Saturday, June 29, 2013

Is ‘Organizing for Action’ in violation of IRS Code and E.O. 13490?

By SUA Staff – Pay to play! It will only cost you $500,000 for a single visit with Obama – smell test anyone? The ‘most transparent administration ever’ has another smudge on the glass it appears.
By now, its almost a running joke, or better yet, a trail of constant obfuscation, applying new meanings to words, selective enforcement of law, suing rivals and sovereign states, outright lying, and so many more examples of the reign of a despot rather than Presidency of the United States.
Presidential fiat rules the day and unfortunately we are becoming desensitized to it. Executive Orders and the blame game, end-runs around Congress, and now, possibly even conflicting with IRS Code. Oops, did they just conflict with their own rules?
The transformation of the reelection campaign to a 501(c)4 may just prove to be illegal. In fact, one of his own Executive Orders may seal their fate, but more likely, people will just look the other way.
There appears to be nothing they will not say or do to ‘transform’ America. Please read the story below, but first, read Executive Order 13490 from January 21, 2009. Here are a few snippets to ponder as you review the story below it:
  • Lobbyist Gift Ban.  I will not accept gifts from registered lobbyists or lobbying organizations for the duration of my service as an appointee.
    Senior White House Adviser David Axelrod, left, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, leave with President Barack Obama, not shown, from the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009, for a trip to New Hampshire to hold a town hall meeting. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
  • Revolving Door Ban – All Appointees Entering Government.  I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts. 
  • Revolving Door Ban – Appointees Leaving Government.  If, upon my departure from the Government, I am covered by the post-employment restrictions on communicating with employees of my former executive agency set forth in section 207(c) of title 18, United States Code, I agree that I will abide by those restrictions for a period of 2 years following the end of my appointment. (Read the whole E.O. here.)
Also remember that David Axelrod has now joined the NBC family – another lobbying vantage point for the Obama Agenda. He joins former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs there. Now they have a lobbying team for all of America – the main stream media and Organizing for America. (Now called Organizing for Action.)
The question also to ask is, who is working for that new team that was employed by the campaign, and/or the administration? Additionally – we may need some legal definitions – Is the new group another Media Matters fiasco of a sham; a not-for-profit with tax exempt status that is actually an advocacy group for a specific candidate and agenda of a sitting politician?
Here is the link to the United States Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. § 501(c). Dull reading, but worth the effort.

White House denies claims that a $500,000 donation ‘buys’ face time with the president

  • It was reported over the weekend that donors who gave more than $500K to Organizing for America would be invited to quarterly meeting with the president
  • Press Secretary Jay Carney did not dispute claims and said there was nothing unusual about Obama meeting with donors
The White House defended itself today after suggestions that high-dollar donors to President Obama’s new non-profit advocacy group would ‘buy’ face time with the Commander-In-Chief.
Pay to play? Mr Obama, pictured today speaking to the National Governors Association; the White House today defended itself after suggestions that high-dollar donors to his non-profit advocacy group would buy face time.
Organizing for Action, which is set up to be a social welfare organization, will allow large donations not unlike Super-PAC contributions, to be given to aid Mr Obama in carrying out second-term goals such as climate change and gun control.
There have been reports that those who contributed more than $500,000 to his cause would be invited to quarterly meetings with the president in a pay-to-play.
However, White House press secretary Jay Carney did not specifically dispute the claims, saying only that there was nothing new and unusual about Mr Obama meeting with people and groups who support his political agenda. 
He said today: ‘It has been organized to rally support for the president’s policy agenda, but is a separate organization.

Administrative officials routinely interact with outside advocacy organizations, and this has been true in prior administrations.’
An article appearing in the New York Times originally reported the benchmark funding over the weekend.

Mr Carney told reporters today that administration officials may attend events for OFA, but won’t be raising money.
The group, which is a spinoff of the president’s re-election group ‘Obama for America,’ has said its purpose is to rally support for Mr Obama’s policy agenda – not to support or oppose candidates. 
It’s accepting unlimited personal and corporate donations, but plans to disclose its donors.
According to the Times, the non-profit will accept unlimited donations from both personal and corporate coffers. 
Those who donate more than half a million to the OFA will be invited to the nonprofit’s ‘national advisory board,’ giving the donors access to quarterly meetings with the president as well as other White House events.
Jon Carson, the executive director of the OFA and former director of the White House office of public engagement, told the Times on Saturday that the group’s goal is to ‘change the conventional wisdom’ on hot-button issues like gun control and climate change. 
The organization’s modus operandi is not unlike those of Super PAC, which until early 2012, the president called a ‘threat to democracy.’
The OFA site reads that it exists to help President Obama in the ‘achieving enactment of the national agenda.’ As such, it operates as a 501(c)(4) of the IRS.

The Beginning Of The End For Obama’s Eligibility Cover-Up.

Posted on January 21, 2012

The author of the best-selling “Where’s the Birth Certificate? The Case That Barack Obama Is Not Eligible To Be President”charged today the resignation of  White House counsel Bob Bauer is the result of his participation in the release of Barack Obama’sCertificate of Live Birth,” which he fears would not stand up to the scrutiny of any serious investigation by the FBI, Congress or the media.When the announcement about Bauer’s departure was made today, the AP said he was returning to private practice and to represent Obama as his personal attorney and as general counsel to Obama’s re-election campaign.

