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“At The Altar Of International Finance”: Romney “Goes For The Gold” In London’s Libor Village

In fairness to Mitt Romney, he did not schedule his $75,000-a-plate money grab at the altar of international finance when he heard that—via the Libor bank-rate scandal—Londoners were practicing his kind of crony capitalism.

Even before the Bain capitalist knew that bankers in London were lying to regulators and fixing interest rates in order to run up their profits—engaging in activities that the governor of the Bank of England said “meet my definition of fraud”—Romney was excited about getting a piece of the London bankster action.

But Romney campaign has has gone to Olympian lengths to make their candidate’s British sojourn seem to be about something other than the looting of London.

The Republican presidential contender’s international fundraising operation—and, yes, he does have an international fundraising operation—scheduled two major events to coincide with the opening of the Olympic Games. As a candidate who is having trouble touting his business experience (Bain Vulture Capital) and his governing experience (RomneyCare), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee calculated that it might be a good idea to take a trip across the pond to highlight his (somewhat less controversial) management of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

The Olympics are being held this year in east London, just beyond the fabled “City” precincts which are, along with New York’s Wall Street, the nerve center of global banking and financial dealmaking. And Romney is using his London sojourn to skim off some cash—make that a lot of cash—for his campaign accounts.

Or, as London’s Independent headlines the story: “Romney Goes for the Gold in London.”

Romney Victory Inc., the incredibly complex fundraising structure the candidate has developed to funnel money into his many campaign operations, has scheduled two London events for July 26:

1. A meet-and-greet where the price of admission is $2,500 per person.

2. A dinner where the places at the tables go for as much as $75,000 per person.

Both the Romney and Obama campaigns have raised money overseas from American expatriates (who, along with Green Card holders, are allowed to donate to US campaigns even if they do not reside in the United States or work for US-based banks or corporations). Obama’s had the upper hand in the global fundraising race by a $3.1 million to $1.4 million margin. But that will change after Romney collects his London haul.

Why? Because Romney is getting together with with The City’s wealthiest, and most scandal-plagued, banksters.

Or, at least, most of them.

Bob Diamond, the former Barclay’s banking empire chief executive who was forced to resign after it was revealed that his bank manipulated the Libor (London InterBank Offered Rate) with false reports about interest rates, was supposed to be at the head of the table. But with his busy schedule of testimony before parliamentary committees and investigators of the biggest banking scandal in recent years, the American expatriate has been forced to absent himself from the festivities.

“Mr. Diamond decided to step aside as a co-host for the upcoming London reception to focus all his attention on Barclays,” the Romney camp announced. “We respect his decision.”

Why shouldn’t they? One of Diamond’s closest lieutenants at Barclays—which just paid $453 million in fines stemming from the Libor scandal—is still co-chairing Romney’s big-ticket event in London.

Barclay’s lobbyist Patrick Durkin’s name is right there at the top of the invite to “a private dinner with Governor Mitt Romney at a central London location.”

Also on the list of forty-seven co-chairs of Romney’s London fundraisers are the names of top players in other banks that have been targets of the interest-rate manipulation scandal, including:

* Bank of Credit Suisse chief executive Eric Varvel (Varvel has already donated $100,000 to Romney’s “Restore Our Future” Super PAC.)

* Deutsche Bank managing director Raj Bhattacharyya

* HSBC managing director Whitfield Hines

Executives from Goldman Sachs, Blackstone and Wells Fargo Securities—and, of course, Bain Capital Europe—are also on the list.

Why would these Americans associated with international banks be giving maximum money to this particular presidential candidate? Gee, could it have anything to do with the fact that there are calls for criminal prosecution of the bankers who were involved in interest rate manipulations that effectively rigged the rates that helped to determine who consumers in the United States and other countries obtained mortgages and paid on credit cards?

“Much more needs to be done,” Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed( D-RI) and ten of their colleagues wrote in a mid-July letter to financial regulators and Attorney General Eric Holder. “Banks and their employees found to have broken the law should face appropriate criminal prosecution and civil action.”

Electing a friendly president, who might put the brakes on those prosecutions, just became a very high priority for the men who pull the financial strings not just on Wall Street but in London.

Approached by Britain’s Telegraph, one invitee hailed Romney’s “American understanding of capitalism. A prominent lawyer who will be attending one of Romney’s London bashes explained that the Republican candidate understands “very important things [that] people here in the UK also understand.”

