Category Archives: White Collar, Corporate and Political Crime

The Rip Off Society

The New York Times

Fausset, Richard (5/4/20)

 

“ The state of Mississippi allowed tens of millions of dollars in federal anti-poverty funds to be used in ways that did little or nothing to help the poor, with two nonprofit groups instead using the money on lobbyists, football tickets, religious concerts and fitness programs for state lawmakers, according to a scathing audit released on Monday.”

 

According to the report, released by the state auditor’s office, the money also enriched celebrities with Mississippi ties, among them Brett Favre, a former N.F.L. quarterback whose Favre Enterprises was paid $1.1 million by a nonprofit group that received the welfare funds. The payments were for speaking engagements that Mr. Favre did not attend, the auditors said.

 

Other large sums went to a family of pro wrestlers whose flamboyant patriarch, Ted DiBiase, earned national fame performing as the “Million Dollar Man.” In a news conference on Monday, Shad White, the state auditor, said it was possible that many recipients of the money did not know it had come from the federal welfare program.

 

Mr. Favre could not be reached for comment Monday. Mr. DiBiase declined to comment.

 

Mr. White called the findings “the most egregious misspending my staff have seen in their careers.” The audit found that more than $98 million from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF, was funneled to the two Mississippi-based nonprofit groups over three years. About $94 million of that was “questioned” by state auditors, meaning the money was in all likelihood misspent or the auditors could not verify that it had been spent legally, Mr. White said.

 

The breadth of the audit — which auditors said included funds that were “misspent, converted to personal use, spent on family members and friends of staffers and grantees or wasted” — raises broad questions about the efficacy of America’s social safety net.

 

In 1996, the TANF program converted the old federal welfare system, in which cash benefits to poor families were deemed an entitlement, to a system of block grants issued to the states. The new program created work rules and time limits on aid — and, notably, gave each state much more leeway on how to spend the money. Critics say that states do not have to clearly justify that they are spending the money on helping the poor.

 

“There’s this incredible amount of flexibility,” said LaDonna Pavetti, vice president for family income support policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “It could allow for a lot of things to happen.”

 

Mississippi Republican lawmakers concerned about the misuse of federal funds have enacted safeguards to prevent fraud by potential welfare recipients. A ThinkProgress article found that in 2016, only 167 of the 11,700 Mississippi families who applied for a TANF payment were approved.

 

For those who support anti-poverty initiatives, the unfolding scandal has left a particularly bitter taste. “It’s just, ‘How can you?’” said Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald, southern regional director for the Children’s Defense Fund.

 

Monday’s audit comes after the arrest in February of John Davis, the former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, the agency that distributes the federal welfare block grants. Mr. Davis is accused of taking part in a multimillion-dollar embezzlement scheme.

 

Five other people were charged in the apparent scheme, including Nancy New, a politically connected figure who was the executive director of the Mississippi Community Education Center, one of the two nonprofit groups mentioned in the report. All have pleaded not guilty.

 

According to the auditor’s report, sub-grantees who received federal money through Mr. Davis’s group told auditors that Mr. Davis often signed off verbally on the projects they intended to fund, leaving holes in any paper trail. Mr. Davis’s nephew and brother-in-law received work contracts, either through his department, Ms. New’s group, or the other nonprofit group that received money, the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi, the audit states.

 

Mr. Davis, in a statement to a congressional committee last year, said that Mississippi welfare officials were using the program “to address the needs of those we serve. We see this as a way to eliminate one of the last barriers to finding true self-sufficiency for those who seek to not be dependent on needs-based programs.”

 

The report also shed light on payments made to entities connected to the wrestling family, and the mixture of self-help and evangelizing that the welfare money was supposedly funding. Mr. DiBiase is listed on federal tax forms as the principal officer of a religious nonprofit called Heart of David Ministries. The report shows the ministry received roughly $1.9 million over three years.

 

One of his sons, Ted DiBiase Jr., also a wrestler, is listed on state records as the registered agent and officer of a company called Priceless Ventures, which offered a self-help program, “The Law of 16.” The company received more than $2 million, auditors said.

 

A Law of 16 workbook submitted to Congress features inspirational quotes from Ted DiBiase Jr. and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Auditors said that another son of the elder Mr. DiBiase, Brett DiBiase, also a wrestler, was paid with welfare funds to teach antidrug classes. But Mr. DiBiase, who was one of the six people indicted in February, never gave those classes, auditors said.

 

Ms. New, the head of the Mississippi Community Education Center, is a well-connected longtime educator who ran a private school in Jackson. Her work in the welfare field was feted by conservatives for helping poor people achieve self-sufficiency.

 

Mr. White’s office, in a statement, said the group was “particularly dependent” on TANF funding “and engaged in significant misspending.” From 2016 to 2019, the statement said, the group was given more than $60 million in welfare money, and raised less than $1.6 million from other sources.

