Monday, December 27, 2010

Richard I. Fine Win's His Freedom

Text with video:
FullDisclosureNetwrk | December 23, 2010 | likes, 0 dislikes

Leslie Dutton interviews Richard I. Fine at home just two days after he was released from 18 months in solitary "Coercive Confinement" in the L A County Central Men's Jail. He explains How he was treated by the jailers and Judge David Yaffe who had vowed to never release him (without charge or trial) and then reversed himself the next day. He gave Full Disclosure Network this exclusive one hour interview so that the public could learn the truth about what it was really like for him in the L A County Jail

Richard I Fine Win's His Freedom Part One of Six

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Are Courts in Los Angeles California corporate entities dodging paying and filing taxes? [more info and video]



Are US Courthouses just another corporate/bankster scam?

Text with below video:
williamwagener | November 03, 2010 | likes, 1 dislikes

NOW we KNOW WHY Michael J. Jackson can NOT get justice in L.A....according to documents shown herein, by Dr. Shirley Moore, It would appear that Los Angeles Judges, have been running a crooked SLUSH FUND for a long time, and Certificates of Participation and their crooked use should bring Jail time to judges... got a comment on how to restore Accountability, when Judges are almost never even challenged for re-Elections ?

Judges SLUSH Funds Illegal ? part 1

Part 2

Part 3

I received the above videos as an email to my youtube account and then re-posted them here. Do you think this is an interesting subject for debate?

stevengerickson AT yahoo Dot Com

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

US Mortgages Hijacked, Property Ownership Null & Void

The below re-posted from [Blacklisted News]

Dude, Where's My Mortgage? How an Obscure Outfit Called MERS Is Subverting Our Entire System of Property Rights

By Yasha Levine - Exiled Online

“For the first time in the nation’s history, there is no longer an authoritative, public record of who owns land in each county.” — University of Utah law professor Christopher Peterson

There is an unbelievable scandal in the making that threatens to subvert our four-century-old method for guaranteeing a fundamental building block of the American republic—property ownership. The biggest reason why you probably haven’t heard much about it is that it involves one of the most generic and boring company names imaginable: Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., or MERS. It is a story of deception engineered at the highest level of power for short-term gain, and another epic failure of the private sector to uphold the laws and traditions of American society, even something as fundamental as property rights.

Created in 1995 by the country’s biggest banks, MERS quietly took control of and privatized mortgage record-keeping across the country and, in the span of a few years, scrambled America’s private property ownership records to the point where no one could figure out who owns what. This was no accident, and was done by design: MERS was a tool used by America’s top financial institutions to pump up the real estate market. Mortgage-backed securities, robo-signers, lightning quick foreclosures, subprime mortgages and just about everything else that went into feeding the biggest real estate bubble in U.S. history could not function without help from MERS. But unlike many of the Wall Street scandals, this one could blow up in the banks’ faces, with the little guy laughing all the way back to his free McMansion, and local governments seeing their empty coffers fill back up with the billions of dollars in unpaid fees that MERS circumvented.

The story begins in mid-’90s with the founding of MERS, Inc. by the nation’s most powerful banks, ostensibly with the aim of streamlining and modernizing the process of registering and tracking mortgages. Traditionally, there has been no centralized registry of real estate ownership information, with counties maintaining their own records for properties within their borders—a system that has remained virtually unchanged since colonial times.

The MERS database went live in the middle of the dot-com bubble, and was supposed take inefficient government bureaucracies kicking and screaming into the future by providing a centralized, national registry of mortgage ownership information. “MERS addresses a problem that was costing the industry a significant amount of money,” Rick Amatucci, a Fannie Mae vice president and the agency’s liaison with MERS, told Mortgage Banking magazine, just as the new registry went online in 1997. The database would give lenders across the country instant access to real-time mortgage information, diminish potential for fraud, and lower costs for servicers and borrowers, according to Mortgage Banking Association, which was tasked with overseeing the project.

But that kind of talk was just for the press release. The banking industry wasn’t concerned with efficiency or transparency or the greater good. It was all about making money, as quickly and cheaply as possible. And that is what MERS was for. It was created to help the industry push its latest money-maker: mortgage-backed securities, a Wall Street financial scam that dressed up the most toxic, guaranteed-to-fail loans as Grade A investment vehicles that could be sold to suckers looking for an easy gain.

But before mortgage-backed securities could be unleashed on the residential housing market on a massive scale, bankers needed to get rid of America’s long-standing real estate recording laws, which required lenders to file all mortgage transactions—the origination of a new loan, for instance, or the transfer or sale of a mortgage between banks—with the county in which the property is located. While this recording requirement was not a problem in the sleepy pre-securitization days of the home loan business, when mortgage transactions were kept to a minimum, it was going to be much more difficult—if not impossible—with widespread use of securitization, which jacked up the industry like high-grade meth. Mortgages would be changing hands dozens of times, going from loan originators to banks to Wall Street investment houses, which would collect them by the thousands and package them into complex debt instruments that would be chopped up into shares and sold off to multiple investors all over the world.

Bankers needed a quick, clean way of reassigning mortgages without having to go through the “cumbersome” process of recording them with county courts and recorder offices. But instead of working with municipalities to modernize title registration by a creating a national database that was aboveboard and that everyone could use, the banking industry did what it does best: hid the information with sly accounting tricks.