That sort of “understanding” is worth a lot to embattled bankers. Certainly, the $75,000 it will cost for what the Independent describes as a “chance to whisper some of their own policy preferences into the ear of the man who may—or may not—be US president.”


By: John Nichols, The Nation, July 20, 2012

July 21, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Horrifying Worldview”: The Endless Arrogance Of Wall Street

The super wealthy apparently believe that they deserve constant deference.

Greg Sargent is rightfully stunned by the entitled petulance of Wall Street bankers who are shocked—shocked—that President Obama would do anything other than praise their indispensable brilliance:

Wall Streeters are so upset about Obama’s harsh populist rhetoric that they privately called on him to make amends with a big speech — like his oration on race — designed to heal the wounds of class warfare in this country. […]

Of course, their exaggerated weariness notwithstanding, the “wounds of class warfare” haven’t been borne by Wall Streeters, who remain fabulously wealthy even after causing the worst downturn since the Great Depression. If there’s anyone waging class warfare, it’s the radicalized representatives of the rich, who have successfully engineered government to enhance their wealth at the cost of our shared responsibilities. As such, the actual victims of class warfare are the ordinary Americans who face stagnant wages, rising costs, and a tattered safety net.

After going through the insanity of Wall Street complaints, Sargent ends his post on this note:

One wonders if there is anything Obama could say to make these people happy, short of declaring that rampant inequality is a good thing, in that it affirms the talent and industriousness of the deserving super rich. It certainly seems clear that they won’t be satisfied until he stops mentioning it at all. [Emphasis mine]

If you think the bolded section is an exaggeration, you should take some time to read Adam Davidson’s New York Times profile of Edward Conard, a former partner at Bain Capital—Mitt Romney’s investment fund—who now works as an apologist for the ultrawealthy. Conard believes three things. First, that millionaires and billionaires earned every penny of their wealth through merit and hard work:

God didn’t create the universe so that talented people would be happy,” he said. “It’s not beautiful. It’s hard work. It’s responsibility and deadlines, working till 11 o’clock at night when you want to watch your baby and be with your wife. It’s not serenity and beauty.”

Second, that immense wealth is the just reward for any and all risk taking:

“It’s not like the current payoff is motivating everybody to take risks,” he said. “We need twice as many people. When I look around, I see a world of unrealized opportunities for improvements, an abundance of talented people able to take the risks necessary to make improvements but a shortage of people and investors willing to take those risks. That doesn’t indicate to me that risk takers, as a whole, are overpaid. Quite the opposite.” The wealth concentrated at the top should be twice as large, he said.

And finally, that extraordinary income inequality is a net plus for society. Those who use their wealth for charity, Conard argues, are depriving the world of investment and gain:

During one conversation, he expressed anger over the praise that Warren Buffett has received for pledging billions of his fortune to charity. It was no sacrifice, Conard argued; Buffett still has plenty left over to lead his normal quality of life. By taking billions out of productive investment, he was depriving the middle class of the potential of its 20-to–1 benefits. If anyone was sacrificing, it was those people. “Quit taking a victory lap,” he said, referring to Buffett. “That money was for the middle class.”

For those of us who don’t see wealth as the ultimate end, who see value in other, non-monetary pursuits, and who understand the power of chance and fortune, this is a horrifying worldview. Conard seems oblivious to the fact that there are people who work hard—punishing their bodies with physical labor—in order to scrap by with the basics of life. It’s not that these people are lazy, it’s that they didn’t win the cosmic dice game that put them in a position to reach the heights of American society.

There is a disturbing corollary to Conard’s worldview, that he expresses in his conversation with Davidson—if the wealthy are supremely virtuous for their pursuit of wealth, then those who reject that choice—regardless of what they do—are unworthy of our respect or admiration:

Conard, who occasionally flashed a mean streak during our talks, started calling the group “art-history majors,” his derisive term for pretty much anyone who was lucky enough to be born with the talent and opportunity to join the risk-taking, innovation-hunting mechanism but who chose instead a less competitive life.

Given their friendship and close connections, one thing to consider is whether Mitt Romney holds views close to Conard’s. Judging from his domestic policy plans—huge income tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, combined with tax cuts on investment income, and a dramatic reduction in social services—the obvious answer is yes, of course he does. And indeed, at the end of his profile, Adam Davidson offers the strong suggestion that Romney’s thinking has more in common with his friend than it does with any of us.


BY: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, May 2, 2012

May 3, 2012 Posted by | Class Warfare | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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