The $62,905,312 Smear of Elizabeth Warren

Where did I get that $62,905,312 figure?  From an article by Elliot Spitzer, surmising why the bankers — and their attack dogs in Congress — are so determined to smear Elizabeth Warren:

Spitzer: Why are Republicans giving Elizabeth Warren such a hard time? According to Spitzer:

“…financial, insurance and real estate institutions, according to one study, spent $62,905,312 lobbying in DC last year—double what the federal government spent on protecting consumers.”

So what kind of legislators might $62,000,000+ buy you these days?   Well, let’s take a quick look at Congressman Patrick McHenry, the GOP committee chair, from a 2005 article in Washington Monthly about this former College Republican, Getting Ahead in the GOP.

McHenry’s first full-time job in Washington was with the conservative communications group DCI. It was quite a choice. If there is a center to Washington conservative dark arts, DCI is pretty much it. They were paid consultants, for instance, to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth last year, although they are most known for attacking fellow Republicans. DCI’s founder is Thomas Synhorst; his expertise lies in “astroturfing“–developing fake grassroots groups to front for conservative and corporate causes–and “push-polling,” a subtle technique that can impart damaging information about a rival candidate in the guise of a hypothetical question for a poll.

There’s plenty more at that link, all of it eye-popping.  It is worth noting that McHenry is a product of the College Republicans – the same outfit that also produced Karl Rove, Jack Abramoff, and others who believe that the ends justify the means; no matter how venal, socially or personally destructive, or poisonous.

McHenry’s largest funder is the FIRE sector, although his relationship to that North Carolina-based money laundering operation for Mexican drug lords (Wachovia) is unclear.    He has received at least $1,200,000 from the FIRE sector (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate).

Notably,  during the Financial Meltdown in 2008, 40% of US GDP was attributed to the FIRE sector.  In other words, this sector has made obscene profits by means of mortgage and insurance fraud.  With so much profit based on questionable conduct, it appears the FIRE sector is quite able and willing to fund McHenry; perhaps his questionable ethics are regarded as a sign that he will pimp any legislative agenda, no matter how destructive to American life.

Given McHenry’s ‘training’ in political intrigue and deception, it’s not surprising that the bankers spotted a man perfectly suited to smear any public servant, no matter how qualified, decent, hardworking, or ethical they might be.

According to the Nation,

McHenry was once known as Tom DeLay’s “attack-dog-in-training,” a title he more than earned today. Before the hearing had even begun, McHenry went on CNBC and brazenly accused Warren of lying to Congress. He claimed that Warren had misrepresented her role in advising state attorneys general who are seeking a multibillion-dollar settlement with the country’s largest mortgage service providers, who stand accused of massive and widespread foreclosure fraud.

It is worth a moment’s pause to consider that while Elizabeth Warren was doing research into factors affecting the financial security of American families and teaching at a prestigious law school, McHenry spent his college life surrounded by GOP College Republican ideologues, training to win political campaigns by whatever expedient means attained his short-term objective.

But why has McHenry specifically targeted Prof Elizabeth Warren for particularly nasty political thuggery…?  Why is he so focused on Warren?   Perhaps because, as McClatchy reported in Sparks fly at hearing on consumer protection bureau,  the CFPB  is her brainchild and in order to subvert the agency, they seek to smear its creator:

Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor, conceived the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during the financial crisis, and President Barack Obama asked her to oversee its startup. Many consumer advocates and Democrats want Warren to become the bureau’s new director, but she faces overwhelming Republican opposition.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which will begin work in July, is charged with being the consumers’ voice in financial matters such as opening bank accounts, using credit cards or buying homes.

With the CFPB as her brainchild, Warren seems to have focused the Rove-trained, GOP-dark-arts political machine’s efforts at smearing, astro-turfing, and Swift Boating upon herself.  Are we, as citizens, really going to sit by and watch this happen without bothering to phone our Congressional representatives and insist that this is not acceptable?

One would assume that consumer affairs advocates might have some perceptive observations about McHenry’s treatment of Prof. Warren.  At a Consumer Affairs blogpost titled: Republicans Accuse Warren of Lying, Democrats ApologizeTaxpayers’ time, money wasted, Public Citizen declares revealed McHenry’s current political agenda:

David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division, said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) “waste[d] taxpayer money on a hearing that apparently has no purpose but to harass professor Elizabeth Warren and hamper the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) efforts to protect Americans from abuses in the financial sector.

But it’s not only the consumers union pointing to the dark deeds that McHenry and his GOP committee comrades are pulling.  With a rather eyebrow raising dose of frankness, TIME’s Joe Klein found the ‘boorish grilling’ of Warren raises serious questions about what’s at stake, and what the President is willing to do to address the very serious financial pillaging that occurred on GWBush’s watch:

The incredibly boorish grilling of Elizabeth Warren by Republican members of a House subcommittee on Tuesday raises two interesting questions: After a decade in which money lenders raped and pillaged homeowners, home-buyers and credit-card holders, why are Republicans so intent on gutting an agency that would protect the American middle class from such persistent sleazebags? And second: Why has the Obama Administration been so reluctant to appoint Warren director of the Consumer Protection Finance Bureau–and force a massive and very accessible public fight on an absolutely crucial economic issue: the corrupt, predatory nature of the financial community?

I think the simple shorthand goes like this: $62,905,312 against Warren.

For $1,200,000, you get a Karl Rove trained political apparatchik well suited to tell CNBC that Warren ‘lied’ to your committee, and then tell Warren that despite having completely rescheduled her day (multiple times) to accommodate your whims, she is ‘lying’ if she questions your interpretation of events.

If anyone needs a fine example of why we need serious, fundamental campaign reform, watch that clip of McHenry accusing Elizabeth Warren of lying.

It’s one thing to disagree with a witness; but to slander a Congressional witness (both during the hearing, as well as on CNBC) is completely beyond the pale.

We all make mistakes, and we all misspeak from time to time.  That is human, and understandable.

Nevertheless, when an individual like McHenry shows a long history of affiliating with dishonest people, who have a history of repeatedly slandering  political opponents, who alter schedules in order to make it appear that the witness is ‘uncooperative’, then it is time for the public to start contacting their legislators and insist that this kind of abusive behavior — where a committee chair insults and slanders a witness — is entirely out-of-bounds and needs to be addressed by the House leadership.

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