This was a great year for the Palast Team (other than our photographer getting his head and camera beaten) – andÂ we couldn’t have done it without your support, financially and through the simple act of sharing our information.
We’re ready for 2013 and have already started putting together the plans for our next investigations, films and maybe even another book.
For now though – please re-readÂ our top, breaking stories from 2012 – many of which you can find in Billionaires & Ballot Bandits. …more
[New York, December 18, 2012] Even for New York, this was WEIRD. There were a half dozen Santa Clauses on Second Avenue getting a sermon from a Midwestern preacher who looks like a cross between televangelist Jerry Falwell and a white-haired Elvis.
The Santa Crew and their mini-skirted elves were on their way to get drunk (drunker?) with another thousand Santa impersonators at “SantaCon,” an annual gathering of St. Nicks. But they were willing to let the Reverend Billy attempt to save their souls.
Reverend Billy did not object to their plans for lubrication, but to their original Sin: collaborating with the Devil’s work known as “Christmas Shopping.”
By my initial calculation, 9.3 million Americans lost their vote on November 7 â€“ purged from voter rolls, blocked at the polls, or had their â€œprovisionalâ€ and absentee ballots thrown in the dumpster.
Let’s get to the bottom of this: In the next 90 days, we need to name names, expose their games, and make sure things don’t stay the same.
Just because Mr. Obama won re-election doesn’t mean the vote-heist didn’t happen. This is no joke: the evidence suggests the GOP actually lost the majority of Congressional races. But, through sick tricks in Arizona and three other states, snatched enough seats to hang our economy over a fiscal cliff.
Help me dig through the mud in those ballot boxes.
Several thousand African-American voters in Dayton, Ohio, may find their ballots left uncounted, and they, and America, wonâ€™t know itâ€“â€“even if the lost votes change the presidency.
First, you need to know, there are two elections for President in Ohio held on two days and in two colors.
Today, White Ohio will vote: Evangelicals, rurals, small businessmen, big and bigger businessmen, the whole Rotary Club.
Black Ohio already voted. More African-Americans vote early than on the official Election Day.
The big day for African-Americansâ€“â€“and for Barack Obamaâ€™s hopes for reelectionâ€“â€“was on Sunday, â€œSouls to the Pollsâ€ day, when church buses filled with the ladies of the choir and their men vote as a group. …more
At the same time, taxpayer-subsidized Delphi expanded its workforce in China to 25,000. Today, Delphi supplies GM and Chrysler parts from Mexico and China.
This week, Republican vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan arrived in Ohio to accuse the Obama administration of cutting the pensions of the Delphi non-union pensioners. In fact, says the UAWâ€™s King, it was the Singer-Romney group that simply refused to pay any pensions whatsoever to union and non-union workers alike.Â The companyâ€™s $6.2 billion pension obligation, says King, â€œwas dumped on the US government Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) which is limited by law â€” not by President Obama â€” in the sums it can pay retirees.â€
None of this surprises observers of Paul Singerâ€™s hedge fund, Elliott Management, which partnered with Ann Romney. …more
Broke ethics law hiding millions, say good government groups
For Mitt Romney, it’s one scary Halloween. Â The Presidential candidate has just learned that tomorrow afternoon he will charged with violating the federal Ethics in Government law by improperly concealing his multi-million dollar windfall from the auto industry bail-out.
At a press conference in Toledo, Bob King, President of the United Automobile Workers, will announce that his union and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Â have filed a formal complaint with the US Office of Government Ethics in Washington stating that Gov. Romney improperly hid a profit of $15.3 million to $115.0 million in Ann Romney’s so-called “blind” trust.
The union chief says, “The American people have a right to know about Gov. Romneyâ€™s potential conflicts of interest, such as the profits his family made from the auto rescue,â€ â€œItâ€™s time for Gov. Romney to disclose or divest.â€
â€œWhile Romney was opposing the rescue of one of the nationâ€™s most important manufacturing sectors, he was building his fortunes with his Delphi investor group, making his fortunes off the misfortunes of others,â€ King added.
