McCain’s Lobbyist Ties

You know, for someone who supposedly has made a super whopping big deal about how clean he is, how uninfluenced he is by lobbyists and bribes, John McCain certainly seems to have a lot of suspicious people and events in his past.

There was the NY Times article on his ties to a female lobbyist a few years ago. Then he helped broker the land swap deal that made his friends millions. Now there’s this revelation first made on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown that reveals “John McCain’s national campaign general co-chair was being paid by a Swiss bank to lobby Congress about the U.S. mortgage crisis at the same time he was advising McCain about his economic policy.” That co-chair’s name? Former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, “who was a lobbyist dealing specifically with legislation regarding the mortgage crisis as recently as Dec. 31, 2007.” Interesting. Here are a couple key points from the article:

When Gramm chaired the Senate Banking Committee, he wrote and passed deregulatory legislation in more than one industry, establishing himself as a pre-eminent foe of government regulation. McCain’s March 26 speech recommended further deregulation of the banking industry as his response to the mortgage crisis….

In 1999, Gramm successfully undid the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, removing the decades-old wall between commercial banking, which was heavily regulated, and investment banking, which was not. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act did not extend significant new regulation to investment banking.

The final UBS form listing Gramm’s work as a lobbyist says he was lobbying the Senate in the second half of 2007 regarding the Helping Families Save Their Homes in Bankruptcy Act. The bill would have let bankruptcy judges rewrite mortgage terms for Americans facing foreclosure so they could repay their loans and keep their homes.

The banking industry opposed this measure. The bill failed.

Perhaps the most important issue here is the breaking down of the wall between commercial banking and investment banking. There used to be rules associated with commercial banking that would “prohibit banks from owning full-service brokerage firms and vice versa so investment banking activities, such as underwriting corporate or municipal securities, couldn’t be called into question and also to insulate bank depositors from the risks of a stock market collapse such as the one that precipitated the Great Depression.” That’s from this article from MarketWatch which asks if the repeal of Glass-Steagall is at least partially to blame for today’s credit crisis.

After you’ve read that, check out this prophetic op-ed piece from Asia Times, written in 2002.

Given enough deregulation, there is nothing to stop white collar criminals in any industry from stealing all they can. John McCain’s policies, put forth by lobbyists, could be downright disastrous for the United States. We’ve already had a taste of his policies with the Bush administration, which is beholden to just about every corporation on earth. God help us if McCain gets in office. With advisers like Gramm and Kevin Hassett, who wrote a book about the Dow climbing to 36000 by the end of the decade, a McCain presidency would ensure that the US would become a former economic superpower. Isn’t it about time the media started asking some questions about McCain’s ties to these people?

Update, 5/30/08: Joe Conason addresses the whole Phil Gramm issue today at Salon. Link opens in a new window. Here’s a great quote:

“I want to predict here tonight,” [Gramm] said on the evening that Clinton’s budget passed in the spring of 1993, “that if we adopt this bill the American economy is going to get weaker and not stronger, the deficit four years from today will be higher than it is today and not lower … When all is said and done, people will pay more taxes, the economy will create fewer jobs, the government will spend more money, and the American people will be worse off.”

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