He’s being replaced by Kathy Ruemmler, a former assistant U.S. attorney.
The AP reported Obama praised Bauer, who before his White House post had defended Obama against lawsuits that challenged his eligibility to be president.
But Jerome Corsi, Ph.D., who authored the “Where’s the Birth Certificate?” book that debuted at No. 6 on the New York Times best-sellers list after reaching No. 1 several weeks earlier at, said, “I think Bauer’s resignation marks the beginning of the Obama eligibility cover-up starting to unwind.”
Corsi believes Bauer “felt compelled” to resign because of the growing substance to worries that the eligibility issue will blow up into a full-scale investigation.
“Bauer sent Perkins and Coie attorneys to Honolulu to pick up from the Hawaii Department of Health what he believed would be two certified copies of Obama’s 1961 long-form, hospital-generated birth certificate,” Corsi said.
“When theWhiteHouse released to the public the birth certificate in the form of a PDF computer file obviously created on Adobe software and a Xerox copy, Bauer realized the Hawaii DOH had participated in the fraud,” Corsi charged.
Corsi said he had been tipped off early in February that a long-form birth document for Obama had been forged and that the document was to be released.
Powerful evidence and testimony from an expert with many years of experience with typesetting and document images proves that Obama’s long form birth certificate PDF file posted on the White House servers on 27 April 2011 is a fake and is a fabricated, composite document forgery:
When will Obama be seriously and fully investigated by the Congress , the FBI, or the Main Stream Media for his many criminal activities!
Meet ‘The Three Enablers‘ of Obama’s usurpation of office and who are continuing to allow him to get a pass on his crimes.
CDR Charles Kerchner (Ret)
“The information came from a mole within the Hawaii DOH who had been examining the vault logbook for months,” Corsi explained. “Until just prior to February 24, no Obama long-form hospital-generated birth record could be found in the Hawaii DOH.”
Corsi, whose book also has ascended to the upper reaches of other best-seller tabulations, said that when Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie “could not find the Obama birth records he had been searching for and radio journalist Mike Evans said so in a broadcast repeated over a series of radio stations across the nation, a decision was made within the White House to use a forgery that may have been in the works since as early as 2008.”
Corsi said he believes the scenario developed this way:
Obama and Valerie Jarrett wanted to continue the stonewalling strategy they had used since 2008, relying on the short-form Certification of Live Birth and having Hawaii DOH claim that long-form birth certificate copies were no longer available, not even to Obama.
Obama and Jarrett had planned to use the forged birth certificate as an October surprise, just prior to the November 2012 election, if the pressure on Obama’s eligibility remained an obstacle to his reelection.
But this strategy was overruled by White HouseChief of Staff Bill Daley. He determined that a birth certificate, if it existed, had to be released now – to prevent the issue from gaining momentum.
“I believe both Daley and Bauer believed until recently that Obama was telling the truth and that the birth certificate was really there in the Hawaii DOH,” Corsi said. “But when they realized that the last-modified date stamp on the computer file of the Obama birth certificate – put up on the WhiteHousewebsite on April 27 – was thatvery samemorning, it contradicted the idea the file was an earlier scan of the original Obama birth certificate in the Hawaii vault log book. What modifications to the file were being made at the White House? Was the file originally created at the White House? Why wasn’t the file made and closed in Hawaii where the scan of the original document was supposedly made? Bauer realized the White House was lying to say a scan of the original document was being released.”

Corsi said he’s convinced that now top White House operatives such as Daley and Bauer believe there is no document in the Hawaii Department of Health that can withstand forensic analysis.
He said the legal challenges to a specific document that has been made public could be harder to deflect than a lawsuit generally alleging an ineligibility on Obama’s part.
Corsi also said he believes top operatives in the Democratic Party “have concluded that if Obama does not kill the birther issue soon, he may have to resign – with the likelihood that Hillary Clinton will be elevated into the DNC presidential candidate in 2012.”
Corsi suggested Republicans also are staying away from the “birther” issue because they have reached the same conclusion – and the RNC does not want “to have to face Hillary in the 2012 presidential election in the wake of an Obama resignation.”
“What forced the release of the birth certificate on April 27 was the coming publication of the [Where's the Birth Certificate?] book,” said Corsi.
“Bauer’s resignation is the first step in the crumbling of inside support for ObamaintheWhiteHouse.”
Corsi said pursuit of the “forger” who created the Obama Certificate of Live Birth already is well under way.
“The forgery consists of a composite of these various Hawaii 1961 legitimate documents, onto which was added Obama-specific information, with the result that the final version was composed in Adobe software,” Corsi said.
WND reported when Bauer joined the White House.
Obama announced at that point he was waiving ethicsrulesfor Bauer, his personal and campaign lawyer – and the same attorney who has defended Obama in lawsuits challenging his eligibility to be president.
Obama As The Lies Come Crashing Down: Pakistan Has Doubled The Size Of Its Nuclear Arsenal.
Breaking => Concerted Effort By Democrats To Eliminate Article 2 Section 1 Clause 5 Of The U.S. Constitution Just Prior To Obama’s Election: Presidents To Be Natural Born Citizens!
Breaking => U.S. District Court Subpoena To Be Delivered To Hawaii Department of Health For Barrack Obama Vault Birth Certificate.
Husband To Anita Dunn & Council For Obama’s $2.8 Million COLB Legal Fees: Bob Bauer Resigns From Obama Administration!
But Executive Order 13490, “Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel,” prohibits political appointees from participating in any matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to former employers or former clients. The rule typically expires two years after the date of appointment.
According to the ethics waiver posted on the White House website, Bauer was exempted from the requirements of the ethics pledge “solely with respect to his former client the DemocraticNationalCommittee (DNC), and with respect to his former employer Perkins Coie LLP (Perkins Coie) in its capacity as counsel to the DNC and to President Barack Obama in his personal capacity.”
The waiver suggested the ethics rules would have prevented Bauer from working on Obama’s financial disclosure forms or issues related to the DemocraticNational Committee.
As WND reported, in April 2009, Bauer sent a letter to plaintiff Gregory Hollister of Hollister v. Soetoro, a retired Air Force colonel, threatening sanctions if he didn’t withdraw his appeal of the eligibility case that earlier was tossed by a district judge because the issue already had been “twittered.”
“For the reasons stated in Judge Robertson’s ruling, the suit is frivolous and should not be pursued,” Bauer’s letter warned. “Should you decline to withdraw this frivolous appeal, please be informed that we intend to pursue sanctions, including costs, expenses and attorneys’ fees, pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 38 and D.C. Circuit Rule 38.”
Bauer also represented Obama and the DNC in Philip Berg’s eligibility lawsuit and various other legal challenges.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Bauer functioned as an “attack lawyer,” threatening with FEC complaints groups wanting to run anti-Obama television ads.
Also during the 2008 presidential campaign, Bauer as counsel for the Obama campaign wrote letters to television station managers and to Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General John Keeney arguing that airing an anti-Obama ad pointing to the known association between Obama and Weather Underground radical Bill Ayers would violate federal election rules.
Additionally, during the 2008 campaign, Bauer intervened on behalf of Obama to block the California-based American Leadership Project from running a television ad campaign over support from unions, including the Service Employees International Union.
Again, Bauer filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that the union-funded television campaign the American Leadership Project planned to run in Indiana against Obama was illegal under federal electionlaws.
In addition to representing Obama on eligibility cases, Bauer also served as legal counsel to represent the president in the criminal probe into the activities of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
World Net Daily

