apologize to our children for speaking such falsehoods over their lives.

Awaiting your response,


Delaware Annual Conference Ministerial Institute

The Rev. Dr. Janet J. Sturdivant, Dean of Ministerial Institute
The Rev. Silvester S. Beaman, Chairman of Board of Examiners
Sis. Joi Orr, M.Div, Organizer & Institute Student

 
 

Follow Joi Ruth Orr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joi_orr

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How The Republicans On The FEC Are Making Citizens United Even Worse



Three Republican appointees to the Federal Election Commission may be as responsible as anyone for the lack of transparency of post-Citizens United political spending.

Two years ago today, when the Supreme Court issued its Citizens United
ruling, one bright spot was that the majority explicitly endorsed the constitutionality and necessity of disclosure rules that inform voters who paid for the political ads they see. “Disclosure is the less-restrictive alternative to more comprehensive speech regulations,” they affirmed.

Federal statutes require that for all significant “independent expenditures” and “electioneering communications” — the two major classifications for political expenditures made by outside groups unaffiliated with political candidates — the names and addresses of large donors must be identified.

But the FEC, through its rulemaking process, gave these groups a loophole. They said that the identities of donors behind the outside spending must be identified, but only if the money was specifically earmarked for the political expenditure. This means that a secretive right-wing group like the Karl Rove-linked Crossroads GPS need only identify the funders who pay for their attack ads if those donors explicitly say the money should be used for attack ads. Few do.

In April, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) asked the FEC to close the loophole for “independent expenditures” and filed a lawsuit challenging the loophole for “electioneering communications.”

Last month the six FEC commissioners killed — on a 3-3 vote — a motion to begin consideration of Van Hollen’s suggestions. By law, the agency may have only three members of any political party. By tradition, the president chooses three commissioners and the other party’s Senate leader chooses three. The three Republican appointees — Commissioners Caroline Hunter, Donald McGahn II and Matthew Petersen — were the three “no” votes. The same trio also made headlines last month when they took the view that even coordination between Super PACs and candidates might not qualify as coordination between Super PACs and candidates.

The lawsuit is still pending.

Because of these loopholes, virtually none of the funders behind the Super PAC attack ads in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will be disclosed until well after the voters there have cast their ballots. And the funders behind 501(c)(4) attack ads may never be known.

So while it was the Supreme Court’s majority that opened the floodgates for corporate money in our elections, it is the deadlocked FEC that is keeping voters from even knowing where that money comes from.

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Food For Democracy


On January 31, family farmers will take part in the first phase of a court case filed to protect farmers from genetic trespass by Monsanto’s GMO seed, which contaminates organic and non-GMO farmer’s crops and opens them up to abusive lawsuits. In the past two decades, Monsanto’s seed monopoly has grown so powerful that they control the genetics of nearly 90% of five major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets.

In many cases farmers are forced to stop growing certain organic and conventional crops to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto admits to filing 144 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. Due to these aggressive lawsuits, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.

Farmers need your voice today. Please spread the word.


Obama to offer economic blueprint in State of the Union


WASHINGTON — Vilified by the Republicans who want his job, President Barack Obama will stand before the nation Tuesday night determined to frame the election-year debate on his terms, promising his State of the Union address will offer an economic blueprint that will “work for everyone, not just a wealthy few.”

In a video released Saturday to millions of campaign supporters, Obama said he will concentrate on four areas designed to restore economic security for the long term: manufacturing, energy, education, job training and a “return to American values.” The release came the same day as the South Carolina primary, where four candidates competed in the latest contest to determine Obama’s general election rival.

The prime-time speech will be not just a traditional pitch about the year ahead. It will be perhaps Obama’s biggest stage to make a sweeping case for a second term.

“We can go in two directions,” the president said in the video. “One is toward less opportunity and less fairness. Or we can fight for where I think we need to go: building an economy that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few.”

That line of argument about income equality is emerging as a defining theme of the presidential race, as Republicans are in their own fierce battle to pick a nominee to challenge Obama in the fall.

By notifying the millions of supporters on his email list, Obama gave advance notice to his Democratic base and trying to generate an even larger audience for Tuesday’s address.

