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Old 02-05-2004, 10:12 AM   #1 (permalink)
Cracking the Whip
 
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Kerry and the Insurance Industry

Just remember, both sides do it.

So if you are pissed at Bush for taking money from the energy industry and then doing them favors, you should be pissed equally at Kerry.

Me? I'm pissed at the whole system.

------------------------------------------

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AP Exclusive: Kerry Blocked Law, Drew Cash


WASHINGTON (AP) - A Senate colleague was trying to close a loophole that allowed a major insurer to divert millions of federal dollars from the nation's most expensive construction project. John Kerry stepped in and blocked the legislation.

Over the next two years, the insurer, American International Group, paid Kerry's way on a trip to Vermont and donated at least $30,000 to a tax-exempt group Kerry used to set up his presidential campaign. Company executives donated $18,000 to his Senate and presidential campaigns.

Were the two connected? Kerry says not.


But to some government watchdogs, the tale of the Massachusetts senator's 2000 intervention, detailed in documents obtained by The Associated Press, is a textbook case of the special interest politicking that Kerry rails against on the presidential trail.


``The idea that Kerry has not helped or benefited from a specific special interest, which he has said, is utterly absurd,'' said Charles Lewis, head of the Center for Public Integrity that just published a book on political donations to the presidential candidates.


``Anyone who gets millions of dollars over time, and thousands of dollars from specific donors, knows there's a symbiotic relationship. He needs the donors' money. The donors need favors. Welcome to Washington. That is how it works.''


The documents obtained by AP provide a window into Kerry's involvement in a two-decade-old highway and tunnel construction project in his home state of Massachusetts. Known as the ``Big Dig,'' it had become infamous for its multibillion dollar cost overruns.


Kerry's office confirmed Wednesday that as member of the Senate Commerce Committee he persuaded committee chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., to drop a provision that would have stripped $150 million from the project and ended the insurance funding loophole.


The Massachusetts Democrat actually was angered by the loophole but didn't want money stripped from the project because it would hurt his constituents who needed the Boston project finished, spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said.


When the ``AIG investment scheme (came) to light, John Kerry called for public hearings to investigate the parties involved and the legality of the investment practices. However, he firmly believed cutting funding for the Big Dig was not the answer,'' Cutter said.


Instead of McCain's bluntly worded legislation, Kerry asked for a committee hearing in May 2000. Kerry thanked McCain at the start of the hearing for dropping his legislation and an AIG executive was permitted to testify that he believed the company's work for the Big Dig was a good thing even though it was criticized by federal auditors.


``From the perspective of public and worker safety and cost control, AIG's insurance program has been a success,'' AIG executive Richard Thomas testified.


Asked why Kerry would subsequently accept a trip and money from AIG in 2001 and 2002 if he was angered by the investment scheme, Cutter replied: ``Any contributions AIG made to the senator's campaign came years after the investigation. Throughout his career, John Kerry has stood up to special interests on behalf of average Americans. This case is no different.''


The New York-based insurer, one of the world's largest, declined to comment on its donations to Kerry, simply stating, ``AIG never requested any assistance from Senator Kerry concerning the insurance we provided the Big Dig.''


The project has become a symbol of government contracting gone awry, known for its huge cost overruns that now total several billion dollars, and its admissions of mismanagement.


During the 1990s, Sens. Kerry and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., helped win new federal funding for the project as its costs skyrocketed and threatened to burden the state's government. In 1998, Kerry was credited with winning $100 million in new federal funding.


But in 1999, the Transportation Department uncovered a financing scheme in which the project had overpaid $129.8 million to AIG for worker compensation and liability insurance that wasn't needed, then had allowed the insurer to keep the money in a trust and invest it in the market. The government alleged AIG kept about half of the profits it made from the investments, providing the other half to the project.


Outraged by the revelations, McCain submitted legislation that would have stripped $150 million from the Big Dig and banned the practice of allowing an insurer to invest and profit from excessive premiums paid with government money.


``Any refunds of insurance premiums or reserve amounts, including interest, that exceed a project's liabilities shall be immediately returned to the federal government,'' McCain's legislation declared.


But Kerry and Kennedy intervened, and McCain withdrew the legislation in 2000 in favor of the hearing.


At that hearing, the Transportation's Department inspector general made a renewed plea for a permanent federal policy banning the overpayment of insurance premiums and subsequent investment for profit - what McCain had proposed and Kerry helped kill.