Justice American Style: The Obama War on Dissent

The International Court of Justice in 1996 unanimously interpreted the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as, “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”
Transform Now Plowshares
Yet the Obama administration’s Justice Department threw the book at three peace demonstrators who took part in a peaceful demonstration to abolish our nuclear arsenal at the nation’s Y-12 nuclear bomb making facility in Tennessee. Their non-violent action was entirely in the spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that, as a signed and ratified treaty, is deemed the “supreme law of the land” by none other than the U.S. Constitution. They were convicted of sabotage and could be each sentenced in July to 30 years in jail.
It took hours for the private security company guarding the compound to discover and arrest them. That’s right our weapons grade uranium is guarded by private not military security. Private security contractor WSI Oak Ridge, a subsidiary of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based G4S Government Solutions Inc., formerly known as Wackenhut, took hours to detect that an 82-year-old nun, Sister Megan Rice, and two American vets, one Vietnam, Michael Walli, 64, and, one Cold War, Greg Boertje-Obed, 56, had entered the facility in an act of peaceful civil disobedience. They are members of the group Transform Now Plowshares that lives the words of the Bible: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares. They shall learn war no more.”
We can all sleep better knowing that WSI Oak Ridge has been fired and replaced not by our military, but by private contractor B&W Y12, the same managing contractor at the plant that should have been overseeing WSI Oak Ridge’s performance in the first place. In addition to making uranium parts for every U.S. nuclear warhead, the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, TN, dismantles old weapons and is the nation’s primary storehouse for highly enriched bomb-grade uranium
The activists used bolt cutters to cut the chain link fences and enter three progressively higher security areas, until they were outside the building storing highly enriched uranium for nuclear bombs. They had expected to be arrested immediately upon cutting the first fence to enter the facility and were more than a little surprised as they were able to venture farther and farther into the inner sanctum of U.S. nuclear insanity. They had to pace themselves as they climbed a hill because of Sister Megan’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Their intention was not sabotage, but a peaceful, non-violent act of civil disobedience to bring attention to humanity’s duty to abolish nuclear weapons.
Originally they were charged with the misdemeanor of trespass that carried a year in jail. That was until President Obama’s Justice Department took over and charged and convicted the peaceful activists of sabotage.
Obama’s forward look
This is what the Obama administration of Hope and Change has chosen to prosecute? No prosecutions for the likes of ex-President George W. Bush and VP Cheney who lied us into wars costing thousands of U.S. lives and probably more than 1 million Iraqis and Afghans, to say nothing of the more than $3 trillion in estimated cost for the Iraq War alone.
When questioned upon taking office about seeking justice for the American people by investigating and prosecuting Bush and his administration Obama said, “I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” But if we look forward not backward, we may as well do away with our entire legal and prison system. Not that they both don’t need a drastic overhaul, but no one is advocating a complete abdication of any form of crime and punishment. Except Obama and as his Justice Department pursues selective prosecutions, the rich and powerful look forward while the rest of us march backward to prison.
The forward looking Obama continued to ignore real criminality when he refused to prosecute a single Wall Street bankster for defrauding the American public of trillions of dollars. But have no fear fans of Law and Order, the president does believe in prosecuting whistleblowers like Bradley Manning. Well, we can all rest safer now knowing that those that risk their lives and careers to expose government crime, will be prosecuted as a reward. The New York Times reported that in just Obama’s first 26 months in office, he had already prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous U.S. presidents.
Bradley Manning an American hero
Private Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst in Iraq, became aware of numerous war crimes in his normal course of analyzing intelligence reports and other data. He released this information to WikiLeaks, which then made it available to The New York Times and other large international newspapers. According to his testimony, the classified information he released was time sensitive for at most 48 to 72 hours, after that time span the information had already gone out through other channels or the military units had moved their positions. The information he released was months or years old, in other words no one was put in harm’s way as a result of his actions.
The classified information Manning leaked and WikiLeaks distributed to newspapers:
  • Showed U.S. participation in torture and murder in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Exposed the dirty dealings of the Bush and Obama administrations with dictators across North Africa and the Mideast and was thus a catalyst for the “Arab Spring” uprisings.
  • Showed that the Obama administration knew of the impending coup against Honduras’s democratically elected government in 2009, yet did nothing to stop it, let alone the wave of violence initiated by the coup regime once it took over.
  • Demonstrated that both the Obama and Bush administrations have favored U.S. global domination over the human rights of poor people across the globe.
Manning testified calmly earlier this year when pleading guilty to 10 counts of misusing classified information:
“I believe that if the general public . . . had access to the information . . . this could spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and foreign policy in general . . .
“I felt I accomplished something that would allow me to have a clear conscience . . .
“This was the type of information . . . that should become public.”
Perish the thought that we as a society would ever have an open discussion and debate about the U.S. foreign policy of empire.
He did not receive a plea deal to do this and faces a possible 20 years in prison for so doing. Of course he had already been proclaimed guilty by Commander In Chief Obama years earlier, when he said of Manning, “He broke the law.” thus negating any chance for a fair military trial. How could any military officer acting as judge or jury then proceed to give Manning a fair trial after the Commander In Chief has already pronounced him guilty, knowing that all future promotions come from above and that ultimately means the Commander In Chief?
Manning has already been imprisoned for three years and his trial began June 3 for the more serious charges of “aiding the enemy”. For this he faces possible life imprisonment and it matters little to the court that government officials have already stated that no one has been hurt as the result of the information that Manning gave to WikiLeaks. It also matters little to the court that in addition to not aiding the enemy (since no one was hurt), Manning released the information with no intention to aid the enemy.
We are told that the government attorneys will use testimony that Osama bin Laden’s captured computer was said to have classified information released by Manning to WikiLeaks on it. This is allegedly proof that he was aiding the enemy. Of course bin Laden’s computer might have articles that I have written on it and this also could be said to aid the enemy, perhaps by putting him to sleep.
In Manning’s case the law must be followed and he needs to made an example of so that no others in the future will not be tempted to inform the public of what actually goes down in U.S. wars of empire. Wall Street banksters and administration war criminals get a “get out of jail free card” from the pathetic Obama, while the entire weight of the U.S. Department of Justice focuses on peace activists and whistleblowers. U.S.A. is number 1!
But Manning has not been wiling away the last three years in some country club low security facility to which the occasional hapless white collar criminal or corrupt politician gets sentenced. For months and months he was kept in what amounted to solitary confinement and was forced to sleep blanketless in the nude or occasionally in his underwear and then forced to stand nude, at attention, daily for inspection by his jailers. Bear in mind that the physically slight Manning is gay and that this took place before Obama oh so graciously allowed our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to come out of the closet and still be available as cannon fodder for imperial U.S wars.