Obama’s preview did not mention national security. He is not expected to announce new policy on that front in a speech dominated by the economy — the top concern of voters.

Obama is expected to offer new proposals to make college more affordable and to ease the housing crisis still slowing the economy, according to people familiar with the speech. He will also promote unfinished parts of his jobs plan, including the extension of a payroll tax cut soon to expire.

His policy proposals will be less important than what he hopes they all add up to: a narrative of renewed American security. Obama will try to politically position himself as the one leading that fight for the middle class, with an overt call for help from Congress, and an implicit request for a second term from the public.

The timing comes as the nation is split about Obama’s overall job performance. More people than not disapprove of his handling of the economy, he is showing real vulnerability among the independent voters who could swing the election, and most Americans think the country is on the wrong track.

So his mission will be to show leadership and ideas on topics that matter to people: jobs, housing, college, retirement security.

Vision for re-election
The foundation of Obama’s speech is the one he gave in Kansas last month, when he declared that the middle class was a make-or-break moment and railed against “you’re on your own” economics of the Republican Party. His theme then was about a government that ensures people get a fair shot to succeed.

That speech spelled out the values of Obama’s election-year agenda. The State of the Union will be the details.

The White House sees the speech as a clear chance to outline a vision for re-election, yet carefully, without turning a national tradition into an overt campaign event.

On national security, Obama will ask the nation to reflect with him on a momentous year of change, including the end of the war in Iraq, the killing of al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and the Arab Spring protests of peoples clamoring for freedom.

But it will all be secondary to jobs at home.

In a winter season of politics dominated by his Republican competition, Obama will have a grand stage to himself, in a window between Republican primaries. He will try to use the moment to refocus the debate as he sees it: where the country has come, and where he wants to take it.

In doing so, Obama will come before a divided Congress with a burst of hope because the economy — by far the most important issue to voters — is showing life.

The unemployment rate is still at a troubling 8.5 percent, but at its lowest rate in nearly three years. Consumer confidence is up. Obama will use that as a springboard.

The president will try to draw a contrast of economic visions with Republicans, both his antagonists in Congress and the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.

Despite low expectations for legislation this year, Obama will offer short-term ideas that would require action from Congress.

His travel schedule following his speech, to politically important regions, offers clues to the policies he was expected to unveil.

Both Phoenix and Las Vegas have been hard hit by foreclosures. Denver is where Obama outlined ways of helping college students deal with mounting school loan debt. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Detroit are home to a number of manufacturers. And Michigan was a major beneficiary of the president’s decision to provide billions in federal loans to rescue General Motors and Chrysler in 2009.

For now, the main looming to-do item is an extension of a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, both due to expire by March. An Obama spokesman called that the “last must-do item of business” on Obama’s congressional agenda, but the White House insists the president will make the case for more this year.

If anything, Republicans say Obama has made the chances of cooperation even dimmer just over the last several days. He enraged Republicans by installing a consumer watchdog chief by going around the Senate, which had blocked him, and then rejected a major oil pipeline project the GOP has embraced.

Obama is likely, once again, to offer ways in which a broken Washington must work together. Yet that theme seems but a dream given the gridlock he has been unable to change.

The State of the Union atmosphere offered a bit of comity last year, following the assassination attempt against Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. And yet 2011 was a year of utter dysfunction in Washington, with the partisanship getting so bad that the government nearly defaulted as the world watched in embarrassment.

The address remains an old-fashioned moment of national attention; 43 million people watched it on TV last year. The White House website will offer a live stream of the speech, promising graphics and other bonuses for people who watch it there, plus a panel of administration officials afterward with questions coming in through Twitter and Facebook.

© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore related topics: obama, state-of-the-union, sotu

Obama to offer economic blueprint in State of the Union

Join The Protest Of Monsantos By The Organic Consumer Association On January 24, 2012


It is inevitable that one day Monsanto will be held responsible for the enormous human health and environmental damages arising from the so-called “responsible” use of its toxic pesticides, chemicals, and mutant genetically engineered seeds. If the Biotech Bully of St. Louis were to be held liable for its 100-year legacy of corporate criminality – carcinogenic chemical food sweeteners, Agent Orange, dioxin, Bovine Growth Hormone, poisonous herbicides, seed monopolization, and genetically engineered crops, the company’s shareholders would no doubt see the value of their Monsanto stocks plummet to zero.