And it succeeded. In just a few short years, MERS took over the bulk of residential mortgage registration. There are about 80 million residential mortgages in America today, and MERS tracks 60 percent of them.

“[M]ortgage bankers formed a plan to create one shell company that would pretend to own all the mortgages in the country—that way, the mortgage bankers would never have to record assignments since the same company would always ‘own’ all the mortgages,” wrote University of Utah law professor Christopher Peterson, who wrote a key paper on MERS and the mortgage industry.

Here is how the plaintiffs in a class action suit filed in Florida in July 2010 against MERS and a legal firm described the MERS registration system:

The whole purpose of MERS is to allow “servicers” to pretend as if they are someone else: the “owners” of the mortgage, or the real parties in interest. In fact they are not. … With the oversight of Defendant Merscorp and its unknown principals, the MERS artifice and enterprise evolved into an “ultra-fictitious” entity, which can also be understood as a “meta-corporation.” To perpetuate the scheme, MERS was and is used in such a way that the average consumer, or even legal professional, can never determine who or what was or is ultimately receiving the benefits of any mortgage payments. The conspirators set about to confuse everyone as to who owned what. They created a truly effective smokescreen which has left the public and most of the judiciary operating “in the dark” through the present time.

The use of MERS as a generic placeholder for the real owner of a mortgage was a crucial component of the entire securitization machine.”[T]he entire scheme was predicated upon the fraudulent designation of MERS as the ‘beneficiary’ under millions of deeds of trust,” according to a class action suit filed in Nevada in 2009 against MERS and all the big, crooked banks we’ve learned to fear and hate. “Before MERS, it would not have been possible for mortgages with no market value . . . to be sold at a profit or collateralized and sold as mortgage-backed securities. Before MERS, it would not have been possible for the Defendant banks and AIG to conceal from government regulators the extent of risk of financial losses those entities faced from the predatory origination of residential loans and the fraudulent re-sale and securitization of those otherwise non-marketable loans.”

How efficient was MERS at perpetuating trickery in the real estate market? Well, according to statistics published by the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crime Enforcement Network, from 1997—the year MERS went online—to 2005, mortgage fraud reports increased by 1,411 percent.

The MERS hustle had another benefit: it saved the banking industry—and cost municipal governments—tens of billions of dollars by allowing lenders to avoid paying county filing fees, which cost an average of $30 a pop. According to the AP, if every mortgage tracked by MERS had been resold and re-recorded with a county just one time, the system would have saved the banking industry $2.4 billion in filing fees. In reality, most mortgages are sold and resold a dozen times—sometimes more, which means that MERS extracted at minimum around $30 billion from cash-strapped local governments. “Some counties also use recording fees to fund their court systems, legal aid organizations, low-income housing programs, or schools. In this respect, MERS’s role in acting as a mortgagee of record in nominee capacity is simply a tax evasion tool,” says Professor Peterson.

But there was one major downside to the scam: because MERS departed from established real estate recording requirements, there was no guarantee that its claim to ownership, if challenged, would be honored by the courts.

Transparent real property registration was one of the earliest—and most important—functions of the American government, a practice that has changed amazingly little since the colonial times. According to “Foreclosure, Subprime Mortgage Lending, and the Mortgage Registration System,” American colonists began to enact laws requiring land sales, transfers and mortgages to be entered into the public record with a government agency going back almost 400 years. The Massachusetts Plymouth Bay Colony adopted its first such “recording law” in 1636, which stated that “all sales exchanges giftes mortgages leases or other Conveyances of howses and landes the sale to be acknowledged before the Governor or anyone of the Assistants and committed to publick Record.”

By the time the Boston Tea Party rolled around, every English colony had passed laws that required lenders and landowners to enter their names and property and mortgage information into the public record. The reasons for the popularity of the laws are simple and utilitarian: transparent public records of property ownership prevented disputes over who owned what and allowed people to use land as collateral on loans. “The necessity and usefulness of these early public title records is attested to by their nearly universal and uninterrupted force in subsequent American law. Indeed, Pennsylvania’s first recording act, first adopted in 1717, remains in force to this day,” wrote Peterson. Banks that failed to register mortgage transactions risked losing their ability to enforce the contract. And that is exactly what is on the verge of happening with mortgages registered with MERS.

Dozens of lawsuits all across the country have been filed against MERS and its partners to put this very issue to the test. And while most of them are still ongoing, it’s clear that MERS is fighting for its life.

The Wall Street Journal:

Now, critics and homeowners facing foreclosure are increasingly challenging, among other things, MERS’ role and legal standing in home foreclosures where it acts as legal representative of the mortgage holder. MERS has fought and won legal challenges in the past. But the nationwide epidemic of foreclosures in the wake of the housing collapse will present it with a wave of challenges unlike any it has seen previously.

Trouble for MERS could add risk to banks by slowing down the securitization process, and creating uncertainty during a time when banks are struggling to reassure shareholders and customers. One hedge fund investor said Friday that questions around MERS are adding to his concerns about banks in the mortgage business and are keeping him from investing in the sector.

