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DC or Chi-town, the Scent is the Same

While visiting loved ones in Maryland earlier this year I had a chance to visit DC for the first time. Even as a person who is totally cynical about political power, I was impressed. It has some beautiful places if you love history as much as I do. And it has a "feeling" about it.

I was even a bit impressed as the Presidential motorcade came roaring down Pennsylvania Avenue while my daughter and I happened to be standing on the median strip. Just think, I was within just a few yards of President Obama!

Well, maybe I wasn't exactly as giddy as I'm making it seem about being in proximity to a car that may have had the President inside. Maybe I just liked all the sirens and motorcycle cops. After all, I have personally met hundreds of greater men after sixty- one years in this realm, and none of them sent that tingle up my leg like pretend newsman Chris Matthews got when he met our hope and change leader.

Even though I admire many people, my theory is that all people will disappoint you if you get to know them well enough. That's why I try to stick to ideas instead of personalities when I write on this blog. The concept of freedom has never disappointed me.

One of the things I remember remarking to my daughter as we strolled along in the most powerful city on earth was that, "It's easy to see why people come here with good intentions and soon become convinced that they are special." The fatal conceit is an epidemic here.

As it turns out, if you want to see how DC works, or smells, you can save the airfare and stay in Chi-town because the "Chicago Way"* has arrived in the nation's capital as the Illinois community organizer took his roadshow east. In all fairness, the corruption has always been there, it just didn't go by that name before.

In Chicago, where the last Mayor (King Richard Daley II) has stopped "mayoring" so he can cash in on all the favors he is owed by past recipients of public largess, things have always been fixed. And the money flows both ways, particularly at election time. And at contract time, and at hiring time.

The last Mayor's son was recently caught making over $700,000 on a WI-FI contract/scam at the airport. And it's all legal, at least in the corruption capital of Illinois. It's also legal to threaten to take your business and leave when your legal bribe to the new Mayor Emmanuel and the recently elected Governor Quinn failed to get you the same tax "waivers" as other big companies got. That is what the CME Group is doing.

The CME Group made a "contribution" of $90,000 to the Governor's Campaign, which apparently was not enough to get them the same deal (so far) as Sears and Caterpillar got. They also gave a whopping $200,000 (the single largest payoff) to Mayor Rahm Emmanuel's campaign even though he was a virtual lock to win the election after being part of the Daley/Obama Chi-town deal-o-rama.

CME chairman Terry Duffy said "I thought it made a lot of sense." (to make the contribution/downpayment on future favors, he is in the futures business after all) According to the Chicago Tribune he said Rahm had "Chicago roots, knowledge of Washington and a desire to raise the city's international profile." That would whittle the potential donee list down to a few hundred thousand people I guess.

I can just imagine what the conversation in that meeting sounded like when he proposed (successfully) to spend 200 grand of the company's money citing those reasons. I guess I have been in enough of those exchange meetings over my forty-two year career in the markets to have that kind of imagination. Of course it's all legal, these people aren't stupid, only immoral.

I won't waste another second talking about the legendary corruption in Chicago because anyone with a working nose can smell the stench of rotting government here even if they are upwind of this political hellhole.

But the point of all this chatter is that these deals are also being made in DC by the "change" President. I'm certain no one is surprised and many of the dimwits who vote for these people in Illinois are sure to say that this kind of thing is OK, "because that's how things work."

Now a story has been published on the web by a group named iWatch News that lays out the huge numbers of "contributors" (now called "bundlers") who have profited from helping get things changed. Apparently all they wanted changed was who was getting the plunder, not the act of plunder itself.

In iWatch's article they point out that "as a candidate, Obama spoke passionately about diminishing the clout of moneyed interests. Kicking off his presidential run on Feb. 10, 2007, he blasted “the cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests,” who had “turned our government into a game only they can afford to play.” We’re here today to take it back,” he said.

They go on to say "More than two years after Obama took office vowing to banish “special interests” from his administration, nearly 200 of his biggest donors have landed plum government jobs and advisory posts, won federal contracts worth millions of dollars for their business interests or attended numerous elite White House meetings and social events."

I think you should read the story for yourself, it could save you a trip to DC. But if you want to know how to get there, just stick your nose out the window and follow the stench east.

*"The Chicago Way" term was coined by Tribune writer John Kass


Anonymous said...

Well, you have to admit, Grant, that Obama pledged to make his administration more transparent. By bringing Chicago Style to D.C., the corruption is much more visable.

Grant Davies said...

Which certainly proves that even the worst intentions can have positive outcomes.

We usually focus on the best intentions having negative outcomes.