Following up on two protests at Monsanto’s headquarters in 2011, OCA returns to St. Louis for the 2012 Monsanto shareholders’ meeting on January 24!

Please join OCA, Pesticide Action Network, and Harrington Investments (a socially responsible investor’s group) in St. Louis to support a shareholder resolution to examine the financial risks associated with genetically engineered crops. While an OCA representative is speaking inside the shareholders meeting, another group of us will be outside, peacefully picketing.

Come to St. Louis to Make Monsanto Pay! Contact Mike Durschmid (mikedvegan AT gmail.com) to join in, or RSVP on Facebook and share with your friends.

And this just in: Activists in Maui, Hawaii, in solidarity with our St. Louis action, will be peacefully protesting outside Monsanto’s Hawaii HQ location on 3555 Mokulele Hwy on the same day. For more information or to RSVP, visit the Facebook event here.

Learn more

  

  

  

The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act

We are on the road to victory in California with coalition members, strategic allies, and key donors increasing their support all the time. We now have over 50 environmental, alternative health, and sustainable food organizations and businesses advocating for our cause. But, most importantly, we have over 1,500 dedicated CA volunteers trained and ready to hit the streets when signature gathering begins in February. You can go here to volunteer by gathering petition signatures in California.

This November 2012 California Ballot Initiative, which will require foods sold in California retail outlets to be labeled as such, may be the most important GMO battle of all time. A win in California will mean radical changes to food labels everywhere. Producers will either have to change the way they market Frankenfoods or else stop using GMOs altogether. We think we can reverse the biotech strangle-hold on our food system in our lifetimes.

You don’t have to live in California to donate to this historic ballot initiative.

Consumers everywhere have a right to know what’s in the food we buy and eat and feed our children, just as we have the right to know how many calories are in the food we buy, or whether food comes from other countries like Mexico or China. In the past, we’ve successfully fought for labels telling us the country of origin of products, as well as whether foods have been irradiated. Now it’s time to stand up for our right to know which foods are laced with GMOs.

Efforts to enact labeling laws in Congress and in other state legislatures have been blocked by big food and chemical company lobbyists. The California Ballot Initiative will take the issue directly to the people. For more information about the initiative visit California Right To Know and the Organic Consumers Fund.

  

  

  

Support the OCA and the OCF

The nationwide food fight for safe food, consumer freedom of choice, and sustainability is escalating.

In 2012, whether we’re talking about getting antibiotics out of animal feed, labeling GMOs, or passing a climate and organic-friendly Farm Bill, OCA is fighting harder than ever. With the 2012 California ballot initiative, and GMO labeling legislation gaining momentum in Vermont, Washington, Connecticut and other states, we have a real chance to hit Monsanto with the skull and crossbones they fear so much – mandatory labels on genetically engineered food. We also plan to step up our efforts to strengthen organic standards and significantly expand the market for organic food and products, especially those produced locally and regionally.

Please be as generous as you can during our January and February fundraising drive.

Donate to the Organic Consumers Association
(tax-deductible)

Donate to the Organic Consumers Fund
(non-tax-deductible, but necessary for our efforts in California)

  

  

  

Millions Against Monsanto Campaign Update

Sunday, October 16, 2011 was the biggest day of action for mandatory labels on genetically engineered food in U.S. history. Several hundred Millions Against Monsanto World Food Day events took place around the country.

In September 2012, building on the success of World Food Day 2011, OCA member activists are going to take even bigger action! This year, we are planning a nationwide Week of Action on September 17 – 20th to demonstrate against the Monsanto-sponsored 12th International Symposium on Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms also in St Louis, MO. We want to organize actions at the hundreds of Monsanto locations in the US and around the world in concert with a large demonstration in St. Louis.

OCA members have been diligently collecting signatures for our Truth-in-Labeling petition across the country for months now. New petitions are coming in almost daily and being added to our online system, but we need even more volunteers to help us gather signatures through 2012. In addition to the action in St. Louis, activists in each state will also hand deliver all of the petitions we’ve gathered to their state legislators, demanding mandatory labels for genetically engineered food and demonstrating that we truly are the Millions Against Monsanto.

