24 December 2017

Corrupt Much?

Corker's Net Worth Since Becoming Senator
The indispensable Matt Taibbi has run down Tennessee Sentor Bob Corker's long history of insider trading and corruption:
So Tennessee Senator Bob Corker is in trouble now, because he flip-flopped to vote for Donald Trump's tax bill after a provision was included that reportedly helps him personally.

Color me not shocked. I spent most of this past summer investigating Corker, whose personal finances have been an open scandal for years. Everything you need to know about the Senator can be discerned from this chart.

Click on that link and you’ll see: Corker went from having an estimate net worth of zero in 2006, before entered the Senate in 2007 (when he was estimated at having $54,682,000) to now, currently, being the fourth wealthiest man in the upper chamber, worth $69 million as of 2015.

How do you increase your net worth by 69 million dollars while you're working full-time as a Senator? That is not an easy story to explain.


It wasn't until Corker took office and filled out disclosure forms that his finances became public – sort of. Few in the media seem ever to have read the "liabilities" section of Corker's first disclosure, where the former mayor and construction magnate listed a series of massive outstanding loans. At the low end, Corker appeared to owe a hair-raising $24.2 million. At the high end, $120.5 million.

He took office in debt to some of the nation's biggest lenders – including somewhere between $12 million and $60 million in debt to GE Capital alone.


It has always been Corker's contention that when he sold his business, his debts were also sold, meaning he was not technically in debt when he went to Washington. Still, he continued to list the loans as liabilities.


Ten years before reporters would swarm over Trump for (among other things) raising fees at his Mar-a-Lago resorts before making a series of taxpayer-funded visits, Corker tested the limits of the profiteering possibilities in the legislative branch, essentially becoming a full-time day-trader who did a little Senator-ing in his spare time.

In the first nine months of 2007, Corker made an incredible 1,200 trades, over four per day, including 332 over a two-day period.


By 2014, when Corker sat on the Senate Banking Committee, a position that gave him regular access to prime information about the future direction of the markets, the Tennessee Senator still had his foot on the gas. He made 930 stock trades that year.

Of his colleagues on the committee, Rhode Island's Jack Reed made 39 trades, Pennsylvania's Patrick Toomey 26, and nobody else made any – meaning Corker made 93.5% of all trades made by the legislators most plugged-in to the country's finances.

When I asked about that extraordinary volume of trading in 2014, when Corker sat on the Banking Committee, Johnson answered thusly: "In 2014, Senator Corker entered a separately managed account (SMA), which is a portfolio managed by a professional asset management firm. Since he had not previously been in a SMA, he asked the Senate Ethics Committee for a ruling on how they should be reported," he said.

He went on: "The Senate Ethics Committee studied the issue for several weeks, and out of an abundance of caution, advised us to report all underlying positions of the account, even though the senator was making no investment decisions."

A Separately Managed Account is not the same thing as a blind trust. That the Senate Ethics Committee advised Corker to continue reporting his positions even if the senator was making "no investment decisions" was noteworthy. And no matter what, it continued to be true that Corker was making a dizzying number of financial moves while sitting on the Senate Banking Committee.

Corker's activities didn't go completely unnoticed. A few ethics groups cried foul over the years.

Anne Weismann, director of the Campaign for Accountability, which filed a complaint against Corker in 2015, described Corker's trading history in damning terms.

"Senator Corker's trades followed a consistent pattern," she said. "He bought low and sold high. It beggars belief to suggest these trades – netting the senator and his family millions – were mere coincidences."

One financial analyst I know said Corker's trading patterns looked more like the work of "an office of multiple analysts all grinding at least 60 hours a week" than like the work of "one guy moonlighting as a Senator."


When Corker took on Trump this fall – saying the White House was "an adult day care center" and that Trump's behavior threatened "World War III" – he suddenly became a darling of sorts in the liberal media.

Now he's a bad guy again, for reportedly doing what he's always done, acting in his own financial interest while earning a paycheck as a U.S. Senator.

The Corker story to me is a classic example of why it's always dangerous to overlook a politician's failings because he happens to be on the right side of some partisan debate at a given moment in time. The reason is obvious: these types eventually revert to form, and soon enough, a politician's flaws will be working against you again, rather than for you.
(Emphasis mine)

This is not a surprise.

If you believe government is inherently evil, or, as Margaret Thatcher so famously said, that there is, "No such thing as society," then the only reasons for public service are personal enrichment and a lust for power.


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