A hilarious report has come out courtesy of the National Institute of Money in State Politics, showing that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller – who is coordinating the investigation into the banks’ improper mortgage dealings – increased his campaign contributions from the finance sector this year by a factor of 88! He has raised $261,445 from finance, insurance and real estate contributors since he announced that he was going to be coordinating the investigation into improper foreclosure practices. That is 88 times as much as they gave him not over last year, but over the previous decade.
This is about as perfect an example of how American politics works as you’ll ever see. This foreclosure issue is a monstrous story that is somehow escaping national headlines; essentially, all of the largest banks in the country have been engaged in an ongoing fraud and tax evasion scheme that among other things has resulted in many hundreds of billions in investor losses, and hundreds of thousands of improper foreclosures. Last week, the 14 largest mortgage lenders a group that includes bailout all-stars like Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, managed to negotiate a settlement with the federal government that will mandate some financial relief to homeowners who have been victims of improper foreclosure practices. It’s unclear yet exactly what damages and fines will be involved in the federal settlement, or how many homeowners will be affected. But certainly there are some who believe the federal settlement was a political end-run around the states’ efforts to extract their own deal from the banks.
Put it this way. If the banks had to pay what they actually owed – from the registration taxes/fees they avoided by using the electronic registry system MERS to the money taken from investors in toxic mortgage-backed securities to the fees and payments stolen from homeowners via predatory loan practices and illegal foreclosures – they would probably all go out of business. That’s how much money is at stake here: the very future of financial giants like Bank of America and Citi and JP Morgan Chase is hanging to a very significant degree on the decisions of politicians like Miller.
Hence the sudden avalanche of money sent Miller’s way. The numbers are laughable. In 2006, out -of-state donors gave Miller’s campaign $10,508. For the 2010 cycle, that number was $497,357. Three lawyers by themselves – Al Gore’s attorney David Boies, plus Donald Flexner and Robert Silver, all partners in the firm Boies, Schiller and Flexner – gave Miller a total of $60,000.
Guess who Boies’ firm defended last year, in a suit brought by an Australian hedge fund that claims it was ripped off in a deal involving toxic mortgage-backed CDOs? That’s right: Goldman, Sachs. Goldman hired Boies to represent it in a fight against the now-defunct Basis Yield Alpha Fund, which bought into Goldman’s notorious “Timberwolf” deal – one of the “shitty deals” Senator Carl Levin, in hearings last year, was haranguing Goldman for selling to unsuspecting clients.
So now we see that Boies and a string of other banker lawyers (including firms that represented Citi, Chase, Wachovia, and others) are throwing tens of thousands of dollars at Miller. Maybe it won’t do much to influence Miller, but who knows? Maybe he won’t plunge the knife in quite so deep now.
Just something to keep an eye on. It would be interesting to see a similar analysis on the money these same characters have thrown at the Obama administration in the last year.