What can you do to help this historic campaign? Download a PDF version of our petition. Take this petition to your workplace, your local co-op, house parties, farmers’ markets and wherever you can find people who demand the right to know what’s in our food.

More info on the September 2012 Week of Action will be forthcoming. Stay tuned for more details.

  

  

  

Baby Food Update

Many of you took action on our alert “Tell Organic Baby Food Brands to Stop Using GMOs!” and received a misleading letter from Happy Bellies in response, denying that HAPPYBELLIES’ baby cereals contain GMOs and claiming that the DHA they use has been approved by the National Organic Standards Board.

While the NOSB did approve a generic form of DHA, this is not the DHA used in HAPPYBELLIES’ baby foods. This leaves HAPPYBELLIES in conflict with the national organic standards. We have been assured that this issue is under investigation by the National Organic Program, but we must keep the pressure on!

Click here to learn why OCA believes HAPPYBELLIES’ DHA is GMO

  

  

  

Little Bytes: Top Stories of the Week

Occupy Wall Street: Why Now? What’s Next?

Scientists Link Mass Death of British Bees to Farm Pesticides

Why the FDA Won’t Act Against Agricultural Antibiotic Use

Dental Patients Beware: FDA Lets Dental Mercury Amalgam Action Deadline Pass Unmet

Dr. Don Huber: Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Herbicide is More Toxic than DDT

  

  

  

Sponsored Message

CONSERVacations

Special rates for OCA members on a green Costa Rica vacation March 17-24: 8 days and 7 nights for $999.00!

Beatrice Blake, guidebook author and community ecotourism expert, has designed a special itinerary for OCA members that visits sustainable coffee farms near Palmichal de Acosta and organic farms in Altamira at the entrance to La Amistad International Park. These community-owned farms are members of ACTUAR, the Costa Rican Rural Tourism Association, which just won the Responsible Tourism Award at the Educational Travel Conference.

Between village and farm experiences, you’ll hike in the cloud forest to see the Resplendent Quetzal. You’ll end the trip with a couple of days relaxing and exploring the beaches near Villas Gaia on the Pacific Coast.

You will be accompanied by an experienced bilingual naturalist, who can help you exchange ideas with the people you visit and see birds and wildlife that you wouldn’t see on your own. Write beatrice AT keytocostarica.com to sign up.

Is Reversing Citizens United or Corporate Personhood Enough?


Which president told Congress: “I recommend a law prohibiting all corporations from contributing to the campaign expenses of any party…let individuals contribute as they desire; but let us prohibit in effective fashion all corporations from making contributions for any political purpose, directly or indirectly?”

If you recognize this Presidential quote, it probably means you’re a history buff (or you watch too much Jeopardy). The correct answer: Who was Theodore Roosevelt?

While the speech has become a notable quotable, it’s often forgotten that it followed public outrage surrounding Roosevelt’s acceptance of huge corporate contributions that locked-in his election in 1904.  This popular clamor for accountability (the Progressive Era; maybe they were the Occupiers of their times) was enough to move Teddy and Congress to pass the first ever Federal legislation prohibiting corporations from making monetary contributions to national political campaigns, called the Tillman Act.

Now for extra points: What happened to the Tillman Act?

Like so many other attempts over the last 100+ years to restrict, reform, reign in, eliminate and otherwise account for Big Money in politics, the Tillman Act didn’t even need to be overturned for the corporate elite to get around it. It was simply whittled away. How is this done?  In the same way Congress later banned unions from making political contributions in the 1940’s, only to see Big Labor skirt the restrictions by forming the first-ever PAC, and collecting campaign donations (sometimes coercively) outside of regular worker’s dues.

OK, now for a Civics question: What is the source of power for the corporate elite?

Throughout our history as a nation, the wealthy elite have always held power, and its not an accident, or the result of a few bad decisions, or even corruption (though those all exist), its far more structural and insidious than that.  TheConstitution itself provided—from the beginning—for a government by and for the 1%. The Founding Fathers truly believed that the best form of government was one in which wealth made the rules. At the time the Constitution was being debated, the majority of people were against it, despite how our folklore has remembered it.

Turns out the 99% of yesteryear were quite prescient indeed.