While MERS officials say they are confident about their business model, it has become clear that their scheme might very well be on the verge of toppling. On November 17, Congress quietly rammed through a sneaky, vaguely worded bill that would have legalized MERS’ dealings retroactively. And while the bill didn’t pass, we can expect Wall Street’s lackeys in Congress to continue their efforts. After all, if courts continue to rule against MERS’s business model—and it looks like they will—many homes may become foreclosure proof. As Reuters put it: “If court rulings against MERS’ authority to foreclose proliferate, many foreclosure cases may be halted indefinitely, and some homeowners in default may end up with clear title to their homes.” Owners will still owe money to banks, but their homes would no longer be counted as collateral on the loan. In short, banks would not be able to kick people out of their homes. And clearly, that is something that America’s plutocracy just cannot abide.


So who or what is MERS? How was this little-known corporation able to change nearly 400 years of legal practice in the span of a decade, and do so much damage so quickly? And why did no one blow the whistle?

As a result of the lawsuits being filed against MERS, a lot of previously unknown information about the inner workings of MERS is coming to light.

The people who developed the concept of MERS were connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as the most corrupt lending institutions in America. People like Brian Hershkowitz, former director of the Mortgage Bankers Association and founder of the association’s technology committee that oversaw the early development of MERS in the early ’90s, according to a homeowner-turned-activist-blogger, who is involved in a class action lawsuit against MERS (In 1993, Mortgage Banking magazine referred to this new mortgage resignation system as “New Age Delivery.”)

“Ain’t accounting fraud great?”

Hershkowitz was an early tech-booster in the banking industry, heralding a new age where efficiency and profitability would reign supreme. In the early 90s he attributed the success of Countrywide Financial to the fact that it embraced emerging computer technology. “They use technology in ways that give them a competitive advantage and set them apart. They were operating with excess capacity, and now they are putting it to use,” Hershkowitz, then-associate director of the Mortgage Bankers Association, told the New York Times in 1991. A few years later he went to work for Countrywide as an executive involved in “areas of strategic planning and executive management.” From 1982 to 2003, Countrywide performed like a Ponzi scheme, with shareholders gleefully getting a 23,000.0 percent return on their investment, until the bank collapsed under the weight of its own fraud schemes in 2007.

It seems that MERS has operated along similar lines. According to sworn testimony by various MERS executives, the organization has cycled through four different corporate entities in its brief lifespan. MERS also has almost no paid employees and does not seem to keeps any records or minutes of corporate meetings. When pressed to explain the inner workings of the organization, its executives evaded questions, feigned ignorance and generally acted like provincial mafia bosses on trial—exactly the kind of professionalism one would expect for a company responsible for tracking the ownership information of 50 million mortgages. It was just a couple of guys sitting around, chatting, smoking…and making sure not to leave any evidence behind. No wonder county officials who blew the whistle on MERS early on were squashed.

Edward Romaine, a Republican recorder of deeds for New York’s Suffolk County, was one of the few officials who tried to refuse to take filings from MERS. “He argued that not only would the county lose out on fees—$1 million in one year alone—but that MERS failed to even maintain a clear chain of title on a property. He got backing from New York’s attorney general,” reported the Associated Press. MERS sued Suffolk County and took the case all the way up to the state’s highest court, where it won on appeal in 2007. The court forced the county to accept MERS filings because the county lacked the statutory authority. Put another way, the court forced a municipal government to do business with a criminal organization, despite objections from county officials.

MERS cost local governments billions of dollars in lost revenue, but there is a chance that the cash-strapped counties will be able to claw some of that money back. Lawsuits have been filed against MERS in California, Nevada, Tennessee and 14 other states that accuse the company of functioning as a tax evasion vehicle designed to help banks circumvent filing fee requirements. “In California, the suit against MERS could cost the company somewhere between $60 to $120 billion in damages and penalties. With so much money extracted from California’s municipalities, no wonder the Golden State is facing a $25 billion budget gap,” reported the Associated Press.

We’re constantly being told that liberalization, deregulation and privatization automatically equal greater freedom and increased efficiency. But MERS provides us with a different narrative, one in which the government works perfectly well, when not corrupted by corporations who want to use it to loot public wealth.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Judges and the Judicial System are the Reasons for the Systemic Government Failure

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Re-Posted from

[Source of below]

Andrew Cuomo, Albany, And Lobbyists - Village Voice

I have a question: can an investigation into criminal fraud start before a newly-elected governor takes his seat?
Full disclosure: I worked with Hank Sheinkopf from January 3 - August 13, 2007, answering his telephone, writing press releases, and arranging meetings. I was researching the court corruption that I write about on this blog, because Hank ran the election campaigns for the judges - Surrogate Renee Roth, Nora Anderson, and Supreme Court Judge Karla Moskowitz, among others - who stole my mother's property from me after she died. Hank also met with Andrew Cuomo in order to help Karl O'Farrell get his company Capital Play the Aqueduct Casino deal.

Betsy Combier

Andrew Cuomo Goes to Albany, Where Lobbyists Are Waiting

By Wayne Barrett Wednesday, Nov 10 2010

As often as we hear how imperative it is “to change the culture of Albany,” the language of reform camouflages the enemy. A mercenary class of elite lobbyists is at the heart of every state scandal, and nothing will change in New York until their death grip is broken.

Amorphous critiques of the “way things are done” in Albany do not describe what’s killing the state. It’s real people, an encrusted caste of 6584 registered lobbyists now awaiting the Albany arrival of Andrew Cuomo. He will either find a way to isolate and disarm them, or he will succumb to their charms, favoring one lobbyist or another until his government, too, is perceived as theirs.