Obama’s appropriate treatment
Obama said, “I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are.”
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez of Bradley Manning’s treatment after completing a 14 month investigation of it:
“The special rapporteur concludes that imposing seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence.”
Mendez, who runs the UN office that investigates incidents of alleged torture around the world, later told the Guardian: “I conclude that the 11 months under conditions of solitary confinement (regardless of the name given to his regime by the prison authorities) constitutes at a minimum cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of article 16 of the convention against torture. If the effects in regards to pain and suffering inflicted on Manning were more severe, they could constitute torture.”
Manning has been twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He certainly has a more legitimate claim to it than the president who prosecutes him.
The NATO 3/5
Brian Church was 20, Jared Chase 24 and Brent Betterly 24 last spring when they drove from Florida to Chicago to take part in the anti-NATO/G8 protest when both organizations were scheduled to meet in Chicago in May of 2012. As the commitment of the peace and social justice community in Chicago to massively protest the NATO war mongers and the capitalist G8 leeches on society became apparent to President Obama, he moved the G8 meeting to the presidential personal retreat at Camp David, Maryland. Undeterred by this move or the passing of Chicago City Council ordinances vastly curtailing the public’s right to First Amendment protest by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his city council, organizers continued to plan for the huge protest.
This from my own “Personal Observations from the Chicago March Against the NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda” written last May:
At 1AM Thursday morning, three days before the march on the 20th, police raided the apartment home of Occupy Chicago activists in the Bridgeport Neighborhood of Chicago. They detained 9 activists originally and ended up charging three young men with terrorism charges for allegedly planning terrorist attacks against Obama’s campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house and police stations. The three charged are Brian Church, 20, of Florida, Brent Betterly of Florida and Jared Chase of New Hampshire. Police have said that they also found 4 completed Molotov cocktails. Attorneys for the NATO 3 have said the confiscated items were home beer making equipment. Police said that two undercover informants had witnessed the planning of the attacks. Two other Chicago residents, Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, and Mark Neiweem, 28, were charged with separate terrorism charges days later for allegedly planning to make or use Molotov cocktails.
The NATO 3 were the same three individuals who had released a YouTube video of Chicago police stopping their car and threatening them by saying “You guys know all about ’68.” “What did they say back in ’68?” “Billy club to the f***king skull . . .”OK, now we’ll beat your white ass.” Then later more from the police “Wait for the protest day. Save it all. Save it up for that.” One of the stopped young men replies “We’ll see you at NATO.” Police reply “Can’t wait. We’ll come look for you, each and every one of you.”
Preemptive police raids and trumped up charges are exactly what happened in the Twin Cities before the Republican National Convention in 2008. Terrorism charges were filed against 8 young men and women (RNC 8) who were planning to protest the convention. Two years later, the terrorism charges were dropped and eventually three were completely exonerated and the other five accepted plea deals down to a misdemeanor. For two years though, eight young men and women had arrayed against them all the power of the state with bogus charges of terrorism.
“Will the Chicago Police Department be using agents provocateur, police dressed up as Black Block anarchists, like we’ve seen in other large demonstrations across the country?” a question to Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in the lead up to the NATO summit. His incredible response, “What?” “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Either the Superintendent of Police in the nation’s third largest city is a complete ignoramus with regard to a commonly used tactic by law enforcement at all levels since the COINTELPRO program of the Vietnam era or he is just a flat out liar. It was this same tactic of agents provocateur that led to the arrest of the NATO 3.
Yet the same Superintendent McCarthy has been lionized by the press as some sort of a hero at the NATO summit protests.
Do I have any idea of the guilt or innocence of the NATO 3, now the NATO 5? No, I have no direct knowledge. What I do know is that bringing the entire weight of the City, State and U.S. government against these 5 individuals is a very serious matter. The power is there to make their lives living hell and do everything possible to pressure them individually to testify against their companions in return for a lighter sentence or dropped charges. Whether or not such testimony is an honest representation of the facts has historically been of little concern to the state. These types of prosecution do not seek justice. They are just power run amok.”
Eventually the last two NATO demonstrators arrested made deals with the state: “Sebastian “Sabi” Senakiewicz pleaded guilty to one felony count of falsely making a terrorist threat on Tuesday. Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford sentenced him to four years in prison, and recommended he serve his sentence in a boot camp, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. Senakiewicz also will be deported after completing his sentence.”—CBS News
Twenty-eight-year-old Chicago activist Mark Neiweem pleaded guilty after 329 days in jail to probation violation charge from a previous conviction and to solicitation and attempted possession of an explosive or incendiary device. He was given three years in the plea deal.
“The politically motivated prosecution and abuse Mark suffered in Cook County Jail point to a degree of coordinated state repression and coercion which was physically and psychologically unbearable,” said Rachel Unterman of the NATO 5 Defense Committee. “Ultimately, Mark decided to end his ordeal and be transferred out of Cook County Jail by taking a non-cooperating plea deal.”
The NATO 3′s trial is scheduled to begin Sept 16, 2013. They will have been imprisoned for about 485 days at that point. Originally the state asked for $5 million bail and the judge graciously reduced it to $1.5 million each. None of the defendants were able to afford bail and so they sit in Cook County jail awaiting trial. They have spent a year in jail and refused to testify against each other in return for a lighter sentence. There is no statement I can make that does justice to the courage, resolve and solidarity they have displayed.
None of the NATO protestors were dangerous criminals. They were simply youth who may or may not have made a boastful statement around undercover government agents provocateur. We are not any safer as a society as a result of their incarceration. They are political prisoners and they are imprisoned to quash not their dissent, but to prevent yours in the future.
Occupy Wall Street burst onto the American scene when activists went to Wall Street on Sept 17, 2011, to protest the inequality of the American economic system and the undemocratic nature of the American political system and stayed as a permanent occupation until brutally attacked by the police and finally forced to leave the permanent encampment at Liberty Park (Zucotti Park). Activist David DeGraw of, one of the primary organizers behind the original occupation describes it:
“First of all, the #OWS 99% Movement is a genuine leaderless decentralized grassroots movement. In my opinion, it is built upon the hard work of hundreds of thousands of people who have taken it upon themselves to fight back against their own financial oppression and in defense of their family and country. As someone who has spent countless hours, days, weeks at Liberty Park, it is evident that people here come from all different walks of life and have all different political viewpoints. The uniting factor is that most of the people here realize that America has been taken over and is currently occupied by global financial interests. They have seized control of our government, economy and tax system, and have rigged our political process against hardworking Americans. People at Liberty Park, the 99%ers, are here to defend the United States against a global financial oligarchy. They are not here because they are the puppets of anyone. They are fighting back against economic tyranny PERIOD.”
