Archive for August, 2010

Carnahans, Harry Reid linked to indicted St. Louis developer



The Unablogger

The Unablogger

John Steffen, who was indicted this week for bank fraud for a tax credit scheme during the collapse of his Pyramid Construction empire, has a long history as a national Democratic Party power broker. (Note: As they say on Cops, all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.) Major recipients of Steffen’s largesse include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), four members of Missouri’s Carnahan political dynasty, committees funding the Democratic takeover of both houses of Congress in 2006, and President Barack Obama.

Steffen was particularly generous to Reid, whose state is over 1,500 miles away from Steffen’s St. Louis home. In addition to $4,000 in 2004 to the then minority leader’s 2004 reelection campaign, Steffen also donated $17,500 to Searchlight Leadership Fund (Reid’s Leadership PAC) and $15,000 to the Nevada State Democratic Party.

Steffen was a major financier of Democrats’ successful effort to reclaim control of Congress in 2006. In addition to his contributions to the Reid campaign and associated committees, Steffen donated over $83,000 to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee between 2005 and 2008, another $16,000 in 2005-2007 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and generous direct contributions to the successful 2006 campaigns of Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ben Nelson (D-FL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) (plus over $2,000 to Missouri Victory 2006, which was linked to McCaskill) that were key to the party’s success in winning control.

Steffen was an early and generous supporter of President Barack Obama. In addition to donating the maximum legal $4,600 to Obama’s presidential campaign in 2007 (when the “smart money” was still behind then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)), Steffen donated $4,323 to Hopefund, Inc., which Politico reported in 2007 worked in concert with the Obama presidential campaign by contributing to key officials in early primary states, giving money in hopes of winning their support.

Other notable recipients of Steffen money include the 2004 presidential campaigns of both former Rep. Dick Gephardt and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and the Iowa Democratic Party in advance of Gephardt’s unsuccessful campaign in that state’s presidential primary.

In Missouri, Steffen was especially generous to the Carnahan Dynasty. He contributed a thousand dollars to the late Mel Carnahan’s 2000 senate campaign, $2,000 to the unsuccessful 2002 re-election campaign of former Sen. Jean Carnahan, $2,000 in 2003 to the successful 2004 congressional campaign of Rep. Russ Carnahan, and a like amount in 2005 to his 2006 re-election campaign. Robin Carnahan received $1,175 in 2003 for her 2004 campaign for Missouri Secretary of State, with like amounts from at least two corporate members of The Pyramid Group. All of those contributions represented the maximum legal amounts at the time they were made. Corporate contributions are legal for campaigns for state office, but not federal office.

Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO) received over $7,000 from Steffen in the form of maximum legal contributions for campaigns in 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2008. Steffen played both sides in the contentious 2004 Democratic gubernatorial primary, making maximum legal donations to incumbent Bob Holden in 2002 and to his conqueress, State Auditor Claire McCaskill, in 2004. Other notable Missouri recipients include Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), former State Treasurer Nancy Farmer’s unsuccessful 2004 senate campaign against Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO), and former Secretary of State Bekki Cook’s unsuccessful campaign for Lieutenant Governor (against current Lieut. Gov. Peter Kinder). On the local level, key Steffen recipients included St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, St. Louis Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, and License Collector Mike McMillan.

Steffen made occasional Republican contributions, but even those usually displayed a Democrat twist. Steffen made a courtesy $1,000 contribution in 2005 to Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), who is married to Democrat power broker Ron Gladney. Steffen donated $2,000 to the late Sherman Parker’s 2006 Republican primary challenge to Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), fueling Democrat hopes of wounding the popular Akin. Not yet explained is Steffen’s surprising $10,000 donation to the Missouri Republican State Committee in 2005. I’m sure there’s a story there; I just don’t know what it is. Yet.

Steffen’s latest political donations ($28,500 to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and $2,300 to Rep. Lacy Clay in 2008) were made when he was already in financial distress. Respected (and expensive) St. Louis bankruptcy attorney Steven Goldstein, whom Steffen engaged to negotiate settlements with Pyramid’s creditors, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Steffen has earned no income since 2008 and “likely can’t afford a criminal attorney for his fraud case.” Perhaps if the politicians would return the over $200,000 (conservatively speaking) he has given them in political contributions in the past decade, he could afford a lawyer. Otherwise, taxpayers left picking up the tab to defend this Democratic Party financier.

Predictably, reports on Steffen’s indictment by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Riverfront Times, and the St. Louis Business Journal made no mention of his important Democratic Party ties. Two of them, though, went out of their way to note that Steffen had received an award from President Bush.

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Why charge Waters, but not Prince Russ?

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

I think people are missing a large, important point when they dismiss Reps. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Charlie Rangel (D-NY) playing the race card over the ethics charges leveled against them by Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s super-duper “drain the swamp” ethics committee.

Their arguments are perceived to be (and may actually be) that the committee is singling out African-American members of Congress, and is therefore racist. No one is entitled to a “free pass” from having to be accountable for their misdeeds just because there aren’t X number of similar prosecutions against folks who aren’t members of his or her politically protected minority group. It is possible (though in Congress, not likely) that the only offenders are members of minority groups. A minority is not entitled to immunity for his or her misdeeds just because all of those who are caught committing the misdeeds are minorities. Authorities can only charge those who have committed misdeeds of which they have evidence. I totally get that.

But there’s more to this story. African Americans are not the only offenders. Case in point: Rep. Waters is charged with steering stimulus funds to a business (in this case a bank) in which a family member (specifically Waters’ husband) has a financial interest. But Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) steered stimuls funds to a business (in this case a wind farm) in which a family member (specifically Carnahan’s brother) has a financial interest. Queen Nancy’s “drain the swamp” crowd clamped down on Waters, but is giving Prince Russ a free pass.

Waters is black, while Prince Russ is white. Also, while both Waters and Carnahan are Democrats, Waters is elected by an overwhelmingly Democrat district (Cook Partisan Voting Index D+31) that Pelosi’s party has no realistic chance of losing, regardless of scandal, but Prince Russ’ district, though Democrat (D+7), is not so Democrat that scandal couldn’t shove it over the edge in a Republican wave election like 2010. Pelosi’s minions are protecting a potentially vulnerable incumbent who is facing a credible, well financed Republican opponent, Ed Martin.

Charging African Americans with misconduct for which there is evidence that they committed is not racism. But doing so while refraining from charging whites engaged in the same misconduct is. Since all but one African-American representative is elected by districts that are more safely Democrat than Carnahan’s district, even the brazenly political act of protecting vulnerable party members has a “disparate impact” on African Americans, which Democrats accept as evidence of racism when applied to the private sector.

The solution is not to dismiss the charges against the minorities, but to bring charges against everyone who appears guilty of the same misconduct, regardless of race or how “safe” or “marginal” their district is for any political party. The Democrats’ selective swamp draining does in fact reek of racism.