This gang, especially the top hundred heavy hitters, lives by a code of cult-like indifference to the common good—selling relationships with seduced decisionmakers for four-five-and even six-figure monthly fees. They put a pricetag on every hello. They cobble contributions. They push interests as if they are beliefs. They are as likely to be retained to make something go away as they are to make it happen. They engage, ingratiate, invest and convert, carrying the state, one compromising deal at a time, towards fiscal oblivion.

The shadows are their office. They recruit by whisper. As covert as they prefer to be, filing disclosure forms that conceal, they rationalize themselves as necessary intermediaries, the glue of a disjointed government. It’s a proselytizing mantra that covers the capital in alibis and allegories.

Albany’s lobbyists are, of course, no different than lobbyists elsewhere. That doesn’t make them any more compatible with the public good. And with twice as many lobbyists per legislator as the second highest state, they have become the permanent government of New York, like black crows circling the iconic green Capitol dome. The scandals they spark routinely change all the players but them. We are watching that cycle again, as almost every tarnished power center other than the Assembly Democrats, that ultimate bastion of lobbyist collusion, switches hands.

In this season of chilling revelation and electoral tumult, the primetime lobbyists appear set to remain as Albany’s most enduring fixture, with a change in revenue rankings but a roster nonetheless largely intact--altered only by the winks and nods among fresh insiders.

This is a memo to Cuomo. If he doesn’t take dramatic executive order action in his early days as governor to blunt the sway of lobbyists, they will chip away at his credibility, and voters will come to believe over time that all that has changed are the names of the ins and the outs. He can finance his next campaign without them. He can’t restore public faith in state government with them.

A pecking order of the caste closest to Cuomo has already emerged.

Members of governor hopeful Andrew Cuomo's inner circle include Jennifer Cunningham (top left), father Mario Cuomo (top right), Benjamin Lawsky (bottom left) and Steven Cohen (bottom right).
John Marino, who chaired the state party for five years under Mario Cuomo and ran three of his campaigns, launched a government affairs unit at his public relations firm, Dan Klores Communications (DKC), last September. It’s run by Allison Lee, the wife of Congressman Maurice Hinchey and a former aide to Andrew in his days at HUD under President Clinton. When Cuomo was nominated for governor at the state party convention this May, it was Marino who introduced him .

The founder of the firm, Dan Klores, is so close to Andrew that they used to throw joint birthday parties. Klores, who says he’s sold his interest in the firm to Marino and other employees as part of a long-term “arrangement,” spends most of his time now producing plays and movies, but he was on the phone often in 2003, talking to reporters about Andrew’s breakup with Kerry Kennedy. He put $101,700 into Cuomo’s 2006 campaign for attorney general and supplied his campaign press secretary and first communications director in the AG’s office. Marino, Klores, Klores’ wife, and Lee have given $42,500 to Cuomo since January 2008, and their government affairs attracted 10 clients the day they opened, and a total of 27 clients since.

Marino tells the Voice that he “ain’t ever going to lobby the governor or anyone on the executive side,” promising to restructure the firm in such a way “as to not share in the profits” of the government affairs unit. Klores said much the same, indicating that under the terms of his sale, “I don’t have anything to gain” from the firm’s future lobbying income. That still leaves Lee and others at the firm with their own ties to Cuomo, as well as the allure of the big names at the top of the letterhead.

The interlocking history of DKC and Cuomo put it only half a step ahead of the woman who ran the 2006 campaign, Jennifer Cunningham, who is a partner with John Cordo, a former Republican senate staffer, in Cordo & Co. Cuomo and Cunningham differed over Eric Schneiderman during the primary, when Cunningham was running the campaign of her former husband and Cuomo wanted anyone but Schneiderman to win. But they ended up on the same page (and what a novel it is). Schneiderman’s stunning win, aided by Andrew, may cement the ties between these three over the coming years. Cunningham’s penultimate client is 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers, a union Cuomo is at loggerheads with regarding Medicaid costs.

The Cordo firm’s most recent filing with the state’s Public Integrity Commission lists Cunningham and Cordo as the new lobbyists for Genting, the Asian gaming company that won the scandal-ridden and extraordinarily lucrative Aqueduct casino contract. SKDKnickerbocker , a public relations firm where Cunningham also works, is now also handling press inquiries for Genting, an indication, perhaps, that the big spenders can smell the perfume.

Chris Del Giudice, the son of Mario Cuomo’s former secretary and Andrew’s current top policy adviser, Mike Del Giudice, recently joined Wilson Elser, the firm that always takes first place in the New York Public Interest Group’s annual revenue and campaign contribution rankings. So did Jerry Jennings, the son of Albany’s mayor, another reliable Cuomo ally. Wilson Elser, which hosted two receptions for Cuomo since 2008 and gave $68,856 to him, did an intimate fundraiser for him last fall in the ninth-floor conference room at its Albany office. Then Cuomo went to the Fort Orange Club, the gothic, wood-paneled, male-and-pale deal mausoleum, where he was introduced by the senior Jennings to an overflowing crowd of handlers and wirepullers.