Fast-forward to the present day, the ways money has seeped through the cracks of our political system and pooled into the pockets of our elected officials has only grown despite generations upon generations of ever-ongoing reform efforts.

* Dozens of Acts of Congress have been passed attempting to address corruption in government and our elections yet for every reform our system has enabled bigger, better ways for wealth to hold the reigns.

* Lobbyists. They walk right into lawmaking areas and help write bills and buy votes. They present politicians with corporate-friendly Bills already drafted. They are well paid to successfully influence, chop and change legislation, and work deals with our elected officials and even with Supreme Court Justices. Under our Constitution this is protected as free speech and despite the numerous laws to regulate lobbyists, the practice is only on the rise.

*  Constitutional laws.  Many states—not only Montana— wrote their Constitutions to include the subordination of corporations to the will of the people, and banned corporate political expenditures in state elections.  Over the years, most of those Constitutional provisions have been amended to pave the way for more corporate-friendly laws.(Montana, of course still has this language in their Consitution, and has used it to challenge Citizen’s United)

Bill Moyers, David Stockman On Crony Captialism



Home » Blogs » Diane Sweet’s blog

January 20, 2012 09:39 PM

Bill Moyers, David Stockman on Crony Capitalism

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By Diane Sweet

Moyers & Company Show 102: On Crony Capitalism from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

Bill Moyers and former White House budget director David Stockman on the all-too-cozy relationship between Washington and Wall Street.

This weekend, continuing its sharp multi-episode focus on the intersection of money and politics, Moyers & Company explores the tight connection between Wall Street and the White House with David Stockman – yes, that David Stockman — former budget director for President Reagan.

Now a businessman who says he was “taken to the woodshed” for telling the truth about the administration’s tax policies, Stockman speaks candidly with Bill Moyers about how money dominates politics, distorting free markets and endangering democracy. “As a result,” Stockman says, “we have neither capitalism nor democracy. We have crony capitalism.”

Stockman shares details on how the courtship of politics and high finance have turned our economy into a private club that rewards the super-rich and corporations, leaving average Americans wondering how it could happen and who’s really in charge.

“We now have an entitled class of Wall Street financiers and of corporate CEOs who believe the government is there to do… whatever it takes in order to keep the game going and their stock price moving upward,” Stockman tells Moyers.

Full transcript here.

Tags: 1 percent, 99 percent, Bill Moyers, CEOs, crony capitalism, David Stockman, democracy, Free Markets, Money, Politics, Wall Street, washington

He’s One of the Nation’s Highest-Paid CEOs—and You’ve Never Heard of Him


One of the nation’s highest-paid executives is sitting on a massive pile of stock options and enjoys a private jet wherever he goes. Gary Rivlin on John Hammergren, the 1 percenter you’ve never heard of.

James Reda thought he was beyond surprise when it came to executive pay.


But then Reda, a New York–based compensation consultant who sometimes puts together mega-pay packages on behalf of publicly traded behemoths, learned about John Hammergren, the CEO of the McKesson Corp., a giant medical-supply company in California. Hammergren is the $145 million man, top dog on the latest listing of the country’s highest-paid chief executives.

But so what if he made $145 million in a single year? The lion’s share of that money was the slew of stock options Hammergren cashed out after holding them for years. “That’s what you want,” Reda says. A new CEO gets a fat basket of stock options, and if the company does well, the CEO also prospers. “As long as the original stock-award amounts were reasonable, it makes no difference if it ends up providing a huge payoff,” Reda says.

Then I read him Hammergren’s annual total compensation payouts, taken from the company’s public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission: $46 million in 2011; $55 million in 2010; $37 million in 2009; another $41 million in 2008. Hammergren hadn’t founded the company. Wall Street analysts covering McKesson can tell you of the disappointments and miscues that have marked his tenure. But his haul in the 13 years he has been running McKesson? More than $500 million, according to data provided by Equilar, an executive-compensation data firm.


