Most people could not wait for the Bush years to be over. With a deficit that was increasing at a mind-boggling rate, unpopular wars, and a host of other major problems, the country was ready for a change. And who could have been better to replace Bush than a man who ran a campaign on promises of “Change” and “Hope”? Naturally, these were empty promises as the US government continues down the road of utter corruption and thievery.
The presence of cronies in the Bush regime was well-known. The most obvious of all was Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney, to say the least, was a major bedfellow of Halliburton, one of the largest oil-service companies in the world. The first well-known case of Cheney’s conflict of interest with Halliburton was when Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, was paid $9 million by the Pentagon under the direction of Cheney in 1992 to produce a report on how private companies, such as itself, could provide logistical support for US troops around the world. Shortly thereafter, the same company was awarded a contract to provide logistical support to the US Army Corp of Engineers, which eventually earned them $2.2 billion.In 1995, Cheney left the US Department of Defense for a job as the CEO of Halliburton, despite having no business experience. Under his leadership, Halliburton moved up from 73rd to 18th on the list of the Pentagon’s top contractors. Not to worry, he ended up leaving Halliburton with a $33.7 million retirement package in 2000. So, where did he go next?
Cheney left Halliburton to join George W. Bush’s election campaign as his Vice President. Once Bush and Cheney got into office, the handouts and shady deals with Halliburton were taken to a new level. One of the more serious allegations, written by the Wall Street Journal (known to be a right-wing news source), was that Cheney’s representatives and members of Halliburton met in October of 2002 to discuss jumpstarting Iraq’s oil industry after the war, which had not even been officially decided yet–at least not publicly. The US Army Corp of Engineers went on to secretly award Halliburton a $7 billion contract to extinguish oil fires in Iraq. Despite government claims to the contrary, several other companies tried to bid on this contract, but were shut out of the process. If Cheney’s ties with Halliburton were not yet questionable enough, he still had 433,333 unexercised stock options with the company at the time, 300,000 of which he sold in 2005 after their value had risen 3,281 percent from the previous year.
The list of shady deals, convenient oversights, and outright lies involving Cheney and Halliburton goes on and on. Halliburton was known to do business in Iran, despite US sanctions that prohibited it. Documented cases of Halliburton’s bribery of foreign officials were brought to light and numerous cases of how it ripped off the US government (and thus, taxpayers) were reported, including a case of Halliburton billing the Government for 42,000 meals per day when it only fed soldiers 14,000 meals per day. All of this was done under the nose of Dick Cheney and his boss, George W. Bush.
Another notable crony in the Bush administration was Philip Cooney. Cooney, who worked as an oil-lobbyist before joining the Bush Administration, edited White House environmental reports on global climate change. After discovery of this massive conflict of interest by the public he resigned. Where did he go next? A day after he resigned, he was hired by Exxon Mobil. Needless to say, this was another one of the many foxes guarding the chicken coop during Bush’s reign. There were many others like him during Bush’s term, but this article would turn into a novel if they were all mentioned. So, now that we have President Obama in office, things are different now, right? The man that promised “Hope” and “Change” has provided little of either. Like his predecessor, Obama has taken good care of his cronies, at the expense of Joe Taxpayer, decency, and ethics. The man who publicly criticizes lobbyists and the like has relationships with too many to count. The Wall Street lobbyists that he has famously come out against include former administration members of his, former donors of his, former Democratic lawmakers, and other Democratic lobbyists who already have access to the White House. In fact, the main Wall Street lobbyist, Thomas Nides, donated the maximum allowable amount to the Obama campaign in both the primary and general elections. Who does Obama think he is kidding?
The largest investment bank, Goldman Sachs, has Democratic Capitol Hill staffers in four of its five in-house lobbyist positions. They ended up raising $1 million for the Obama campaign. Overall, the financial industry raised $14.9 million for Mr. Obama, hardly a negligible amount. Obama may be publicly denouncing the greed on Wall Street, but he has privately benefited from it.
Another case of Obama’s cronyism occurred with the bailout of Shore Bank. Shore Bank is a small bank in Chicago, a city where Obama has a lot of history, to say the least. The bank’s executives, being well-connected with the Obama Administration, were able to arrange for a bailout. We’re not talking about GM here, which would have allowed a substantial amount of employees to go out of work if it went under, this is a small bank. Notably, members of this bank contributed to the Obama Senate campaign. Even more interesting is the fact that a co-founder of the bank was a former college roommate of Hillary Clinton. Both Hillary and Bill Clinton have investments in the bank. I’m certain this was just a coincidence.
Union figures are another part of Obama’s network of cronies. Appointed to Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness was AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka. Trumka was the leader of the Union Mine Workers (UMW) when a non-union worker was shot to death during a mining strike. His union assisted all eight of the union members who were at the scene and did nothing to discipline them. He also reportedly incited a crowd in Illinois to “kick the shit out of every last” person that crossed the UMW’s picket lines. Additionally, he was implicated in two money-laundering scandals involving the Teamsters Union. Not to worry, his former boss was rewarded better than he was.
Joseph Sweeney , Trumka’s former boss (and head of the AFL-CIO) and member of the Democratic Socialists of America, helped Trumka’s union donate over $200 million to the Democratic Party in 2008. He sent out 250,000 volunteers to help Obama’s 2008 campaign in swing states. How did Mr. Obama repay him? Joseph Sweeney was given the Medal of Freedom. That’s right, a socialist who advocated big government involvement in the lives of all Americans was given the Medal of Freedom.
Perhaps most alarming of all of Obama’s exhibits of cronyism are his connections with extremists. Several known extremists, including the founder of a domestic terrorist organization that conducted bombings in the 1970’s, helped write Obama’s stimulus bill. The same goes for his healthcare bill which was drafted in part by left-wing extremists, some of whom admittedly seek to vastly increase government power and achieve corporate socialist goals. Obama has also been known to work with communists in the past and some of his top advisers have been linked with communist activists. Obama has reportedly been a member of the New Party, a group that sought to infiltrate the Democratic Party and turn it into a socialist-leaning group. The group is reportedly currently working on White House legislation.
In close, both Bush and Obama have wreaked havoc on the political framework and well-being of the United States in favor of building the wealth and power of themselves and their cronies. When told by a staff member that provisions of the USA Patriot Act violated the US Constitution, Bush reportedly screamed back, “Stop throwing the Constitution in my face. It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!” His words seemingly spoke the truth of how he felt about the document that has governed American society since 1789. His actions reinforced this, as he appeared to care mainly in serving the interests of a few powerful people, not the American public. As for Mr. Obama, he appears to feel similarly. He just does so with better public speaking skills and a warm, friendly smile. Here’s to hoping that Americans open their eyes in 2012 and vote for a real change, such as a third-party candidate. Otherwise, it will be more of the same with the Republicrats in power.