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Bank accused of fraud gave big bucks to Congress
Rachel Oswald
Published: Wednesday February 18, 2009


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Congress members skirt calls from Raw; Stanford Financial PAC gave $128,000 in 2008

With a financial crisis that President Obama warns could lead to catastrophe for this nation one would think policitians would be quick to return any money that could be viewed as having anything to do with the financial shenanigans that brought about this mess in the first place.

Last year, employees of Stanford Financial Group, whose founder billionaire, Sir. Robert Allen Stanford, has been charged with “massive, ongoing fraud” by the Security and Exchange Commission, gave more than $100,000 in campaign contributions to Congress at the end of 2008.

It is not yet known how many Congress members will be returning those contributions. Requests for comment from RawStory on Tuesday to a number of Congressional offices have yet to be returned. This could mean that either Democrats and Republicans are ducking the question or they need more time to weigh the pluses and minuses of returning the donations.

At least one senator, Bill Nelson, will likely be returning the campaign contributions. Said Nelson through his spokesman Dan McLaughlin to The Orlando Sentinel, "Based on the fact that Mr. Stanford has been indicted in a fraud case, I will give to charity any campaign contributions from him or his employees."

Stanford was charged by securities regulators on Tuesday, according to The Financial Times with “massive, ongoing fraud” operated through his Antigua-based offshore bank.

The Stanford Financial Group Company Employees Political Action Committee gave $128,000 to both Republican and Democratic campaign committees in 2008, according to records from the Federal Election Commission.

Among the highlights of the many contributions are $5,000 to the campaign of House Minority Leader John Boehner and $3,000 to the campaign of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Asked by RawStory if Rep. Boehner would be returning his campaign contributions from the PAC, Michael Steele, press secretary for Boehner said, “This is the first I’m hearing of it. We’ll find out.”

The large bulk of the contributions came in the latter half of 2008, not coincidentally when Congress was considering passage of the controversial $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. On a single day, Oct. 10, $61,700 was contributed by the STAN-PAC. Seven days earlier President George W. Bush had signed the financial systems bailout into law.

Calls on the same matter to Reid’s office and to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee also went unreturned.

Since 2000, Robert Allen Stanford, his wife and company gave $2.2 million in political contributions – $1.7 million to Democratic candidates and committees – according to a review by Politico of Federal Election Commission records.

The most recent donation on record was $300,000 from Stanford Financial Group to the 527 group, the Democratic Governors Association. Reports Politico "Other beneficiaries included the Democrats’ congressional campaign committees, which received $1.2 million over the years, and their Republican counterparts, which got $322,000, including a $28,500 personal donation last year to the National Republican Congressional Committee."

According to OpenSecrets.org, since 1989 the top recipients of cash from Stanford Financial in the current Congress include Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who received $45,900; Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who collected $41,375; and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who brought in $28,150.

According to Financial Times, the SEC is charging that Stanford International Bank in St. John’s, Antigua, one of several companies run by Stanford, sold approximately $8 billion in certificates of deposits by promising “improbably and unsubstantiated high interest rates.”

Many of the politicians who received campaign contributions are at the heads of powerful Congressional committees that oversee financial matters deemed crucial to the banking industry.

Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, received $5,000 from the PAC and Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, received $1,000. West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who is chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, received $5,000.

Rahm Emanuel, President’s Barack Obama’s chief of staff, received $3,000 from the PAC in 2008, when he was the third most powerful Democrat in the House. Interestingly Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, did not receive any money.

Stanford Financial also spent a significant chunk of change in lobbying fees in 2008. According to the Senate Office of Public Records, the company paid out $625,000 to the Ben Barnes Group, the lobbyist firm started by former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes. Sir. Robert Allen Stanford is also from Texas.

Reported OpenSecrets.org, "Stanford Financial Group has spent a total of $4.8 million on lobbying efforts since 1999, primarily on issues related to money laundering, financial services and banking. Last year the firm's lobbying spiked by more than 300 percent, totaling $2.2 million."

Wednesday morning ABC News reported that Federal authorities say they do not know the current whereabouts of the CEO.

Calls to the Ben Barnes Group on what kind of lobbying services they provided to Stanford Financial have not been returned.




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