John Hammergren, CEO of McKesson Corp., George Nikitin / AP Photo

For a moment, Reda is silent. “$40 million, $50 million a year is excessive, no matter what the yardstick,” he says. The average pay package for a CEO running a top 100 company these days, Reda says, is around $12 million. That includes everything, from salary to stock awards to contributions to a retirement account. Yet last year McKesson contributed more than $13 million just to Hammergren’s pension, according to company documents. Among the other perks he enjoys: a chauffeur to drive his company car, free use of the corporate jet for personal travel, and an extra $17,000 a year to pay for a financial planner because handling all those hundreds of millions is no doubt complicated stuff.

“He doesn’t leave anything on the table, does he?” Reda asks.

***

John Hammergren isn’t necessarily the highest-paid CEO in America. Sure, he topped the list when GMI, a well-regarded research firm, published its 2011 annual CEO survey in December. But that’s because he cashed out $112 million in accumulated stock options in a single year, according to GMI. He ranked 14th on Forbes‘s 2011 executive-pay list and 22nd on its 2010 ranking. And of course there are CEOs like Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Google’s Larry Page. Page has a net worth north of $15 billion, and Ellison is worth more than $30 billion, but then each was a cofounder of the company he runs.

Ohio Republicans Remove Two Committee Members to Ram Anti-Union Bill Through Senate


In what Lawrence O’Donnell described as one of the sleaziest legislative moves he’s ever seen, the Republicans in the Ohio Senate jammed through their union busting SB5, but only after removing two Republicans on two separate committees who were opposed to it in order to get it to the Senate floor.

With One-Vote Margin, Ohio State Senate Passes SB 5:

The Ohio State Senate just passed the controversial SB 5, aimed a limiting unionized state employees’ ability to collectively bargain or go on strike.

In an indication of how divisive the legislation is in the Buckeye State, the final vote in the Senate was 17-16. The bill now moves to the state House, which like the Senate, is under Republican control.

Gov. John Kasich (R) has endorsed the measure and is expected to sign it when it reaches his desk.

Democrats united against the bill, and they needed seven Republican members to join with them to stop it. In the end they got six.

Pushing the bill through the Senate has been tough for supporters of the plan, with the Republican leader of the state Senate removing two Republicans opposed to the measure to get the bill to the Senate floor today.

Lawrence talked to the Progressive Change Campaign Committee’s Adam Green about their campaign to fight back against what these governors are doing in Ohio and Wisconsin and across the country, busting unions and waging class warfare against the poor and what’s left of the middle class. You can watch some of their new ads that are airing in Wisconsin or make a donation to help keep them on the air here.

Tags: Adam Green, class warfare, John Kasich, Lawrence O’Donnell, Ohio, PCCC, SB5, Union Busting, Wisconsin

http://embed.crooksandliars.com/v/MTk4NjMtNDQ0Nzk?color=C93033

Analysis: Holder, top DOJ lawyers were partners with big banks


Analysis: Holder, top DOJ lawyers were partners with big banks


 

(Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, were partners for years at a Washington law firm that represented a Who’s Who of big banks and other companies at the center of alleged foreclosure fraud, a Reuters inquiry shows.

The firm, Covington & Burling, is one of Washington’s biggest white shoe law firms. Law professors and other federal ethics experts said that federal conflict of interest rules required Holder and Breuer to recuse themselves from any Justice Department decisions relating to law firm clients they personally had done work for.

Both the Justice Department andCovington declined to say if either official had personally worked on matters for the big mortgage industry clients. Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said Holder and Breuer had complied fully with conflict of interest regulations, but she declined to say if they had recused themselves from any matters related to the former clients.

Reuters reported in December that under Holder and Breuer, the Justice Department hasn’t brought any criminal cases against big banks or other companies involved in mortgage servicing, even though copious evidence has surfaced of apparent criminal violations in foreclosure cases.

The evidence, including records from federal and state courts and local clerks’ offices around the country, shows widespread forgery, perjury, obstruction of justice, and illegal foreclosures on the homes of thousands of active-duty military personnel.

In recent weeks the Justice Department has come under renewed pressure from members of Congress, state and local officials and homeowners’ lawyers to open a wide-ranging criminal investigation of mortgage servicers, the biggest of which have been Covington clients. So far Justice officials haven’t responded publicly to any of the requests.

While Holder and Breuer were partners at Covington, the firm’s clients included the four largest U.S. banks – Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo & Co – as well as at least one other bank that is among the 10 largest mortgage servicers.

