Pioneer Valley residents who tuned into MSNBC's Hardball last night got an unexpected surprise when a name came up not usually in the national spotlight: Congressman Richard Neal of Springfield! The discussion with Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff centered on members of Congress who received campaign contributions from banks that received bail-out money and the possible conflicts of interest such contributions pose. Make a contribution and get a bail-out? Turns out Representative Neal is the highest funds recipient from the bailed out banks of all the congressmen mentioned. Here's the part of the interview transcript where Neal and the possible ramifications of the money he and others received is discussed.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: As if the bonuses at AIG weren‘t outrageous enough, how about the banks that took that bail-out money turning around a chunk of it and giving it as campaign contributions to the Congress that approved this stuff? Your tax dollars at work in campaigns for Congress. We‘ll follow the money when we return. I guess this is public financing of campaigns.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. After a week of pitchforks and torches, for AIG, “Newsweek‘s” Michael Isikoff has this whopper in the magazine‘s latest edition. Quote, “Another money trail could make voters just as angry, the campaign dollars to members of Congress from banks and firms that have received billions via the Troubled Asset Relief Program, TARP. While a few big firms such as Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase have curtailed their campaign giving, others are quietly doling out cash to select members of Congress, particularly those who serve on committees that oversee TARP.”
Looks like we‘re going to need more torches. With us now, “Newsweek‘s” Michael Isikoff, who‘s also an MSNBC contributor, and “Mother Jones‘s” David McCorn—David McCorn or David Corn?
MATTHEWS: ... who are co-authors of a great book called “Hubris.”
Both you guys, thank you for that book, as well.
Let‘s take a look at the money that‘s being dolled out, thanks to your reporting, Mike. CitiGroup $29,620, Bank of America, $24,500, Huntington Bank $17,200, Goldman Sachs $10,000, KeyBank $4,000, for a total of $85,320.
Now, let‘s look at who was getting the money here. This is always interesting. Steny Hoyer got 1,500 bucks from Bank of America. Richard Neil of Massachusetts got $9,000 from Bank of America and CitiGroup. Jeff Merkley of Oregon—he‘s a Democrat—got $7,500 from Bank of America and CitiGroup, Jim DeMint—he‘s a senator from South Carolina—got $3,000 from BofA, Jim Clyburn, he got $1,000 from BofA. He‘s from South Carolina, as well. And Eric Cantor, who‘s the number two Republican in the House—he‘s whip—got (INAUDIBLE)
Now, these are, to put things in perspective, not a huge amount of money, given the fact that you can max out. An individual can give, what, $4,600 in two cycles, primary and general. Mike, what do you make of these things, these numbers you‘ve dug up?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, I mean, it‘s interesting because, obviously, there‘s been a lot of nervousness about this whole issue ever since the TARP bail-outs came out. I mean, Wall Street—these Wall Street firms have been a traditional major source of cash for members of Congress for decades. I think it was $37 million in the last cycle alone from the big Wall Street investment banks and banking firms.
MATTHEWS: Thirty-seven million dollars...
ISIKOFF: I think it‘s $37 million from TARP recipients.
MATTHEWS: ... going to members of Congress who then voted on legislation for...
MATTHEWS: ... for giving them the bailout money.
ISIKOFF: That is sort of standard the way things have always operated on Capitol Hill.
But once you start putting the taxpayers‘ money in there, it kind of changes the equation a bit. So, I think a number of House and Senate leaders have recognized this is going to be a problem.
But perhaps not too much of a problem for Congressman Neal, since as usual the local media has yet to raise this issue about the local congressman, despite it receiving national television exposure.
“The first panacea for a mismanaged nation,” said Ernest Hemingway, “is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists.”
Coming March 25th!
A new old Grateful Dead show from 1968 is being released, along with a 1986 performance by Jerry Garcia and his solo band. Wanna listen to some samples? Click here!
I stopped by Puffer's Pond in Amherst this afternoon.
It may be Spring according to the calender, but it looks like nobody told Mother Nature, as the pond remains frozen solid!
That's okay, in several weeks the pond will be filled with swimmers.
And one of them is likely to be me!
Here's some weirdness from the Sierra Grille in Northampton last week.