 

Among the questionable spending by the nonprofit, the statement said, was the purchase of three trucks costing more than $50,000 each, which Mr. White said were used by Ms. New and two of her sons. Her lawyer could not be reached for comment.

 

The broader scandal is one of numerous major problems the state is facing, including the coronavirus pandemic and a prison system in crisis.

 

Danny Blanton, a spokesman for the human services department, said on Monday that steps were being taken to clean it up, including a planned forensic audit. Mr. White said that a state criminal investigation into the misuse of funds continues, in coordination with federal investigators.

Alternative Media: Trump Watch Podcast

268x0w

As the corporate media becomes more and more useless in covering the Trump/Republican administration and the coronavirus crisis, we must seek alternative sources of news.

Try the “Trump Watch” Podcast.

In the April 16 episode, they do an interview with John Nichols from the Nation Magazine about the attempt by the Republicans to control voting in Wisconsin in order to assure the election of their hand-picked Supreme Court Judge.  They failed, but only because people came out with home-made masks and stood in lines for hours to vote against the Republicans.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the corporate media had covered this win for regular people in Wisconsin?  Wouldn’t it be nice if the corporate media actually talked about the attempt by Republicans, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, to thwart democracy and manipulate the voting process?

They won’t do it and we have to go elsewhere for our news.  The corporate media has ceased to cover any international news at all.  They are obsessed with interviewing everybody in the country about the minutiae of the Coronavirus issue.  They are obsessed with covering every minute of Trump’s propaganda sessions every afternoon and then talking endlessly about what he says.  They are obsessed with providing us inspirational stories about the “heroes” of the crisis and informing us of how we can entertain ourselves while staying at home as if we were children.

The Trump Watch podcast, starts every episode by saying that they cover what Trump DOES not just what he TWEETS.

The Republicans are using the Coronavirus to install a Christo-fascist one-party authoritarian state.  While the press is asking Trump is it is a good idea for Americans to congregate on the mall in Washington, D.C., the Republicans are stealing us blind.  After this is over, they will tell us we can’t afford Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Head Start…because of the pandemic, not because they robbed us blind and gave the money to their buddies.

I would love to hear of other podcasts you find useful and any comments you might have.

Trump Watch Podcast

 

The Real Enemy…timidity, selfishness and greed.

But the real enemy, the one we have always been at war against, is the violence and despair of our own timidity, selfishness, and greed. For too long, we have responded to this enemy with appeasement. But appeasement has proven to be a losing strategy, as indeed it always is. The only way we will have any chance of overcoming the challenge of our present moment is by bringing everyone together, emphasizing our common cause, and committing to building institutions that reflect and reinforce basic notions of universal solidarity.  Rohan Grey, The Nation Magazine.

capitalism

Why Free Market Capitalism Will Bury Us, Literally

capitalism

Amid the absurdly trivial corporate media coverage of the Coronavirus crisis, are stories that slip by unnoticed.  One of them is another investigation, another investigation by a congressional subcommittee about whether “the U.S. government is paying too much for ventilators made by a Dutch company that received millions in tax dollars to develop an affordable one for pandemics, but is now charging quadruple the price under a new deal.”

The deal for the ventilators was struck between the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Division of the Dutch Company.  (See other stories in Propublica).

In 2014, the agency’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) struck a $13.8 million deal with the company to develop ventilators for the Strategic National Stockpile. Based on the advice of experts, the agreement called for the devices to be low cost, portable, durable and easy to use by personnel with limited medical training.

Once Philips’ Respironics division received clearance for that ventilator from the Food and Drug Administration last year, BARDA ordered 10,000 of them for $3,280 each — a price agreed upon when Philips entered into the original deal in 2014.

As Propublica previously reported, Philips never produced any of those devices for the stockpile. Instead, as the coronavirus spread, the company manufactured commercial versions of the ventilator at its factory outside Pittsburgh and sold them for far higher prices overseas. Then, rather than pushing the company to accelerate the delivery of the ventilators developed for the stockpile, HHS this month agreed to buy 43,000 of the commercial version at a price of $15,000 per ventilator.

But once Philips got the crucial FDA clearance for the new design, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi said, “they turn around — at the very time we most need these ventilators — and use the fruits of taxpayers’ dollars to essentially sell a high-margin version of what taxpayers wanted to foreign consumers and deprioritized the sales of what taxpayers wanted.”

Notes:

Contact  Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, who chairs the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy. The subcommittee falls under the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Article: Callahan, Patricia and Sebastian Rotella (4/16/20) Congress is investigating…” Propublica

 

BOOK: Death in Mud Lick. Corporate Crime, Greed and Destruction

Review of Death in Mud Lick

Dwight Garner, “How Painkiller Pushers Took over Coal Country.” nyt

Eric Eyre, the reporter who wrote this book, won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 2017.  One of the important things he did was to expose, for the first time, in exact numbers, opioid shipments to West Virginia.  These were eye-opening statistics that made the responsibility for this crisis real to many people.

