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How the system works

Rod Blagojevich will probably go to jail for trying to sell a Senate seat and various other shenanigans. Bill Richardson has withdrawn his nomination to be Secretary of Commerce because he is under a grand jury investigation:

The investigation concerns CDR Financial Products Inc., a Beverly
Hills, Calif., company that in 2004 was awarded two consulting
contracts worth about $1.4 million to advise the State of New Mexico on
a large bond issue for building infrastructure, one of Mr. Richardson’s
initiatives. The company’s president, David Rubin, a major Democratic
contributor, gave about $100,000 to two political action committees
controlled by Mr. Richardson, as well as $10,000 to his re-election
campaign in 2005, according to published reports.

Awkward. And now there’s Hillary:

An upstate New York developer donated $100,000 to former President Bill Clinton’s foundation in November 2004, around the same time that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton helped secure millions of dollars in federal assistance for the businessman’s mall project.

Mrs. Clinton helped enact legislation allowing the developer, Robert J.
Congel, to use tax-exempt bonds to help finance the construction of the
Destiny USA entertainment and shopping complex, an expansion of the
Carousel Center in Syracuse.

Mrs. Clinton also helped secure a provision in a highway bill that set aside $5 million for Destiny USA roadway construction.
The bill with the tax-free bonds provision became law in October 2004,
weeks before the donation, and the highway bill with the set-aside
became law in August 2005, about nine months after the donation.

At first glance, this seems a bit strange. Why should a shopping complex be allowed to use tax-exempt bonds? And the timing is a bit awkward. Not to worry says both Congel and a Hillary spokesperson:

Mr. Congel and Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, both said
there was no connection between his donation and her legislative work
on his project’s behalf. Mr. Reines said Mrs. Clinton supported the
expansion of Carousel mall “purely as part of her unwavering commitment
to improving upstate New York’s struggling economy, and nothing more.”

That’s a comfort. BOTH of them say there was no connection. I guess it was just a coincidence. And I love that word "unwavering." She doesn’t just have a commitment to upstate New York. It’s an unwavering commitment.

The Times is thoughtful enough to run a picture of Mr. Congel:


He seems like an awfully cheerful sort. You would be too if you had a U. S. Senator helping you out.

So why did his shopping complex get special treatment? It was green. That was the key:

Mr. Congel had been a prime force behind Congress’s passage of
tax-exempt “green bonds,” a program to lower the financing costs of
some $2 billion in environmentally friendly projects by exempting
lenders from paying federal taxes on their income from the private bonds. By some estimates, the program could cost the Treasury about $200 million.

way the legislation was written, Mr. Congel’s Syracuse development,
which he agreed to build and run in a way that promotes renewable
energy and recycling, was one of just a handful of projects that would

Ah, the bootleggers and the baptists, the morally righteous and the self-interested pursuing their self-interest under the cover of a worthy cause. I would love to know just what Congel did to make his mall a green project. We get a hint at the bottom of the story:

The Destiny USA project has attracted criticism. Stephanie Miner, a member of the Syracuse City Council, called it a “boondoggle” that won tax breaks with dubious economic and environmental promises.

a Destiny USA spokesman said the savings from the tax-exempt bonds is
paying for extra “green” elements — like recycled construction
materials, solar power panels and an efficient climate control system — whose cost a lender normally would not have approved.

Congel is also a big donor to Republican causes:

Although Mr. Congel has sometimes given money to Democrats, he is a
major Republican campaign fund-raiser. In 2004, he was a “Bush Ranger,”
gathering more than $200,000 in bundled contributions for the
Bush-Cheney re-election effort.

In the most recent election cycle, he donated money to the Republican National Committee and to the Republican presidential primary campaigns of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Fred D. Thompson and Mitt Romney.

So what was he doing donating to Bill Clinton’s foundation? I love his answer:

But Mr. Congel said there was nothing incongruous about his donation to
Mr. Clinton’s foundation. “I have a huge interest in our country, and I
thought Clinton was a great president,” Mr. Congel said. He added, “I
think he’s a dedicated, dedicated American, and I’m a dedicated,
dedicated American, and when we have a president I think we have a
right, privilege and obligation to support that president. And I did
that with Clinton, and I did that with Bush.”

Yes, that must have been the reason Congel gave $100,000 to Bil Clinton’s foundation— Bill Clinton was a great President. A great President with a wife in the Senate. Just a coincidence, no doubt.

Here is the beauty of politics. Hillary would never have been so crass as to sell her favors to the highest bidder. But no politician has to be that crass. You just do what you know will get rewarded and the rewards come. You don’t have to ask. It’s like asking water to flow downhill. You don’t need to. It does that on its own accord.

Fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly. Politicians respond to incentives just like you and I.


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