The Romneys’ gigantic windfall was hidden inside an offshore corporation inside a Limited Partnership inside a trust which both concealed the gain and reduces taxes on it.
The Romneys’ windfall was originally exposed in Nation Magazine, Mitt Romney’s Bail-out Bonanza after a worldwide investigation by our crew at The Guardian, the Nation Institute and the Palast Investigative Fund. Â [Ed. – The full story of Romney and his “vulture fund” partners is in Palast’s New York Times bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits.]
According to ethics law expertÂ Dr. Craig Holman of Public Citizen, who advised on theÂ complaint, Ann Romney does not have a federally-approved blind trust. Â An approved “blind” trust may not be used to hide a major investment which could be affected by Romney if he were to be elected President. Â Other groups joining the UAW and CREW include Public Citizen, the Service Employees International Union, Public Campaign, People for the American Way and The Social Equity Group.
President Obama’s approved trust, for example, contains only highly-diversified mutual funds on which Presidential action can have little effect. Â By contrast, the auto bail-out provided a windfall of over 4,000% on one single Romney investment.
In 2009, Ann Romney partnered with her husband’s key donor, billionaire Paul Singer, who secretly bought a controlling interest in Delphi Auto, the former GM auto parts division. Â Singer’s hedge fund, Elliott Management, threatened to cut off GM’s supply of steering columns unless GM and the government’s TARP auto bail-out fund provided Delphi with huge payments. Â While the US treasury complained this was “extortion,” the hedge funds received, ultimately, $12.9 billion in taxpayer subsidies.
As a result, the shares Singer and Romney bought for just 67 cents are today worth over $30, a 4,000% gain. Â Singer’s hedge fund made a profit of $1.27 billion and the Romney’s tens of millions.
The UAW complaint calls for Romney to reveal exactly how much he made off Delphi — and continues to make. Â The Singer syndicate, once in control of Delphi, eliminated every single UAW job –25,000– and moved almost all auto parts production to Mexico and China where Delphi now employs 25,000 auto parts workers.
Forensic EconomistGreg Palast’s investigative reports can be seen on BBC Television. Â His latest bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps contains a comic book by Ted Rall and chapters by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Â www.BallotBandits.orgÂ
Unions, Good Government Groups to File Ethics Complaint Against Romney For Failing To Disclose His Big Auto Rescue Profit
Groups Urge Office of Government Ethics to Make Romney Disclose or Divest
WASHINGTON â€“ A coalition of community, labor and good-government organizations is calling on the U.S. Office of Government Ethics to investigate GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for noncompliance with the Ethics in Government Act and compel him to either disclose his investments or divest them.
â€œThe American people have a right to know about Gov. Romneyâ€™s potential conflicts of interest, such as the profits his family made from the auto rescue,â€ said UAW President Bob King. â€œItâ€™s time for Gov. Romney to disclose or divest.â€
In aÂ NationÂ magazine cover story, investigative reporter Greg Palast reported thatÂ the Romney family personally profitedÂ at least $15.3 million from the auto loans of 2009 through his investment in the Delphi Corp. auto parts company. Yet Romneyâ€™s June 1, 2012, Public Financial Disclosure Report to the Office of Government Ethics …more
In one super-PAC alone, Karl Rove and the EnronÂ grifter Ed Gillespie, have assembled $200 million from big polluters and Wall Street moguls to buy the 2012 election.
Two of the Koch Brothers, Charles and David, pledged $130 million to elect candidates who favor unrestrainedÂ corporate profiteering.
The senators and congressmen they fund and elect areÂ not representing the United Statesâ€”they are representing Koch and its oil industry cronies, Big Pharma, and the Wall Street banksters currently mounting a hostile takeover of our government.