In fact, it’s stunning how many leftovers from the Mario days are lobbyists and major Andrew donors now—Tonio Burgos, Jerry Weiss, Rick Ostroff, Pat Brown and his partner, David Weinraub. James Featherstonhaugh, the legendary 66-year-old dean of Albany lobbyists who represented Mario Cuomo personally in civil litigation, and was subsequently represented by Mario’s law firm, has taken on an Andrew aide, Frank Hoare, as a new partner. Burgos was Mario’s appointments secretary, and Weiss created the law firm Andrew ended up joining. Brown was a highly respected senior counsel to Mario Cuomo for many years. Weinraub and Ostroff, now at competing lobbying firms, ran intergovernmental affairs for Mario. This pack from the past combined to donate $213,080 to Andrew’s coffers since 2008.

Charlie King, the former top aide to Andrew at HUD who took a leave from his own two small lobbying outfits to serve as Cuomo’s executive director of the state party during this campaign, may return to his companies or to Bolton St. John’s, one of the state’s premier firms where he once worked. King was Andrew’s running mate in his failed 2002 bid for governor, and partnered for years with Al Sharpton, who has functioned as a lobbyist in David Paterson’s Albany without registering as one, collecting hundreds of thousands in state-connected donations to the National Action Network that he and King ran. King is a Cuomo and Sharpton loyalist, well positioned to become one of Albany’s most significant minority lobbyists.

The other “Al,” former Republican senator Al D’Amato, has tried to position himself as a key Cuomo ally, denouncing Carl Paladino as “not fit” to serve at the outset of the general election campaign. D’Amato sees himself as the kingmaker in picking the next GOP state chair after the election, and as an intermediary between Cuomo and the new Senate Republican majority. He hung on to his Republican credentials by loudly championing Dan Donovan, the party’s losing candidate for attorney general, even as he embraced Cuomo and Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democratic senator whose father, Doug Rutnik, is an Albany lobbyist himself and a longtime D’Amato and Featherstonhaugh sidekick.

D’Amato recruited former Staten Island Congressman Vito Fossella as a new partner in his Park Strategies lobbying firm at the same time that Fossella was featuring Paladino, rather than Rick Lazio, at a pre-primary rally in Staten Island against the so-called Ground Zero mosque. That September 11 appearance, combined with the timing of D’Amato’s post-primary denunciations of Paladino, may be the best indicators that Cuomo wanted to face Paladino, a deck D’Amato helped stack.

When D’Amato was in the senate and was the state’s official top Republican, and Mario Cuomo was the state’s top Democrat, the two had what Senator Patrick Moynihan called “a nonaggression pact,” with D’Amato serving up weak Republican challengers for governor in 1986 and 1990. As the unofficial leader of the party now, whose connections help bankroll it, D’Amato may hope to use that leverage to establish a similar tie to the son.

The D’Amato firm’s stable of prominent Republicans includes the son of Congressman Peter King (a potential formidable Cuomo opponent), the ex- Erie County executive Joel Giambra, and Fossella, whose career was undercut by the DUI-related revelations of a second, Washington-area, family. While D’Amato, who was once famously paid $500,000 for a single call to a state official, is not listed as a Cuomo donor. But his partners gave $9000, and D’Amato hosted a Cuomo fundraiser. D’Amato has also long been closely tied to another lobbying firm, Mercury Public Affairs, and one of its principals, Michael McKeon, ran Cuomo’s outreach effort to Republicans.

Mel Miller, the former Democratic Assembly speaker, recently joined D’Amato’s firm as special counsel. Miller sold his firm, Bolton St. John’s, to the staff a couple of years ago. He’d already established a strong D’Amato relationship by recruiting Armand D’Amato, the senator’s brother, as Bolton’s general counsel years earlier. Armand left Bolton to join Park Strategies in 2004, and now the D’Amatos have returned the favor.

Who cares that the Senate Ethics Committee found in 1991 that Al D’Amato had allowed his lobbyist brother to use his office stationery to solicit multimillion- dollar Navy contracts for a client? Who cares that Miller and Armand were convicted in unrelated federal trials in the 1990s, only to have their convictions overturned on appeal? In Albany, overturned convictions can be selling points.

In the days immediately following Miller’s 1991 conviction and automatic expulsion from the assembly, he told reporters that he was moving on to a new phase in his life and didn’t expect to do jail time for stealing $300,000 from his law clients. “Maybe I’ll make some real money now,” the then 52-year-old Miller said. Having spent a lifetime watching other lobbyists at the Albany trough, Miller’s on-the-mark prediction hardly made him a prophet.

Cuomo will be inaugurated on the darkest of Albany days, and it’s not just the budget that’s broken.

Three scandals as large as any in my lifetime haunt the capital, and each is a tale of lobbyists at their venal labor.

Republicans may have just retaken the state senate, even though their longtime majority leader, Joe Bruno, was convicted of federal felonies less than a year ago. If the GOP won, they did so, in part, by hanging a new, lobbyist-laden, scandal--the award of the $3 billion, 30-year racino franchise at Aqueduct--around the necks of Bruno’s Democratic successors, Malcolm Smith and John Sampson.

Bruno was caught mimicking the lobbyists that owned him, taking $3.2 million in “consultant” fees to steer union pension and state funds to his clients, though the media subordinated his proven criminal enterprise this fall to fresher Aqueduct headlines about still-unproven Democratic offenses. As tawdry as Smith and Sampson appear in the Aqueduct saga, they are boy scouts compared to Bruno, whose trial record depicted a breathtaking criminal enterprise.

