Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bailed-Out Firms Using Our Money to Lobby Washington

The more we learn about the Wall St. bailouts the more we learn that it's nothing but a ripoff of the American people. The joke is on us. The politicians are merely puppets doing the bidding of powerful financial interests.

The top 10 recipients of the government's $700 billion financial bailout spent about $9.5 million on federal lobbying during the first three months of the year.

The biggest spender was bailed-out automaker General Motors Corp., which devoted $2.8 million to lobbying in the first quarter of 2009. It has received $13.4 billion in government loans and could get $5 billion more, according to a government report released Tuesday.

Failed insurance giant American International Group Inc. and banks Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. each reported spending more than $1 million to influence the government as they lived off federal money this year. AIG has gotten some $70 billion from the bailout fund _ including a fresh $30 billion infusion the government reported on Tuesday _ while Citigroup has received $45 billion and JPMorgan $25 billion.

The lobbying activity was revealed publicly in reports required to be filed with Congress. This year's first quarterly report was due Monday.

Other major recipients of money from the so-called Troubled Assets Relief Program also had substantial lobbying costs in the first three months of this year, including:

_Bank of America Corp., which reported spending $660,000 lobbying while receiving its $45 billion in help;

_Wells Fargo & Company, with $700,000 in lobbying costs and $25 billion in bailout money;

_Goldman Sachs, which spent $670,000 while receiving its $10 billion;

_Morgan Stanley, which spent $540,000 while also getting $10 billion in assistance;

_PNC Financial Services Group, spent $135,000 _ nearly double what it did at the end of last year _ on lobbying while receiving a $7.8 billion lifeline;

_U.S. Bancorp spent $170,000 on lobbying and got $6.6 billion in government aid.

"They say they're not using public money for these purposes, but in effect these companies are steering taxpayer funds to lobbying and campaign contributions," said Craig Holman of the watchdog group Public Citizen. "It's completely unjustifiable."

The reports suggest that most of the bailed-out companies have beefed up their lobbying at least marginally since last year. Seven spent more to influence the government than they did in the last quarter of 2008.

The largest increases apart from PNC were by Goldman, which spent 34 percent more on lobbying than it did at the end of last year; Wells Fargo, which spent about 21 percent more, and JPMorgan, which lobbied 19 percent more. AIG also devoted some 16 percent more money to interacting with the government, despite the "no-lobbying" policy it adopted late last year after receiving repeated bailouts.

Miss USA Controversy Proof of Pro-Gay Marriage Crowd's Intolerance

The pro-gay marriage movement continually demonstrates the hypocrisy of their thinking. Sunday's Miss USA was a stark example of the intolerance directed against those who do not follow the party line. This blogger personally knew instantly that Carrie Prejean's answer would cost the Miss USA crown. Political correctness permeates the entertainment industry. And anyone deviates from the pro-gay marriage orthodoxy is punished. Never mind that the majority of Americans, including Barack Obama, believe marriage should be between a man and woman. They obviously don't understand what democracy is about. And this intolerance will backfire.

First runner-up Carrie Prejean (Miss California) was asked about legalizing same-sex marriage from judge Perez Hilton, the Internet blogger behind perezhilton.com.

"I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody there. But that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be," Prejean said during Sunday night's live telecast.

Hilton was visibly upset, and there was a mixed reaction from the live audience. Prejean ultimately came up short, losing the title to Miss North Carolina, Kristen Dalton.

On Monday, Keith Lewis, the executive director for Miss California USA/Teen USA, said he was saddened by Prejean's response.

Prejean, who has been romantically linked to Olympian Michael Phelps, spoke on Monday, too: "I feel like I'm the winner. I really do," she said to pageant host Billy Bush on "The Billy Bush Show," noting that she had 1,000 new messages on Facebook and 2,000 friend requests.

•PHOTOS: Metromix's photo gallery from the Miss USA pageant

Prejean added that her answer "did cost me my crown," but said: "I wouldn't have had it any other way. I said what I feel. I stated an opinion that was true to myself, and that's all I can do."

We are headed for a cultural war in this country because of this issue. This event could be the first shot.
It was supposed to be all smiles and tiaras, but Sunday night's Miss USA beauty pageant took an ugly turn after Miss California's comments on same-sex marriage. North Carolina may have won, but she's not the one getting all the attention.

Who knew the question-and-answer portion of the pageant would become the latest touchstone in a debate that's raging across the country. News 3's Gerard Ramalho is the only reporter with that post-pageant confrontation.

Our own Alicia Jacobs was a judge and we had several staffers who witnessed the event. The "Miss California question," as it's now being called, and her response to the legalization of gay marriage sparked an angry debate after the show. People on both sides were fuming.

The beauty of the Miss USA pageant quickly turned ugly with supporters of Miss California, Carrie Prejean, and gay rights opponents pointing fingers and loudly voicing opinions.

"We have a right to give an alternate viewpoint. She had a mic, we had to speak loudly."

Celebrity judge Perez Hilton, an openly gay man, is the one who posed the question about whether all states should legalize gay marriage.

Miss California's response: I think it's great we live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite. And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised. Thank you very much.

The reaction from Hilton was obvious; the audience was a mix of boos and cheers.

"You know we're not asking for special rights, we're asking for equal rights," says Hilton.

Candice Nichols, the Director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada says she was not offended; she just disagrees.

"In my country and in my family, we feel differently and we feel that it's equal rights for all. But she's definitely entitled to her opinion."

In the end, it was Miss North Carolina, Kristen Dalton, who was crowned the winner; Miss California was runner-up.

But in terms of publicity, the outcome may turn out a little differently. On YouTube at this point, the crowning of the winner has reached nearly 21,000 views, while the Miss California question clip has surpassed 500,000.

There's been a lot of reaction, including from the co-director of the pageant, who says he was saddened by her response. Prejean is also receiving praise and kudos, however, from Christians and others who share her opinion.

Prejean is a soldier in that war:
[...]Miss California says her phone has been ringing off the hook with people offering her support after she took on a question about gay marriage on Sunday night's Miss USA telecast.

"I have no regrets about answering [judge Perez Hilton] honestly," she said in one of her first interviews following the show, where she answered that she was against gay marriage becoming legal in California. "He asked me for my opinion and I gave it to him. I have nothing against gay people and I didn't mean to offend anyone in my answer."