I have no problem characterizing these corporate-centric super-PACs as treasonous.Â We are now in a free fall toward old-fashioned oligarchy; noxious, thieving and tyrannical.
Cenk Uygur breaks down the numbers from investigative journalist Greg Palastâ€™s report detailing how Ann Romneyâ€™s blind trust profited from the government bailing out General Motors. Exactly how much money did the Romneys make? Between $15 million and $115 million. â€œWhat happened, Romney? I thought you were against bailouts,â€ Cenk says. â€œApparently youâ€™re not as against it when it goes into your pocket.â€
He’s kidding, right? Did I just hear Mitt Romney say,Â “I would do nothing to hurt the US auto industry”
Here’s the facts, ma’am:
As I reported in this week’s Nation magazine cover story “Mitt Romney’s Bail-out Bonanza“, the Romneys are in a special partnership with the vulture fund that bought Delphi,Â the former GM auto parts division.
[Watch our Democracy Now! report on the Romney group’s auto plant closures.]
The Romney vulture fund investment syndicate shipped every single UAW production jobÂ â€“Â EVERY jobÂ â€“Â to China.
Just after Nation broke the story, Washington newsletterÂ The HillÂ received the Romneys admission of profiteering:
“Romney’s campaign did not deny that he profited from the auto bailout in an email to The Hill, but it said the the report showed the Detroit intervention was ‘misguided.'”
The truth? On June 1, 2009, the Obama Administration announced …more
The following excerpt is from â€œBillionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps,â€ a new book on the conservative- and big money-led effort to steal elections this November, based on investigations by gumshoe journalist Greg Palast and attorney and activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. It also includes comics by Ted Rall.
â€œI didnâ€™t know I had to fill in the bubble.â€
That was the totally lame excuse of a voter who blew away the election of a Democrat as mayor of San Diego, California.
In 2004, the â€œSurfer Chick,â€ Donna Frye, got the most votes for mayor of the city, but was refused office. Donna runs the surf shop on the beach (husband Skip Frye was the world surfing champ) and, concerned about real estate sharks killing the beachfront and waters, decided to run for mayor as a write-in candidate.
In California, nearly a third of voters mail in their ballots. But four thousand of the folks who wrote in Donna Frye on those mail-in ballots didnâ€™t fill in the bubble.
On the ballot, there was a choice of candidates with a bubble next to their name and a space for Write-in candidate. You had to write in Donna Frye and fill in the bubble next to it. (Completely fill it in, but not excessively: no X or checkâ€”that would disqualify you too.)
Republican election officials tossed out the four thousand ballots with Fryeâ€™s name but no bubble-blackening. Though Donna complained, she told me she conceded ballots marked Surfer Chick.
In the days when we still had a democracy, courts held that the voterâ€™s intent should determine if a ballot gets counted. But since Bush v. Gore, what the voter clearly wants isnâ€™t worth a bubble.
But the Rovearians insist that this is the only way to prevent wholesale fraud.
All over the nation, party hacks are playing â€œgotchaâ€ with mail-in ballots. Here are some of my favorites, each one costing several thousand folks their vote:
– Wrong envelope. – Wrong postage. Questionable signature. Stray mark (spoilage). Folded wrong. – Lost by election officials. – And an X instead of a dot in the bubble.
The â€œwrong signatureâ€ is the most suspect of all. If an election official thinks a signature has been forged, then he should call the cops. This is the serious crime of ballot fraud (filling out and mailing a ballot which is not yours). This is one of the only voting crimes that actually do occur, though itâ€™s incredibly rare. So if thereâ€™s real evidence of a crime, the answer is not to toss out a ballot, toss out the evidence, but to jail the criminal.
So I went to visit two of the fraudsters who didnâ€™t fill in their bubbles. Maybe Iâ€™d have them busted.