One former counsel to Bruno, Kenneth Riddett, testified that he instructed GOP senators to have their financial disclosure forms hand-delivered to the ethics commission as a way of avoiding federal mail fraud statutes. By the time he testified, Riddett had his own lobbying shop, starting off with the Trial Lawyers Association, a Democratic stronghold in search of a Republican ally. It has long been legend that the GOP senate, much like Tom Delay’s House, pointed petitioners at their door to designated lobbyists, like a setter aiming its muzzle at game.

Lobbyists like Featherstonhaugh also made appearances on the witness stand. “Feathers,” as he is called, never bothers to dust a story up. He sees nothing wrong with being in a real estate partnership with the Senate leader he lobbies, Joe Bruno, or his brother Peter, or representing the Bruno family business, or doing a land deal with Bruno’s son, Kenny, or hiring Kenny as a lobbyist in his firm. (Kenny Bruno went on to Wilson Elser and then to his own lobbying firm, where he was clearing $50,000 a month.)

Feathers testified that he introduced the senator to a partner in a local investment firm because the businessman “wanted to see if he could enter into some kind of relationship” with Bruno, which he did, retaining the senator as a “consultant.” Then Feathers’s friend introduced Bruno to another businessman, who also retained him, giving birth to the business that ultimately convicted Bruno. Lobbyist John Cordo, who once worked for Feathers and was treated “like a son” by Bruno, also testified, confirming that a pivotal bill he handled granting correction officers some of the same pension benefits as police officers and firefighters was only passed after the correction union invested in a Bruno-tied investment firm, though he claimed he didn’t know Bruno was a consultant to the firm.

“I would see Joe socially,” Feathers recalled, unconsciously defining the art of the Albany schmooze. “He would talk primarily about his back swing and what trail he was going to ski. Those were our two big conversations.” Feathers wasn’t shy about saying what bored Bruno, either, simultaneously debunking the “three-in-a-room” decision-making legend, insisting that it was more like six-to-seven in a room, counting counsels.

Bruno didn’t testify, saving his long-winded declaration of innocence for the sentencing judge in May. “How dare anyone say I’m not worth $20,000 a month?” the lobbyist senator wailed, incensed by the testimony of one client who said Bruno did no work. “I know consultants that get paid $50,000 a month for doing what I was doing.”

It is a bipartisan whine, with Bruno echoing a Democratic assemblyman, Anthony Seminerio, who was convicted, like Bruno, of lobbyist envy. “I was doing favors for these sons of bitches there,” Seminerio told another convicted assemblyman in a secretly taped conversation. “They were making thousands.” So, said Seminerio, he decided, “Screw you—from now on, I’m the consultant.” Bruno explained, without a clause of contrition at his sentencing hearing: “I watched people on the outside who had been in leadership positions earning millions of dollars a year.”

So he tried it from the inside. A month after he stepped down from the senate in 2008, and shortly before he was indicted, Joe Bruno, 80, registered as a lobbyist for CMA Consulting, a company run by the widow of a former state senator with tens of millions in state contracts. It was not a late second career.

“I looked at what’s going on up on that hill,” said U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe as he sentenced Bruno to two years in prison, “and I just shook my head.”

Inspector General Joseph Fisch’s 308-page report, released a week before election day, focused on “the locusts of lobbyists” that “descended on” Senate Democratic leaders to win the Aqueduct contract, the largest in state history. The report only briefly notes that it was Bruno who insisted that the franchise be awarded like none other, empowering the two legislative leaders to exercise executive power and pick the winner, together with the governor.

Leave it to Feathers to attest to what the IG report said was a “common sentiment.” He testified that the unusual arrangement “came from my friend Joe Bruno’s insistence,” tied no doubt to the fact that Bruno’s son Kenny was representing Capital Play, an early bidder that evolved into Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG). Feathers himself was a principal in another bidder that won the contract in late 2008, shortly after Bruno resigned as leader, only to forfeit it when Feathers’s partners couldn’t come up with the upfront multimillion-dollar fee it agreed to pay. The majority leader was acting again as a lobbyist, this time for the horseracing interests he was so identified with, starting with his own son and Feathers.

Fisch told the Voice that the awarding of this contract to AEG was “a tribute to the unbridled power of lobbyists.” While AEG competitors, said Fisch, “had the financial resources, experience and the support of the licensing and financial professionals, AEG had the right lobbyists.” That, he concludes, “proved to be all they needed.”

Hank Sheinkopf
Two of the lobbyists accused in the IG report of fixing the Democratic senate - Carl Andrews and Hank Sheinkopf - flouted the probe, with Andrews unsuccessfully suing to block subpoenas and appealing right up to the report’s release, and Sheinkopf taking the fifth amendment. Incredibly, their refusal to cooperate with a state probe of the award of one state contract has no effect on their ability to seek another. There are no qualifications or standards for this job, and you can keep it even if the state’s Public Integrity Commission (PIC) finds that you violated the lobbying laws. All you have to do is find a client willing to pay you.

Andrews hosted a victory dinner in his Brooklyn house right after AEG won the bid, and Smith and Sampson and five other legislators, including Manhattan county leader Keith Wright, joined company brass at an event Andrews invoiced for $1,562. The night before Governor Paterson announced the award, Andrews and AEG executives lit a victory cigar at the Havana Club with Al Sharpton, whose NAN had just collected $100,000 in AEG contributions, ostensibly tied to their belief that the Rev was whispering to Paterson on their behalf. A former state senator himself, Andrews held a top executive title in the Spitzer and Paterson administrations until a scandal about his apparent efforts to influence a decision of the State Liquor Authority forced him from office (the IG eventually concluded that Andrews’ top aide had to be fired).