“By October 9 Occupy protests had taken place or were ongoing in over 95 cities across 82 countries and over 600 communities in the United States.”—Wikipedia
Self-styled as a leaderless movement, Occupy is really a movement of leaders. “We are a DECENTRALIZED non-violent movement. If you are looking to contact one of our leaders, go to the nearest mirror and peer deeply into it. It may take some time, but, eventually, one of our leaders will appear with answers to all of your questions.”—Anonymous
The Democrat Party attempted to co-opt the movement through and various Democratic politicians visiting the Occupations across the country. This didn’t work for the simple fact that Democratic politicians did not want what the Occupy movement wanted: a more equitable economic system and a democratic political system. Because the Occupy movement was becoming so successful at bringing many on the far left and many on the far right together on basic issues, at some point it became necessary to brutally attack every permanent Occupy site in the U.S.
Naomi Wolf describes who was behind the coordinated attacks. “It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall—so mystifying at the time—was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves–was coordinated with the big banks themselves.” (emphasis mine)
Partnership for Civil Justice Fund
“FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) pursuant to the PCJF’s Freedom of Information Act demands reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did ‘not condone the use of violence’ at occupy protests.
The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.”—Partnership for Civil Justice Fund
“This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement. These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”—Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund
“The documents are heavily redacted, and it is clear from the production that the FBI is withholding far more material. We are filing an appeal challenging this response and demanding full disclosure to the public of the records of this operation,”—Heather Benno, staff attorney with the PCJF
Endless war
Obama’s assistant secretary of defense, Michael Sheehan, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the War on Terror would continue for at least the next 10 or 20 years. The U.S. spends in excess of $1 trillion per year on militarism, empire and war. Endless war is simply a byproduct of the capitalist imperative for ever increasing profits. The military/industrial/congressional complex is far too powerful and has no intention of ever changing this system. So actually the War on Terror will end only when we junk our capitalist market system and not before. Ten or 20 years, 100 or 200 years, war will not end under capitalism.
Beyond the scope
This article has merely detailed a few of the lowlights of President Obama’s War on Dissent. It in no way is a complete list, space does not permit that here. First and foremost, it does not delve into why the U.S. has more prisoners than any other country or why poor people and people of color have significantly less justice than wealthy Caucasians. It also only scratches the surface of activists and activist groups that have been targeted by the government.
Some may think that I am being too hard on President Obama. That everything he does is in reaction to reactionary Republicans and that this is the reason that he is unable to pursue a more progressive agenda. Let’s look at just a few of the facts:
  • He told us when running for president that he would concentrate more on Afghanistan that that was where we should be fighting and he escalated the Afghan war upon taking office.
  • He abandoned his minister Jeremiah Wright when videos of Rev Wright revealed the reverend condemning America’s slave holding past and history of genocide against Native Americans by saying, “God damn America!” If Obama was a man of character, he would have used this opportunity to support Rev. Wright by teaching the American people about our past and present crimes.
  • He kept Bush Secretary of State Robert Gates and did not appoint a single so-called progressive to a top level appointment.
  • White House environmental advisor Van Jones was the closest he could come to a so-called progressive and Obama ditched him as soon as a controversy arose about his past ties to mildly progressive groups. He had committed no crime and his president should have stood by him and again used the moment to educate the public about supporting an individual’s right to dissent.
  • He kept all the old Bush Justice Department prosecutors. The normal thing for a new president is to accept their resignations and appoint qualified prosecutors from your own political party. Bush had fired several prosecutors for not pursuing nonexistent election fraud against Democrats. If Obama wanted to keep Bush appointees, he should have hired back those prosecutors fired. These were the keepers, not the ones Bush didn’t fire.
  • His signature Obamacare healthcare bill was nothing more than the past Republican Romney bill from Massachusetts. It codifies into law the monopoly control of the private insurance industry over U.S. healthcare. It was written by the private insurance industry and advocates for a single-payer system were never allowed into the public congressional discussions. They were in fact arrested when attempting to testify at congressional hearings.
  • He graciously accepted organized labor’s support during the campaigns and then has done nothing to even bring up the “card check” legislation that workers were counting on to revitalize the labor movement.
Enough, one could add to the above list until the cows come home and we would still not run out of material. We were told to vote for Obama because he was the lesser of two evils. In reality he is the more effective evil* at implementing a right-wing agenda, because he has confused those who supported him to continue supporting him, while he ignores the issues that matter most to them. (*Note: This author does not believe in evil and uses the term only because it has become the accepted term to use when describing our lack of choice at the polls.)
While I have not held back in critiquing President Obama, please do not interpret that to mean that I support any other politicians from our two monopoly political parties. We can democratize our political system only by changing our economic system from the winner-take-all capitalist system to a more democratic socialist system. Democracy and capitalism cannot peacefully co-exist.
Y-12 Nuclear Activists
Transform Now Plowshares
The Prophets of Oak Ridge
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Security company fired after nuke plant break-in
Obama Justice
The Untouchables: how the Obama administration protected Wall Street from prosecution
Glenn Greenwald
Chomsky: Obama must be taken before ICC for the war on terror
Bradley Manning an American Hero
The Bradley Manning Support Network
Army Judge Raises Burden in Private’s Trial on Leaks
Bradley Manning pleads guilty to misusing classified data in WikiLeaks case
Bradley Manning’s Statement Taking Responsibility for Releasing Documents to WikiLeaks
Has release of WikiLeaks documents cost lives?
Bradley Manning’s treatment was cruel and inhuman, UN torture chief rules
Fireside: Obama declares Manning guilty
Endless War
U.S in for 20 more years of ‘war on terror’
NATO 3/5
Free the NATO 3!
Police intimidating NATO/Occupy protestors in Chicago
(This video has been changed. The audio is still there, but the video has been blurred out)
The NATO 5: Manufactured Crimes Used to Paint Political Dissidents as Terrorists
“Personal Observations from the Chicago March Against the NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda” written last May”
Man Pleads Guilty to Fake NATO Bomb Threat
28-year-old Chicago-area NATO Arrestee Pressured into Guilty Plea after Spending 329 days in Cook County Jail
FBI Documents Reveal Secret Nationwide Occupy Monitoring
Partnership for Civil Justice Fund
Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy
David DeGraf discusses Occupy
Occupy Movement
Nick Egnatz is a Vietnam veteran. He has been actively protesting our government’s crimes of empire in both person and print for some years now and was named “Citizen of the Year” for Northwest Indiana in 2006 for his peace activism by the National Association of Social Workers. Contact Nick