``The policy is needed to ensure that projects do not attempt to draw down federal funds for investment purposes under the guise that they are needed to pay insurance claims. It is that simple,'' the inspector general told senators.


In September 2001, Kerry disclosed to the Senate ethics office that AIG had paid an estimated $540 in travel expenses to cover his costs for a speech in Burlington, Vt.


A few months later in December 2001, several AIG executives gave maximum $1,000 donations to Kerry's Senate campaign on the same day. The donations totaled $9,700 and were followed by several thousand dollars more over the next two years.


The next spring, AIG donated $10,000 to a new tax-exempt group Kerry formed, the Citizen Soldier Fund, to lay groundwork for his presidential campaign. Later in 2002, AIG gave two more donations of $10,000 each to the same group, making it one of the largest corporate donors to Kerry's group.


The insurer wasn't the only company connected to the Big Dig to donate to Kerry's new group. Two construction companies on the project - Modern Continental Group and Jay Cashman Construction - each donated $25,000, IRS records show.


Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., a Boston area lawmaker, credited Kerry for getting McCain's legislation blocked in favor of a hearing, saying Massachusetts lawmakers ``were on the side of good government here but also concerned the language might go too far and put more of a burden on a Massachusetts project.''



02/04/04 22:15
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Old 02-05-2004, 10:51 AM   #2 (permalink)
Junkie
 
Location: NJ
Re: Kerry and the Insurance Industry

Quote:
Originally posted by Lebell


Me? I'm pissed at the whole system.

The only addition to this statment to present my thinking is "Me? I'm pissed at the whole system, especially the voters."

The voters are the ones who allow this. Until people stop justifying these actions by saying "Well, Bush (or Clinton, or whoever) did it too." or "He only did it because he was forced to because the other side does it." or by the thinking that it's always going to happen it will continue and probably get worse.

I would love for most people to understand the thinking of most politicians. Most understand that voters are apathetic and rather than base decisions on what's morally right, they base them around what will allow them to garner the most money without threatening their re-election.
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Old 02-05-2004, 10:58 AM   #3 (permalink)
Cracking the Whip
 
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onetime2,

Of course.

Politicians do it because we allow them to.

We shrug our shoulders and say, "Well, that's just politics" when we like the candidate, or "He's corrupt!" when we don't.

Until we, as a society decide to hold our politicians to a higher standard, then this will never stop.

Until then, I will remain unimpressed when one side or the other drags out the same tired strategy of diss'ing the opposing candidate for things that their own engage in regularly, be it draft dodging, drug use, womanizing, etc.
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Old 02-05-2004, 11:02 AM   #4 (permalink)
follower of the child's crusade?
 
The article gives enough evidence at least for the police or America's equivalent to the Serious Fraud Squad to investigate, surely?

if you use democratically elected power to do something for a company, and then that company pays you - that is illegal surely? if these allegations are true, Kerry should be prosecuted.
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Old 02-05-2004, 11:05 AM   #5 (permalink)
Junkie
 
Location: NJ
Quote:
Originally posted by Lebell
onetime2,

Of course.

Politicians do it because we allow them to.

We shrug our shoulders and say, "Well, that's just politics" when we like the candidate, or "He's corrupt!" when we don't.

Until we, as a society decide to hold our politicians to a higher standard, then this will never stop.

Until then, I will remain unimpressed when one side or the other drags out the same tired strategy of diss'ing the opposing candidate for things that their own engage in regularly, be it draft dodging, drug use, womanizing, etc.
Yep, and until I see more people actually taking 5 minutes out of their daily life to participate in an election I'll say we deserve whatever we get.
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Old 02-05-2004, 11:07 AM   #6 (permalink)
Junkie
 
Location: NJ
Quote:
Originally posted by Strange Famous
The article gives enough evidence at least for the police or America's equivalent to the Serious Fraud Squad to investigate, surely?

if you use democratically elected power to do something for a company, and then that company pays you - that is illegal surely? if these allegations are true, Kerry should be prosecuted.
Kerry readily admits to most of it. Unfortunately the public won't be outraged enough to force an investigation. They're too busy googling Janet Jackson's bare breast.
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Old 02-06-2004, 09:18 AM   #7 (permalink)
Cracking the Whip
 
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I see only two other people could be bothered to comment on this.