But, like Mel Miller and others in Albany, Andrews has found that scandal can be a stepping stone, prospering even after his mentor, Brooklyn Democratic boss and assemblyman Clarence Norman, was convicted in three separate felony cases. Andrews attracted clients like AEG from the moment he threw up a shingle in 2009, also recruiting A.L. Eastmond & Sons, the Bronx boiler firm that allegedly paid City Councilman Larry Seabrook $50,000 to rig a Yankee Stadium subcontract. He also represents the Marcus Garvey Nursing Home, a much-probed, state-supported, Brooklyn residence that remained the biggest giver to Norman’s re-election committee in 2009, four years after he surrendered his assembly post.

Charged by the IG with getting a confidential senate memo from Sampson and playing a key role in tilting Sampson in AEG’s direction, Andrews’ relationship with Sampson is described by the IG as “a wellspring of ethical issues.” E-mails from AEG executives revealed that a day after Andrews got the secret memo comparing bids, they decided to boost his monthly stipend by $2,500 to $10,000, calling him “our most important” of seven lobbyists. But they also decided to pay him only half of the amount he was due right away. “By delaying payment #2,” one executive wrote, referring to a second $10,000 stipend, “he can’t release the senate.” It is such a statement of perceived power that Andrews, who has survived so many grand juries he may think they’re grand, is apparently trying again to wait out this storm as well and perhaps turn the findings into a flyer for his services.

Sheinkopf copped a memo, too, obtaining it from an aide to the top Senate staffer, Angelo Aponte, who Sheinkopf personally installed in the key spot. He had the power to do that because the skillful Sheinkopf doubles as a lobbyist and as a political consultant, and had advised Senate Democrats in the elections that led to the 2008 majority, helping to make Malcolm Smith majority leader. Sheinkopf collected $356,741 in consulting fees from the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee at the same time that he was representing AEG and its precursor with Senate Democrats. Having worked for Bill Thompson and Mike Bloomberg most recently, Sheinkopf makes kings so he can then make deals with the kings he’s made. He became a regular on CNN over recent years, appearing as an expert so often he started to believe he was one.

More than 20 years ago, Sheinkopf handled the first successful campaign for Rob Johnson, who is still the Bronx District Attorney. Johnson beat Phil Foglia, the author of the IG report, after a top Foglia associate reportedly tried, unsuccessfully, to get Sheinkopf to do Foglia’s campaign. That may make this report the first time Sheinkopf’s two hats have, over time, become too many to wear, especially when caught in a headwind like AEG. Fisch, oddly, recused himself on this investigation because of his ties to Paterson, who participated in the AEG selection, but took center stage at the press conference unveiling it-an unusual combination.

Foglia, who is so Republican he was picked in 2007 to be the Bronx party’s commissioner on the NYC Board of Elections, has failed in a couple of electoral runs, but his well-timed report may have delivered the GOP its biggest 2010 win. Foglia told the Voice that his BOE nomination was “stalled by politics” and that he “became a Republican in the late 90s,” running as one for City Council in 2005. The Foglia ties suggest that even a report that gets the Democratic Senate side of a scandal right can, by going light on Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats, still be a well-timed partisan contract in Albany.

The report quotes another AEG lobbyist, the ubiquitous Cordo, as defending the illicit receipt of the two memos: “All I care about is the information, not where it came from.” His reasoning? “This is lobbying,” he explained, which the IG concluded was a clear statement of why lobbyists were “antithetical to an objective procurement” process, unconcerned about rigging it.

Also prominent in orchestrating the award were Bolton St. John’s and two other lobbyists closely associated with Sheinkopf--Norman Levy, who was Sheinkopf’s best man AT his wedding, and Stanley Schlein, a fixer tied to the one-man Senate crime wave, Pedro Espada, who was fined $15,000 in 2008 by the city’s Conflict of Interests Board. Schlein told the AEG he didn’t register as an AEG lobbyist because he was functioning as their counsel, though, said the report, “others testified that he played a role as a lobbyist.”

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has been investigating the aqueduct deal all year, as he has the simultaneous $50 million voting machine contract awarded by the city election board to a company, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), also represented by Sheinkopf and Levy. NYPIRG listings showed that Sheinkopf had the third largest increase in compensation between 2008 and 2009, while Levy was ninth.

Schlein was on the opposite side of the voting machine competition, representing the losing company that’s now suing. One source said Schlein was working with John Haggerty, the Republican consultant under indictment for stealing a million in campaign funds from Mayor Bloomberg and a recent top aide to Carl Paladino. Haggerty, who was said to have periodically appeared at the board, did not file as a lobbyist on the deal.

A lobbyist working with Sheinkopf and Levy for ES&S, Anthony Mangone, was arrested by the feds on unrelated bribery charges the day after the January board decision. Jay Savino, the Bronx Republican county leader who nominated Foglia to be the party’s commissioner on the Board of Elections, shares an office suite with Mangone and has already been subpoenaed in the case, just one more way these incestuous circles swirl. Foglia says his relationship with Savino is “cordial.”

Cuomo learned firsthand how pernicious the Albany lobbying game is with his investigation of the other great scandal of the past four years—the looting of the state’s pension fund. Some of the same lobbyists that are tied to AEG made appearances in this clammy chronicle as well.