A Davos grows in the desert

May 8, 2013: 8:00 PM ET

bellagio-fountainsAnthony Scaramucci has elevated a Vegas hedge fund confab into a conference of big ideas.

FORTUNE -- Hedge fund-of-funds manager Anthony Scaramucci is often referred to by his nickname, "the Mooch." His hair is coiffed, his shirts are pink, and he likes to throw off brow-raising quotes with the recklessness of a man who's living in a powder keg and giving off sparks. Take, for example, what he told New York Magazine last spring: "I am a total shit-stirrer ... My middle name could be Shit-stirrer, except then my initials on my shirt would be a.s.s., and I can't have that."
In other words, Scaramucci isn't who you'd imagine as the creator of an event that finds statesmen like Bill Clinton and Colin Powell rubbing shoulders with economist Austan Goolsbee and Hollywood director Oliver Stone. Yet his SkyBridge Alternatives Conference (SALT), named for his firm Skybridge Capital, has grown from just another hedge fund conference in Las Vegas into a gathering of influential thinkers, politicians, and philanthropists -- all with a celebrity sheen.
At this year's event, which kicked off yesterday and runs through Friday, participants will hear former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak discuss geopolitics with Leon Panetta. They'll watch Obama advisor Robert Wolf moderate a discussion on citizenship vs. partisanship between Scott Brown, Barney Frank, Harold Ford, and Karl Rove. Between sessions, SALT-goers might run into Al Pacino. Or watch him speak later, after which the band Train will perform. Also on the speaker list are Wall Street players like Mike Novogratz, Dan Loeb, John Paulson, and Sam Zell.
This lineup sets SALT apart from the long list of global hedge fund confabs. Such events usually are thrown by conference companies and driven by sponsors. Or they're hosted by investment banks and act as marketing exercises for hedge fund managers who want to attract new investors.
To be sure, SALT is still a flurry of hedge fund activity -- with money managers and bankers and reps from the big institutional investors networking by the pool. And there are plenty of panels with names like "Covering Your Assets: A Crash Course on Investing in a Macro Driven Environment" and "From Peril to Profit: the Art of Activist and Distressed Investing."
MORE: Cooperman: Bill Ackman is 'foolish'
But SkyBridge believes that SALT has the potential to become a place for big ideas with wide appeal. "We invite the people who organize conferences that we admire and can learn from," says Victor Oviedo, a SkyBridge partner who helped conceive of SALT. "We're not at the level of a Davos or a Sun Valley or Milken Conference, but we're working toward that and learn a lot from those events."
SALT has grown from 500 attendees in 2009 to more than 1,800 this week. And, as at Davos or Sun Valley, some of the hottest events are not on the SALT agenda, but are the exclusive cocktail and dinner parties thrown by banks and financiers during the event. And SALT is giving more time to philanthropy, hosting a spinning class to benefit cancer research and having Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin discuss how business is supporting the fight for gay civil rights.
When asked why he and SkyBridge started SALT, Scaramucci said: "Originally I just wanted to raise the profile of my firm and the industry."
And Scaramucci wanted to defy president Obama, whom he supported in 2008 but then abandoned in 2012 in favor of Mitt Romney. It was February of 2009 and Obama had just excoriated bailed-out financial firms for misusing taxpayer money. "You are not going to be able to give out these big bonuses until you pay taxpayers back," Obama had said at a town hall meeting. "You can't get corporate jets. You can't go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers' dime."
Unsurprisingly, lots of firms cancelled events in Vegas, and the industry took cover. "I wanted people to know that we, at SkyBridge and as an industry, were still alive," Scaramucci says.
So Scaramucci and Oviedo decided to throw a big conference in Las Vegas where hedge fund managers could meet and try to make sense of what had happened in the marketplace.
"Not understanding the system as a whole had led to problems of the meltdown in the first place," Oviedo says. "That's why we decided to have speakers who could discuss geopolitics and public policy, since what happens in the Middle East or Korea affect the economy and investment strategies." By 2011 it was clear that those big-picture discussions were among the most popular, along with panels on philanthropy.
MORE: The lucrative investment trend hedge funds don't want you to know about
SkyBridge is still learning as it goes along, planning SALT based on what firm employees find interesting and on participant feedback. "I want people with a point of view who will spark conversation," says Scaramucci. "It's an ideological conference." Oviedo, who is a Democrat, adds that he has been careful to feature speakers from across the political spectrum to provide a balanced debate.
Make no mistake, SALT has been SkyBridge's most successful marketing tool. When the firm opened in 2005 it had three employees and no assets. After the financial crisis put many fund-of-funds out of business, industry insiders debated the future of firms like SkyBridge, and some investors left. But SkyBridge now has about $7.6 billion in assets under advisement or management, even though Scaramucci remains a polarizing figure.
And SkyBridge's big conference has pushed into Asia, holdings its first SALT Singapore last fall. "We still don't have a plan for what SALT will become," says Oviedo. "We're still just focused on making the type of conference we want to attend. So expect more speakers who think outside the box of the financial world. Expect discussions and debates about things that hedge fund managers don't think about every day. And expect memorable storytelling and ideas."

Controversies Risk Starving Obama's Agenda Of Air

Credit Jack Plunkett / AP
The controversies facing his administration could be creating a stiff headwind for President Obama's second-term agenda.
Originally published on Tue May 14, 2013 2:55 pm
This was the critical moment, the brief time between his inaugural and when the nation's collective focus turns to whom his successor will be, when President Obama had to make real progress on his second-term agenda and thus forge his legacy.
Instead, the president finds his administration, the public, Congress and the news media distracted by controversies over Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups and a leak investigation in which the Justice Department secretly obtained months of phone records of Associated Press journalists.
The result? Precious time White House officials and other Democrats hoped to spend on pushing the president's goals is instead being spent on damage control, and with dubious effect at that.
It's certainly too early to declare that the Obama presidency is, for all intents, over. But the cluster of controversies puts the president's ambitious second-term agenda at risk, says long-time Washington watcher James Thurber, director of American University's Center for Presidential and Congressional Studies.
"He really only has about five months to deal with some major issues like gun control, but also, of course, immigration and the grand bargain," said Thurber, referring to a deficit-reduction deal with Republicans to reduce spending and increase tax revenues.
"In terms of the long-term, historical evaluation of this presidency, they're probably not going to be that important," Thurber said of the controversies.
"But certainly, given the way he has to build momentum for domestic issues, he has to reframe and it's very hard to reframe while he's being hammered over these two issues." (I talked with Thurber before news came late Monday of the Justice Department's AP probe.)
Given his sense, based on available information, that the IRS's targeting of conservative groups for higher scrutiny for tax-exemption purposes, "wasn't ordered by the White House, that there wasn't a Richard Nixon-style enemies list," Thurber said the controversies will likely fade and be supplanted by larger policy questions, like what to do about Syria.
But all the controversies taken together "takes what little central core political authority away from him and he has to pursue his policies in other ways, like through the regulatory process, executive orders and a variety of other things," Thurber said.
The greatest danger now, he said, comes in the form of the drag the controversies could create to stop major legislative efforts dead in their tracks.
"The immediate problem may be with immigration. It's so close, anything could upset it," Thurber said. "It could take the political oxygen out of the air for the survival of immigration. ... They'll have to do it between now and August or it's going to be very hard to get one through. This slows it down."
Legislation, especially of the controversial kind, requires a head of steam to overcome opposition. The confluence of controversies, "certainly slows things down. And there needs to be a certain amount of momentum and speed on that or we will not have an immigration bill," Thurber said.
The best hope the president has to save immigration and the rest of his agenda from stall speed is to get out the truth about the controversies and fast. That is the hard-earned lessons of scandals that harmed past presidencies from Nixon to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton.
"You just have to get to the basis of it quickly and reveal it and move on," Thurber said. "Yes, it hurts but it will go away. Unless he lies."