In the book, Eyre started with a story of one pharmacy in Kermit, WV, population 382.  In two years, the Sav-Rite in Kermit distributed nearly nine million opioid pain pills to its customers.  People were driving hundreds of miles to get to this particular pharmacy, bypassing other pharmacies.  Once there, the lines were so long, the owner sold hot dogs and popcorn to people waiting in the drive-in lane.

Most of the recipients started off with some kind of injury, usually work related.  But they very quickly found doctors willing to write prescriptions for pain medication and anti-anxiety drugs on top of that.  The toll was soon to follow – addicted babies, full jails, families destroyed, hospital emergency rooms overrun.

Eyre, unlike many journalists covering the same story, went after the big fish in the story, not the cash rich pharmacy owners or even the corrupt doctors, but the real high-level drug pushers.  He called what happened in West Virginia “a man-made disaster fueled by corporate greed and corruption.”

Eyre, for example, took aim at Cardinal Health (a drug wholesaler), which “sent more pain pills into West Virginia than any other company.”  Between 2007 and 2012, Cardinal sent a combined 240 million pills into WV.  That was 130 pain pills for every resident.  “The coal barons,” Eyre wrote, “no longer ruled Appalachia. Now it was the painkiller profiteers.”

Among the long list of villains in this story is West Virginia’s Trump loving attorney general, Patrick Morrisey.  Morrisey tried to derail Eyre’s investigation of Cardinal at the same time his (Morrisey’s) wife was being paid to lobby for the company.  According to Eyre (4/28/18) “Cardinal Health paid Denise Morrisey and her lobbying firm $1.4 million after her husband became attorney general…”

Morrisey also had ties to the company of his own.

At the same time his wife was lobbying on behalf of Cardinal Health, Morrisey’s office was overseeing a lawsuit that accused Cardinal Health of “fueling the opioid epidemic by shipping excessive amounts of hydrocodone and oxycodone to the state.”

Morrisey stepped aside from the case only after the Charleston Gazette reported that his inaugural party was paid for by Cardinal Health.

In 2008, Cardinal Health paid a $34 million fine to settle allegations that it had shipped hydrocodone to rogue Internet pharmacies that filled bogus prescriptions.  In 2016, Cardinal Health paid $44 million for opioid shipping violations.

MORRISEY IS STILL WEST VIRGINIA’S ATTORNEY GENERAL.

MORRISEY NARROWLY LOST HIS BID TO BECOME A U.S. SENATOR.

CARDINAL HEALTH IS STILL IN BUSINESS.

MORRISEY’S WIFE IS STILL A LOBBYIST FOR THE HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY.

ERIC EYRE LEFT THE CHARLESTON GAZETTE-MAIL LAST WEEK.

 

 

 

 

Notes:

Eyre (4/28/18) https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/politics/morrisey-s-wife-lobbied-on-opioids-for-drug-firm-disclosures/article_be3d9ee8-00e1-570c-b161-c7b59c7c31d0.html

Cardinal Health lists on its website: “Cardinal Health: We Supply Everything You Need.

Heller, Matthew ()“Cardinal Health Fined $8M for FCPA violations.”  https://www.cfo.com/legal/2020/03/cardinal-health-fined-8m-for-fcpa-violations/

Review in New York Times: Death in Mud Lick

Trump’s Action Raised the Democras’ Ire

Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., right, walks to meet with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, after the Senate voted to not allow witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (AP Photo/ Jacquelyn Martin)

The Trump Administration is using every method available to centralize power in the United States and transform what once was a democracy into an authoritarian kleptocratic state.  The Democrats are sitting by and allowing them to do it.

Friday night, Trump fired Michael Atkinson, the senior official who first alerted Congress that a whistleblower complaint had been filed that eventually led to Trump’s impeachment.  With the excuse that he no longer had confidence in Atkinson, Trump sent a clear signal through the government service.  If you challenge Trump, even if in doing so you are only carrying out your job, you will be destroyed.

 

Donald Trump is settling scores and sending a warning.  And, this is the kind of government 50% of the population wants?

 

But, instead of doing anything about this situation, Democrats are wringing their hands, again.  Mark Warner complained that the action was “unconscionable.”  Nancy Pelosi scolded.  But, what is going to be the result?  Nothing.

 

In February, Trump appointed Richard Grenell, a former Fox News contributor whose only credentials seemed to be his personal loyalty to Trump, as head of all the U.S. spy agencies, the NSA, the FBI, and the CIA.

 

This was said to have raised the “ire” of the Democrats.

 

By the time the coronavirus crisis is over the Republicans under Trump will have consolidated power in this country and so disrupted the voting process that getting them out office will be impossible.

 

Meanwhile the Democrats are giving lectures and rigging the Democratic nomination process to benefit the worst candidate in the field.

 

Welcome to America.