â€œMom! Why didnâ€™t you fill in the bubble?!â€ â€œIâ€™m sorry! I didnâ€™t know you had to fill in the bubble! Your sisterâ€™s a lawyer and she helped us fill it out.â€
In the last presidential election, over twenty-seven thousand â€œsuspiciousâ€ (i.e., forged) signatures were detected. And yet not one of these forgers was busted. Why? Maybe because they werenâ€™t forgeries but merely a slight change in signature (remember Melissa Tais?) or the pen used. Or the election official doesnâ€™t like the choices of the signatory. Heavens! Could such a thing happen in America?
There is a solution: if an â€œabsenteeâ€ ballot has an error or questionable signature, the election clerks could simply call the voter and have them come in to correct it. Oregon does that. So does . . . well, actually, no other state does that. Because Rove and his fellow tossers want it that way.
So you lose your vote. And hereâ€™s the charm: you donâ€™t even know it! Ha ha ha!
Does it matter?
It has more than once changed â€œHail to the Chiefâ€ to â€œHail to the Thief.â€
In 2012, it is expected that about 26 million votes will be mailed in. And, in the name of preventing voter fraud, about ONE IN FOURTEEN WILL BE TOSSED OUT. Thatâ€™s nearly two million votes tossed in the gotcha! dumpster.
But donâ€™t both parties do it, play â€œgotchaâ€ with the ballots? Yes, they do. So then it all evens out, right? Wrong!
If youâ€™ve been paying attention, youâ€™ve already guessed that the probability that a mail-in ballot will get the heave-ho is based on the color of the person whose name is on the ballot and his or her income bracket.
And just to make certain the class-biased count would pick one of their candidates, the Kochs spent at least a million on absentee ballot handling in the June 2012 Wisconsin gubernatorial recall race. Using their new monster database, Republicans received a preprinted ballot and envelope with all the personal data properly filled-in to make it reject-proof. Just sign and drop in a mailbox.
Itâ€™s legal and brilliant. Whatâ€™s brilliant and possibly not so legal is that in November, the same database could be â€œinvertedâ€ to target the Blue-ballot absentee voters and do the same match for the purpose of pumping up rejections and challenges. They wonâ€™t? During the recall, a group called United Sportsmen of Wisconsin sent Democrats absentee ballot request forms with the wrong address and deadline. USW, which existed only during the Wisconsin recall, was created by John W. Connersâ€”until recently, Director of the Kochsâ€™ Americans for Prosperity. Thatâ€™s sportsmanship a la Koch.
Mitt Romneyâ€™s opposition to the auto bailout has haunted him on the campaign trail, especially in Rust Belt states like Ohio. There, in September, the Obama campaign launched television ads blasting Romneyâ€™s November 2008 New York Times op-ed,â€œLet Detroit Go Bankrupt.â€
But Romney has done a good job of concealing, until now, the fact that he and his wife, Ann, personally gained at least $15.3 million from the bailoutâ€”and a few of Romneyâ€™s most important Wall Street donors made more than $4 billion. Their gains, and the Romneysâ€™, were astronomicalâ€”more than 3,000 percent on their investment. …more
Hereâ€™s an easy way to spoil a vote: digitize it . . . then lose the digits.
Prestidigitation is the French-derived term for conjury, legerdemain, sleight-of-hand, presto-change-o hand-jive, disappearing trickery . . . or, in the language of Karl Rove, â€œHelping America Vote.â€
Following what the media called the â€œFlorida debacle,â€ the winners of the debacle agreed to â€œreformâ€ the voting system. So the Bush administration proposed and Congress passed the Help America Vote Act.
The best way to prevent voting reform is to pass a voting reform billâ€”especially if itâ€™s written by the folks that helped themselves to your vote in the first place.
The Help America Vote Act is not the most Orwellian named, satanic law ever passed by Congress, but it tries. To avoid ballots with hanging chads, the law simply does away with ballots, providing about $4 billion in subsidies for Direct Recording Equipment (DREs), …more