Norman Levy “received a half-million dollars” in 2006 payments from Bill Howell, a major pension fund placement agent, and “appeared sometimes to be Howell’s partner” in controversial deals with the fund, according to a source familiar with the transactions. Investigators concluded that they were splitting fees, and not disclosing it. The payments to Levy - whose conviction for running a parking-ticket-fixing-scam decades ago was also overturned on appeal - were allegedly tied to his introduction of Howell to a principal of Global Strategies, a consulting firm whose client, Intermedia, was seeking millions in city and state pension fund investments. Howell made the placements and shared the fees with Levy, who appeared to be listed as an employee of one Howell entity. Sheinkopf received payments from Levy shortly after Levy was paid by Howell.

Howell also paid former Liberal Party boss and notoriously influential lobbyist Ray Harding another half-million. Unlike Howell and Levy, Harding was indicted on charges associated with these and other payments. In his guilty plea, Harding refers to the payments Howell made to him and concedes he did nothing to earn them.

The comptroller at the time, Alan Hevesi, just pled guilty to taking a million in bribes from Markstone Capital Partners, one of the companies that looted the fund, and $380,000 of that total took the form of a fee paid to Frank Sanzillo, a lobbyist whose brother was Hevesi’s top deputy. The fee was funneled through Hank Morris, the lynchpin of the pension racket. Hevesi’s only attempt at an explanation for steering the payments to Sanzillo is that he was “a political supporter of mine.” Sanzillo, who has not been charged, is another of the AEG lobbyists named in the IG report, though he got out quickly after a two-month retainer. He and Carl Andrews share several clients and are listed as pitching in together when the Senate Democrats buy golf balls for their outing.

Other lobbyists like onetime Bronx assemblyman Roberto Ramirez and former Republican assembly leader John Faso have also been implicated in the pension scandal. The only reason more haven’t been is because Hevesi - and his successor, Tom DiNapoli - decided to continue a policy that exempted lobbyists dealing with the fund from registering or filing as lobbyists. A memo that DiNapoli’s lawyers sent to the Public Integrity Commission in July 2009 distinguished the pension fund from other “governmental entities,” contending it was not “a state asset” and thus not subject to state procurement policies, including those regulating lobbyists. Hevesi took a similar position in 2002, shortly after he was elected.

More disclosure and tighter reins won’t begin to break the cult. Andrew Cuomo has to move in a wholly new direction, creating an office of lobbying relations that will become the only passageway onto his second floor for lobbying information, which is sometimes informed and helpful. This filter will be staffed by technocrats who think of birds when they hear someone mention feathers. The unit will be staffed not on the basis of who they know, but who they don’t know. Once this ban on direct contacts with decisionmakers is extended to all state agencies, Cuomo may have set an example that the senate and assembly will have to emulate.

I ran this remedy past Blair Horner, the New York Public Interest Group lobbyist who is the ethics watchdog of Albany and once worked for Cuomo. Horner sees all kinds of practical difficulties, fearing “bottlenecks” and other “logistical questions,” but says “it could work.” He thinks it should be “tested out” in a pilot project.

Of course, the danger of anything piecemeal is that the Big Boys could set in motion a new pattern of Cuomo seduction before the wholesale innovation gets off the ground, and, thus, radical change would never occur. Feathers blasted the idea as “naïve,” and said “the generalists” Cuomo put in the unit “would know us all in two weeks.”

It’s not just the state that would be protected by erecting these walls. It’s Cuomo himself. If he falls into the get-along ways of the lobbying caste, just changing the seating arrangement at the head table, he will become the main course. And New York, the love of his family’s life, will sink deeper into its swamp of cynicism.

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[click here] for:

Alex Jones: WikiLeaks credibility skyrocketing

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Was former New York Attorney General and State Governor, Eliot Spitzer taken down by this video being turned into the FBI weeks before his downfall?:

Text with video:
SvenVonErick | January 24, 2008 | likes, 1 dislikes

CLICK HERE, more info:

Elena Sassower blows the whistle on Hillary
Clinton, corrupt lawyers and judges, and lets us know what needs to be done to clean up our US courts.

Judges appointed Bush as President. He wasn't elected.

Hillary is seeking the Presidency the same way, fixing the courts.

If there are not ethics in the courts, the US Constitution is null and void.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

FBI creating police state

Text with below video:
RTAmerica | November 30, 2010 | likes, 3 dislikes

Entrapment has become a favorite tool for the FBI; just recently the FBI successfully thwarted a terrorist bombing in Portland, OR, after following the suspect for over a year. However, as these entrapments continue to take place it seems that the US government is simply making up these threats. Former Reagan Administration aide Paul Craig Roberts points out this is all a part of the US government attempting to create a police state to control its citizens.

FBI fabricates terror plot?

Text with video:
RTAmerica | November 30, 2010 | likes, 3 dislikes

The FBI has arrested a nineteen year old man who they claim wanted to denote a Christmas tree bomb in Portland. But did officials trick and entrap the guy just to win national security points? RT's Anastasia Churkina reports.

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[click here] for:

Alex Jones: WikiLeaks credibility skyrocketing

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Diagnosing the current problems, suggesting a modern solution?:

This blogger, Steven G. Erickson, main gripes with the misconduct of the State of Connecticut's Police and Judicial Misconduct:


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