Why?

Don't you care?

Or is it easier to pretend this doesn't exist?
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Old 02-06-2004, 11:29 AM   #8 (permalink)
prb
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I read the entire article and found it lacking in details. It seems clear that Kerry went to bat for a legislative change that in some way benefitted AIG, but also benefitted the public by seeing to it that a road construction project, already started and burdened with cost overruns (not unusual at all in government projects), got completed. Kerry's proposed legislative amendment was approved by others, including John McCain, and was passed. Two years later AIG contributes money to Kerry or to groups he supports or which support him. This kind of activity/behavior can be found in any politician's background.

Not nearly as shocking or odiferous as first collecting enormous campaign contributions from the energy industry and the allowing the industry to set government policy toward it for the next four years. In secret meetings.
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Old 02-06-2004, 11:55 AM   #9 (permalink)
Junkie
 
Location: NJ
Quote:
Originally posted by prb
I read the entire article and found it lacking in details. It seems clear that Kerry went to bat for a legislative change that in some way benefitted AIG, but also benefitted the public by seeing to it that a road construction project, already started and burdened with cost overruns (not unusual at all in government projects), got completed. Kerry's proposed legislative amendment was approved by others, including John McCain, and was passed. Two years later AIG contributes money to Kerry or to groups he supports or which support him. This kind of activity/behavior can be found in any politician's background.

Not nearly as shocking or odiferous as first collecting enormous campaign contributions from the energy industry and the allowing the industry to set government policy toward it for the next four years. In secret meetings.
This is the perfect example of why politicians won't change their practices any time soon. Most people have the same opinion as prb. Everybody else does it, the Republicans do it, etc so it's no big deal.

It is a big deal if you'd like to see less waste in government. The government overpaid premiums, the company that overcharged them was allowed to earn money from the overcharge, keeping half of it and spending the other half on the project, and then Kerry gets support when he runs for office from the company he intervened for.
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Old 02-06-2004, 01:28 PM   #10 (permalink)
Muffled
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by Lebell
I see only two other people could be bothered to comment on this.

Why?

Don't you care?

Or is it easier to pretend this doesn't exist?
Where's the troll gif?
Just kidding, Lebell, but what do you expect? There's not much to say. All politicians take money from special interests. At this point I'm more concerned with getting Bush out than who I'm putting in his place, which is shameful, I know. In this case, the devil I know is worse than the devil I don't.
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Old 02-06-2004, 01:43 PM   #11 (permalink)
Junkie
 
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I agree that politicians can only get away with what the voters allow. It is politics as usual though. How exactly do you propose we "hold our politicians to a higher standard"? Currently the system isn't really set up to allow us to do that in any meaningful way. We desperately need campaign finance reform.

You yourself said that you were going to vote for gwbush because you didn't think anybody else could effectively fight terrorism. That's fine, vote how you want. Just acknowledge that currently, there are more important things at stake than whether el presidente is bought and paid for by special interests.
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Old 02-06-2004, 03:51 PM   #12 (permalink)
mml
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As someone who follows politics and has worked for politicians and who is actively working to get Senator Kerry elected as the next President of the United States, I will tell you that I can't stand this kind of stuff. I do my research, and I knew about this prior to deciding to support Kerry and frankly I had to make a decision about who I thought would represent my personal beliefs and interests best. Honestly, none of the major candidates are free from this sort dirt so it is difficult to participate in the political process if you refuse to support anyone who has some mud on their shoes. What I hope is that under a different president, we can continue to push for real campaign finance reform.

I would like to say more, but I have to go pick up my son.
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Old 02-06-2004, 04:08 PM   #13 (permalink)
Cracking the Whip
 
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Location: Sexymama's arms...
Quote:
Originally posted by Kadath
Where's the troll gif?
Just kidding, Lebell, but what do you expect? There's not much to say. All politicians take money from special interests. At this point I'm more concerned with getting Bush out than who I'm putting in his place, which is shameful, I know. In this case, the devil I know is worse than the devil I don't.
*shrug*

Perhaps I am being too idealistic.

Perhaps you can't rise to a highlevel in politics without playing "you scratch mine, I'll scratch yours".

But dammit.

It's still not right.
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Old 02-06-2004, 09:33 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I'm voting straight non-incumbent in November.