Secret Docs Show Foreclosure Watchdog Doesn’t Bark or Bite

Government documents show that GMAC, the country's fifth largest mortgage servicer, had seriously mishandled many loan modifications yet did not suffer a penalty. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters file photo)
Why has the administration’s flagship foreclosure prevention program been so ineffective in helping struggling homeowners get loan modifications and stay in their homes? One reason: The government’s supervision of the program has apparently ranged from nonexistent to weak.
Documents obtained by ProPublica—government audit reports of GMAC, the country’s fifth-largest mortgage servicer—provide the first detailed look at the program’s oversight. They show that the company operated with almost no oversight for the program’s first eight months. When auditors did finally conduct a major review more than a year into the program, they found that GMAC had seriously mishandled many loan modifications—miscalculating homeowner income in more than 80 percent of audited cases, for example. Yet, GMAC suffered no penalty. GMAC itself said it hasn’t reversed a single foreclosure as a result of a government audit.
The documents also reveal that government auditors signed off on GMAC loan-modification denials that appear to violate the program’s own rules, calling into question the rigor and competence of the reviews.
Some of the auditors’ mistakes are “appalling,” said Diane Thompson of the National Consumer Law Center, an advocacy group. “It suggests the government isn’t taking the auditing process seriously.”
In a written response to ProPublica's questions, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, which runs the program, denied there were serious flaws in its oversight system, calling it “effective and unprecedented in many ways.”
The audits of GMAC, though revealing, give only a limited view into the program, because the Treasury has refused to release the documents for other servicers. For more than a year, through a Freedom of Information Act request, ProPublica has sought the audits of 10 of the largest program participants. The Treasury provided only GMAC’s audits, because the company consented to their release. ProPublica continues to seek all of the reports.
Abuses of the foreclosure process, in which banks and mortgage servicers cut corners or even created false documents to move troubled borrowers out of their homes, have been extensively documented, along with failures by government to regulate the industry. But the lapses revealed in the documents obtained by ProPublica stand out because they occurred within the government’s main effort to prevent foreclosures, the Home Affordable Modification Program.

Oversight shrouded in secrecy

For HAMP’s first two years, the government offered very little public detail about its oversight efforts. It was virtually impossible for the public—or even Congress—to know how well the banks and mortgage servicers were complying with the government’s effort to prevent struggling homeowners from losing their homes. Those years were crucial, because that’s when servicers evaluated the vast majority of homeowners eligible for a modification—about 3 million.
The documents obtained by ProPublica show auditors finding serious problems at a major servicer during that time. Instead of publicly revealing the findings, Treasury chose to privately request that GMAC fix the problems.
“For two years, they’ve known how abysmal servicers were performing, and decided to do nothing,” said Neil Barofsky, the former special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as TARP or the bank bailout, which provided the money for HAMP.
“It demonstrates that if you have a set of rules for which compliance is completely voluntary and no meaningful consequences for those who violate them, having all the audits and reviews in the world are not going to make a bit of difference,” he continued. “It’s why the program has been a colossal failure.”
Treasury continued to release few details about its audits until June, when it began publishing quarterly reports based on the audits’ results. The public report showed what Treasury called “substantial” problems at four of the 10 largest servicers—Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Ocwen—and Treasury for the first time withheld taxpayer subsidies from three of them.
Mortgage servicers that signed up for the program agreed to follow strict guidelines on how to evaluate struggling homeowners seeking reduced mortgage payments. In exchange, the servicers would receive taxpayer subsidies. But as we’ve reported extensively, the largest servicers haven’t abided by the guidelines. Homeowners have often been foreclosed on in the midst of reviews for a modification or denied because of the servicer’s error. For many homeowners, navigating what was supposed to have been a simple, straightforward program has proven a maddening ordeal.
HAMP has fallen dramatically short of the administration’s initial goal to help 3 million to 4 million homeowners. So far, fewer than 800,000 homeowners have received loan modifications through HAMP, or fewer than one in four of those who applied.
As part of the $700 billion bailout program, HAMP was launched in early 2009 with a $50 billion budget to encourage loan modifications by paying subsidies to servicers, investors and homeowners. But only about $1.6 billion has gone out so far.
GMAC said it agreed to release its audits under the program because the company “believes in honoring the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act process” and “elected to be transparent on our work with the [modification] program,” spokeswoman Gina Proia said.
GMAC's parent company has changed its name to Ally Financial, but its mortgage division is still called GMAC. The government owns a majority stake in Ally because it rescued the company with TARP funds, but both the company and the Treasury said that didn’t factor into the company’s decision to allow the documents to be released.
ProPublica contacted all nine servicers that objected to the reports’ release. All either declined to comment on why they wanted the audits kept secret or defended keeping them out of the public domain by saying the reports contained confidential information. Collectively, these companies have so far been paid more than $471 million—dubbed “servicer incentive payments”—through the program. They are eligible for hundreds of millions more. The country’s four largest banks—Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup—are also the largest servicers of mortgage loans.
In its written response, Treasury’s spokeswoman said it agreed to withhold the records in part because they could undermine “frank communications between mortgage servicers and compliance examiners” and hurt the program’s effectiveness. The department declined to provide either redacted versions or an index of the documents.