DEFENDER OF FREDDIE

Servicers perform routine mortgage maintenance tasks, including filing foreclosures, on behalf of mortgage owners, usually groups of investors who bought mortgage-backed securities.

Covington represented Freddie Mac, one of the nation’s biggest issuers of mortgage backed securities, in enforcement investigations by federal financial regulators.

A particular concern by those pressing for an investigation is Covington’s involvement with Virginia-based MERS Corp, which runs a vast computerized registry of mortgages. Little known before the mortgage crisis hit, MERS, which stands forMortgage Electronic Registration Systems, has been at the center of complaints about false or erroneous mortgage documents.

Court records show that Covington, in the late 1990s, provided legal opinion letters needed to create MERS on behalf of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and several other large banks. It was meant to speed up registration and transfers of mortgages. By 2010, MERS claimed to own about half of all mortgages in the U.S. — roughly 60 million loans.

But evidence in numerous state and federal court cases around the country has shown that MERS authorized thousands of bank employees to sign their names as MERS officials. The banks allegedly drew up fake mortgage assignments, making it appear falsely that they had standing to file foreclosures, and then had their own employees sign the documents as MERS “vice presidents” or “assistant secretaries.”

Covington in 2004 also wrote a crucial opinion letter commissioned by MERS, providing legal justification for its electronic registry. MERS spokeswoman Karmela Lejarde declined to comment on Covington legal work done for MERS.

It isn’t known to what extent if any Covington has continued to represent the banks and other mortgage firms since Holder and Breuer left. Covington declined to respond to questions from Reuters. A Covington spokeswoman said the firm had no comment.

Several lawyers for homeowners have said that even if Holder and Breuer haven’t violated any ethics rules, their ties to Covington create an impression of bias toward the firms’ clients, especially in the absence of any prosecutions by the Justice Department.

O. Max Gardner III, a lawyer who trains other attorneys to represent homeowners in bankruptcy court foreclosure actions, said he attributes the Justice Department’s reluctance to prosecute the banks or their executives to the Obama White House’s view that it might harm the economy.

But he said that the background of Holder and Breuer at Covington — and their failure to act on foreclosure fraud or publicly recuse themselves — “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Federal ethics regulations generally require new government officials to recuse themselves for one year from involvement in matters involving clients they personally had represented at their former law firms.

President Obama imposed additional restrictions on appointees that essentially extended the ban to two years. For Holder, that ban would have expired in February 2011, and in April for Breuer. Rules also require officials to avoid creating the appearance of a conflict.

Schmaler, the Justice Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that “The Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General Breuer have conformed with all financial, legal and ethical obligations under law as well as additional ethical standards set by the Obama Administration.”

She said they “routinely consult” the department’s ethics officials for guidance. Without offering specifics, Schmaler said they “have recused themselves from matters as required by the law.”

Senior government officials often move to big Washington law firms, and lawyers from those firms often move into government posts. But records show that in recent years the traffic between the Justice Department and Covington & Burling has been particularly heavy. In 2010, Holder’s deputy chief of staff, John Garland, returned to Covington, as did Steven Fagell, who was Breuer’s deputy chief of staff in the criminal division.

The firm has on its web site a page listing its attorneys who are former federal government officials. Covington lists 22 from the Justice Department, and 12 from U.S. Attorneys offices, the Justice Department’s local federal prosecutors’ offices around the country.

As Reuters reported in 2011, public records show large numbers of mortgage promissory notes with apparently forged endorsements that were submitted as evidence to courts.

There also is evidence of almost routine manufacturing of false mortgage assignments, documents that transfer ownership of mortgages between banks or to groups of investors. In foreclosure actions in courts mortgage assignments are required to show that a bank has the legal right to foreclose.

In an interview in late 2011, Raymond Brescia, a visiting professor at Yale Law Schoolwho has written about foreclosure practices said, “I think it’s difficult to find a fraud of this size on the U.S. court system in U.S. history.”

Holder has resisted calls for a criminal investigation since October 2010, when evidence of widespread “robo-signing” first surfaced. That involved mortgage servicer employees falsely signing and swearing to massive numbers of affidavits and other foreclosure documents that they had never read or checked for accuracy.