1 Democrat
1 Republican
(my Senator is retiring, so I'm going with the Democrat in that one)

onetime2, Lebell: you think re-electing these guys is going to make them learn?
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Old 02-06-2004, 10:39 PM   #15 (permalink)
Cracking the Whip
 
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Location: Sexymama's arms...
Quote:
Originally posted by Sparhawk

onetime2, Lebell: you think re-electing these guys is going to make them learn?
Sigh, no.

I've voted my conscience in the past. I've also voted the lesser of two evils, as well as for people I genuinely liked.

I sadly will be kissing my ideals goodbye this election as well and vote the lesser.

On an aside, but related note, I don't think anything will change until there is a massive disaster of some type that forces us to rebuild our nations and governing structures.

(I'm feeling pessimistic tonight.)
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Old 02-06-2004, 10:52 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sparhawk
onetime2, Lebell: you think re-electing these guys is going to make them learn?
Sparhawk: You think electing guys who are just as corrupt, is goign to make them learn?
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Old 02-07-2004, 01:20 AM   #17 (permalink)
follower of the child's crusade?
 
I thik the problem is that all politicians appear to be corrupt, so people turn off from it. if you think "well, Kerry is a crook, her is the corrupt insurance deal" and "well, Bush is a crook, look at the oil contracts in the federal wildlife reserves, and his vice president's company in Iraq" - what do you do?

If you want to vote, and both candidates appear to be involved in unethical business practices... it's hopeless. I dont think the public is shocked at all, the basic assumption about every politician is that they are a liar and a swindler, we just assume all of them are cheats - of course some arent, but thats the reason I see so many people disinterested in politics - they just think they are all the same, and no one represents the core believes of average people (imo, the core belief system of the average person is dramatically to the left of both major American parties, and all three major UK parties)
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Old 02-07-2004, 07:44 AM   #18 (permalink)
prb
Psycho
 
Quote:
Originally posted by onetime2
This is the perfect example of why politicians won't change their practices any time soon. Most people have the same opinion as prb. Everybody else does it, the Republicans do it, etc so it's no big deal.

It is a big deal if you'd like to see less waste in government. The government overpaid premiums, the company that overcharged them was allowed to earn money from the overcharge, keeping half of it and spending the other half on the project, and then Kerry gets support when he runs for office from the company he intervened for.
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Old 02-07-2004, 08:12 AM   #19 (permalink)
prb
Psycho
 
Quote:
Originally posted by prb
onetime2:

I didn't defend what Kerry did. Neither did I defend the political process that allows ALL other politicians to do as Kerry did. I simply pointed out that political service to special interest groups over the general public good is different in kind. In Kerry's case, at least SOME public good was done - - a project half done got completed where it might not have. What public good has been accomplished as a result of the administration's secretly drafted energy policy? We know how the oil and coal industry have benefitted.

The influence of money over our political leaders in this country is appalling and is one of, if not the greatest, problems we encounter in effecting needed change in this country. I am sure you are as troubled as I am over how much influence monied interests are able to control the behavior of our present White House.
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Old 02-07-2004, 02:28 PM   #20 (permalink)
Junkie
 
Location: NJ
Quote:
Originally posted by prb
onetime2:

I didn't defend what Kerry did. Neither did I defend the political process that allows ALL other politicians to do as Kerry did. I simply pointed out that political service to special interest groups over the general public good is different in kind. In Kerry's case, at least SOME public good was done - - a project half done got completed where it might not have. What public good has been accomplished as a result of the administration's secretly drafted energy policy? We know how the oil and coal industry have benefitted.

The influence of money over our political leaders in this country is appalling and is one of, if not the greatest, problems we encounter in effecting needed change in this country. I am sure you are as troubled as I am over how much influence monied interests are able to control the behavior of our present White House.
Finger pointing away from one action towards another similar one helps what exactly? It just distracts from the original question/point. I am absolutely disgusted by the influence that contributors have on politicians but I'm even more disgusted by the attitude that says "there's nothing we can do about it" or "so and so did the same or worse".

You act like this White House is somehow different than the last. I seem to remember closed door national healthcare meetings and very questionable contributions from operatives from the Chinese government in the last White House.

Notice I don't use it as an excuse, I say it's unacceptable now for Bush and it's unacceptable for Kerry, Clinton, and everyone else who allows it to go on. Until voters stop buying into the partisan finger pointing that minimizes these activities nothing will change.
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