Early reviews “useless” and flawed

Since the program’s beginning, homeowner advocates have wondered where HAMP’s watchdog was and why it was having so little effect. That watchdog is Freddie Mac, tapped by Treasury in February 2009 and working under a contract worth $116 million and rising. The Freddie Mac unit, now staffed with 121 employees and employing about 150 more through contractors, is supposed to regularly audit servicers in the program to make sure they are following the rules. Treasury is ultimately responsible for deciding whether to punish a servicer but relies on auditors’ findings to make that decision.
It took several months for the unit to even get off the ground. In August 2009, Treasury rejected Freddie Mac’s first reviews of servicers as inadequate because they were “inconsistent and incomplete” and its staff was “unqualified,” according to a report by the TARP’s special inspector general. Freddie Mac promised to improve. That process took several more months.
As a result, for the program’s crucial first eight months, there was effectively no watchdog. Nationwide, servicers filed to pursue foreclosure on about 2 million loans during that time.
Treasury disputed the idea that there was no watchdog for those months, saying that auditors had performed “readiness reviews” of servicers as early as May 2009, one month after the program was begun. The documents obtained by ProPublica, however, show that Freddie Mac’s auditing unit, called Making Home Affordable—Compliance (MHA-C), didn’t issue its first report for GMAC until early December 2009.
That audit was a modest effort that involved collecting a sample of 323 loans handled by GMAC and determining whether they’d been properly reviewed for the program. Because of the delays in starting the reviews, the report was based on a sample of loans that was five months old. Such delays continued into 2010. Another Freddie Mac review, completed at the end of March 2010, was based on GMAC loans selected in October of the previous year.
The delays make those reviews “largely useless to homeowners,” said Thompson of the National Consumer Law Center. If a homeowner lost a house to foreclosure in July, it wouldn’t help to have an auditor notice that several months later, she explained.
The December 2009 audit noted that GMAC might have already foreclosed on loans that auditors had flagged as potentially mishandled, but didn’t order remedial steps. It only requested that GMAC not take “further action.”
GMAC said it had never reversed a foreclosure action as a result of a HAMP audit. ProPublica put the same question to the other nine servicers that objected to the audits’ release. American Home Mortgage Servicing, the only other servicer that answered the question, said it also had never reversed a foreclosure action due to a HAMP audit.
American Home handles about 384,000 loans, putting it among the 10 largest servicers in the program.
A Treasury spokeswoman said that auditors have reviewed more than 50,000 loan files, but did not directly answer whether a servicer had ever reversed a foreclosure action because of a HAMP audit. Where auditors have found problems, she wrote, the department has “required servicers to take steps to tighten controls” and “re-evaluate any borrowers who may have been potentially impacted.”
In early 2010, around the same time that the auditing unit was issuing its first reports, auditors complained that servicers’ lack of responsiveness to their requests was hampering their efforts. Getting the right documents from servicers was "a cumbersome process," the head of Freddie Mac’s audit team, Paul Heran, said in February 2010 at a mortgage industry conference. It seemed, he added, that servicers often relegated responding to the auditors to low-level staff who didn’t understand the requests. Another manager in the unit, Vic O’Laughlen, said servicers tended to respond with “at best 50 percent of what we’re expecting to see.”
However uncooperative the banks and mortgage services may have been, Freddie Mac’s auditing reports contain errors that call into question their reliability.
Every few months, the auditors examine a sample of the servicer’s loans that have been denied a HAMP modification to check whether the denials were legitimate. In each GMAC report reviewed by ProPublica, auditors found that the servicer had, with very few exceptions, given the homeowner fair and appropriate consideration. But among the justifications listed in the audits are some that violate the program’s rules or simply don’t make sense.
For instance, the December 2009 review said that 35 of the 247 loans that auditors reviewed were denied because the homeowner was “less than 60 days delinquent.” In the report, auditors said that was the right decision in all but one case. But being less than 60 days delinquent is never on its own a legitimate reason for a servicer to deny a modification, according to the program rules. Homeowners are eligible for a modification even if they’re current on their loans, as long as they can show they’re in imminent danger of defaulting.
Another example: Auditors agreed that GMAC had correctly denied a homeowner because of a failure to sign a trial modification offer by Dec. 31, 2012, HAMP’s end date. That makes no sense, because the review took place in 2009. Treasury’s spokeswoman said this was a typo and that the homeowner was denied for a completely different reason.
There are several other examples in later reports of auditors signing off on denial reasons that have no apparent basis in the program’s rules. For instance, auditors cited “grandfathered foreclosure” as a legitimate reason for some denials. The spokeswoman said such loans had been in the foreclosure process before GMAC signed up for the program, but the program rules explicitly stated at the time that such loans were eligible.
When ProPublica asked GMAC if it had denied homeowners loan modifications for these reasons, the company said it couldn’t comment because auditors, not GMAC, had generated those descriptions of why homeowners had been denied. In some cases, Proia said, the descriptions were simply wrong: GMAC had never denied homeowners simply because they weren’t 60 days delinquent.
But Treasury defended the questionable denials, and in so doing raised even more questions. For instance, the spokeswoman said HAMP “does not specifically require servicers to evaluate loans that are less than 60 days delinquent.” But Treasury’s official guidance to servicers said such borrowers “must be screened.”
“It makes you wonder if the Treasury even knows the rules for their own program,” said the National Consumer Law Center’s Thompson.
A congressionally appointed panel, among others, has pointed to a fundamental flaw in the way the oversight was carried out: Auditors have had no direct contact with homeowners. The program has been dogged by servicers’ inadequate document systems. Borrowers have long reported faxing and mailing the same documents over and over, because servicers kept losing them. Servicers have denied about a quarter of all modification applications due to an alleged lack of documentation. Because HAMP’s auditors do not contact borrowers, the auditors have no way of determining whether a denial for inadequate documentation was correct.
In response to this criticism from the Congressional Oversight Panel for the TARP in December 2010, Treasury said auditors did not contact homeowners to avoid giving them added stress. The panel rejected that reason, saying that contacting borrowers was “critical to assessing the accuracy of a servicer’s determination.”
Instead of talking with borrowers, auditors conduct on-site reviews of mortgage servicing companies, Treasury’s spokeswoman said in her written response to ProPublica. Treasury believes that focusing “on servicer processes and internal controls is the most effective deployment of our compliance efforts,” she wrote.

Detailed audit shows serious problems

It wasn’t until July 2010—16 months after HAMP was launched—that the unit performed its first major audit of GMAC. The review included a visit to GMAC’s offices and a detailed review of a sample of loans.
The report enumerated various rules violations, including in GMAC's evaluation of homeowners for modifications. GMAC’s practice was to begin the foreclosure process too quickly: The program required the servicer to give the homeowner 30 days to respond to a trial modification offer, but GMAC’s procedure was to wait only 20.
GMAC’s Proia said no homeowners were “negatively impacted by this issue.”
Auditors also found that GMAC was regularly miscalculating homeowners' income. In a review of 25 loan files of homeowners who had received modifications, the auditors said 21 involved a miscalculation of income. Since income is a key factor in whether a homeowner qualifies for a modification, the high error rate raises obvious questions about whether GMAC was accurately evaluating homeowners’ applications.
Asked about the frequent income miscalculations, GMAC’s Proia said the “issue was identified in the early stages of the program,” that calculating the borrower’s income is a “complicated process” and that GMAC has improved since the mid-2010 review—an assertion backed up by recent audit results published by the Treasury.
The July 2010 review also found that GMAC had been aware of certain problems such as “incorrect income and expense calculations” but had not fixed them. Proia said the company does its best to fix problems when it becomes aware of them.

Penalties: late and weak

Typical of the Treasury’s oversight of the program, GMAC was never penalized for any of the rules violations. For the first two years of the program, Treasury officials publicly threatened servicers with possible penalties but instead followed a cooperative approach. When auditors found problems, servicers were asked to fix them.
The documents illustrate as much. In response to the auditors’ findings, GMAC was required to develop an “action plan.” GMAC refused to provide the action plan to ProPublica and recommended seeking it and similar documents by filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the Treasury.
Treasury has sent mixed messages about its ability to penalize banks over the course of the program, threatening “monetary penalties and sanctions” in late 2009 and then saying it lacked the power to enforce such penalties. Treasury finally departed from its cooperative approach in June, when it withheld incentive payments from three of the top 10 servicers. (GMAC was not among them.) The companies would not receive the public subsidies for completing modifications until they made certain changes. The companies were cited for some of the same problems for which auditors had criticized GMAC, such as regularly miscalculating borrowers' income. JPMorgan Chase, for instance, had erred in estimating income in about a third of the homeowner loan files reviewed.
The punishment hasn’t had much sting. Incentive payments were restored for one of the three companies when Treasury’s most recent report declared it’d improved. Chase and Bank of America, the country’s largest servicer, would continue to have their incentives withheld, Treasury said.
But while those incentives have slowed, they have not stopped, according to Treasury’s monthly TARP reports. Since June, when Treasury first announced it would withhold incentives, Bank of America has received $2.5 million in taxpayer incentives. While that’s a steep reduction from the roughly $7.5 million it had been receiving monthly, the bank is supposed to get nothing. Chase received $404,000 during that same time.
Treasury responded that it has programs to encourage modifications on both first and second mortgages, and that the payments Bank of America and Chase received were related to second mortgages. “Current system limitations” meant the Treasury couldn’t withhold these payments, according to the Treasury spokeswoman. Treasury is working to fix the problem, she said.
Correction (10/5): An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated that the Treasury has restored HAMP incentive payments for two of the three companies that had previously had their payments withheld. In fact, only one company had its payments restored. We regret the error.