Framing the Dialogue

It’s All Relative

We are family
I got all my sisters with me
We are family
Get up ev’rybody and sing

There has a roiling controversy in Pennsylvania’s control liquor sales system.  State government not only taxes the heck out of liquor and wines, it is the exclusive agent (Liquor Control Board or LCB) for the sale of said products.  Other than a limited number of outlets that can sell wine, if you want more than beer you have to visit a “State Store.”  They have since come up with a nicer name, but will always be State Stores to my generation.

The controversy surrounds the hiring of a firm to train employees to be friendlier.  If you think the controversy is the fact that they want to spend $173,000 on this program as the state is in dire financial condition, you would be right, but not completely. 

It has been reported in the media that the president of the firm that was given the contract for the training is the husband of a top official in the organization. 

“LCB officials said that regional manager Susanne Hobart held no sway over the $173,000 contract that was awarded to her husband Buddy’s firm.” 

Always deny!  It also helps if you feign offense that someone would even suggest impropriety. 

Ev’ryone can see we’re together
As we walk on by

If you thought Senator Chris Dodd (D – Conn) looked bad by specifically writing language for the Stimulus bill protecting AIG bonuses only to deny knowledge of the language and then having to admit to the authorship the next day.  He was tried to deflect and blamed the Treasury Dept. and the Obama Administration.  He also accepted the second highest amount of campaign donations from AIG (Obama was number one).  But wait; there is more to the sordid tale as Dodd’s wife was a director of an AIG subsidiary.

(FLY!) and we fly just like birds of a feather
I won’t tell no lie

It seemed that Rep. Maxine Waters (D – CA) intervened on behalf of OneUnited Bank and arranged a meeting with Treasury officials.  It was reported that the bank subsequently secured bailout money.  Here is the relative part.  Both she and her husband had owned stock in the bank and until recently her husband was a director of the bank.

(ALL!) all of the people around us they say
Can they be that close

And turning to the White House.  It seems that Michelle Obama received a 200% raise from The University of Chicago Hospital as the Vice President of Community and External Affairs.  It was purely coincidental that she received the $300,000 annual salary shortly after her husband was elected to the senate and was able to “direct” millions of dollars of federal grants to the hospital.  The job was so important that the hospital chose not to refill the position after she left. 

Just let me state for the record
We’re giving love in a family dose

It also seems like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D – CA) has been paying her husband’s real estate firm using campaign contribution from her political action committee.  This is ok as her husband is the treasurer of the PAC.  Coincidentally, the payments have reportedly quadrupled since Mr. Pelosi took over that post.

Living life is fun and we’ve just begun
To get our share of the world’s delights

Being the good mother, it appears that Pelosi’s son has also benefited from his mother’s power.  Shortly after mommy was elected as the first woman speaker, Paul Pelosi, Jr. was given a vice-president position paying  $180,000 per year at InfoUSA, a company that had been implicated in creating lists of citizens that were then sold and used to fleece elderly people.  Paul kept his day job at Countrywide Loans as a mortgage loan office.  I seem to remember hearing that Senator Chris Dodd got a sweet mortgage deal from Countrywide.

(HIGH!) high hopes we have for the future
And our goal’s in sight

Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D – Nevada) has had some lucrative family reunions.  When dad is powerful, opportunity knocks for the sons (and son-in-law).  Reid’s sons and son in law have found careers as lobbyists.  It is not at all unethical that they lobby for firms in which their father has some influence.  There is not conflict there…perfectly innocent.

(WE!) no we don’t get depressed
Here’s what we call our golden rule
Have faith in you and the things you do

In what may be the mother of all family affairs we turn to Hill and Bill.  Our new Secretary of State has a husband who has received an estimated $500 million dollars for his museum and for speaking engagements.  I know that you are thinking, “$500 million.  Not a bad gig.”  The dicey part is that as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton will be negotiating with foreign governments while her husband is “working” for them.  No conflict there.  Right?

You won’t go wrong
This is our family Jewel

The Clintons take two.  Hillary’s two brothers alegedly received money from people who later were pardoned by President Bill.  Tony Rodham admitted to approaching President Clinton about pardoning a couple from whom he received $100,000.  Brother Hugn did much better as he took home a reported $400,000 from two people one of whom was later pardoned and the other had his sentence commuted.

This is our family Jewel

Living life is fun and we’ve just begun
To get our share of the world’s delights.

Update  June 30, 2009 – In a different twist on the “We Are Family” theme, Monica Conyers was a city councilwoman from Detroit.  I used the term “was” since she had to resign after pleading guilty to accepting a bribe from a contractor in return for her vote to award a lucrative contract to the firm. 

The family twist is that Monica Conyers is the wife of Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) and reportedly owes her election to the fact that she is married to a powerful Democrat congressman.  The fact that Mr. Conyers is also the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee adds a little irony to the story.  Mrs. Conyers is facing up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.  The key phrase is “up to” as I would be lying if I thought that she would get anything but community service.

What is up in Detroit?  First former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick pleads guily to a crime, does no jail time, and ends up living in a $1 million dollar house.  In his defense, it is a rental, but it is a rental that 95% of law-abiding Americans could not afford. 

I would expect Mr. Conyers to support the maximum penalty for defrauding the public by accepting bribes.  He has been a very outspoken critic of alleged crimes by the former Bush Administration and has promised full investigations into allegations of the “Imperial Presidency.”  He may have to rethink that moniker for President Bush as Obama may have already registered the domain name for himself. 

Conyers’ case against Bush at this point these are just allegations while his wife’s infractions admittedly took place.  You can read the full 487 page report released by Mr. Conyers (wonder what that cost the taxpayers).  I am not holding my breath that Mr. Conyers will have anything but support for his wife.

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