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 user 2008-09-25 at 1:11:22 pm Views: 83
  • #20435
    G.O.P.: Lose Your Home, Lose Your Vote
    John McCain was a foot soldier in the deregulation revolution, which
    triggered the current banking crisis and the wave of foreclosures. In
    Michigan, his party wants to deny the right to vote to victims of theP’s misguided economic policies and the sleazy banking practices they

    James Carabelli, chairman of the Republican Party of
    Macomb County outside Detroit, said, “We will have a list of foreclosed
    homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses,”
    the Michigan Messenger.com reported September 10. Barack Obama’s
    and the Democratic Party quickly filed a lawsuit in federal court on
    behalf of three Michigan residents who lost their houses to
    foreclosure, to stop the Michigan GOP from carrying out what Democrats
    called an “ugly” and “horrific” plan. Michigan is a key swing state
    where a few thousands votes could determine who wins its seventeen
    Electoral College votes.

    McCain, who owns ten houses, has long
    been a lackey of the banking industry and a strong supporter of the
    industry’s efforts to weaken government safeguards against
    irresponsible lending. Since 1989, the financial services, insurance
    and real estate industries have contributed $23.8 million to McCain’s
    campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. This sector
    far outspent any other industry in making donations to the Arizona
    senator. Topping the list of McCain donors are Merrill Lynch
    ($366,035), Citigroup ($317,751), Goldman Sachs ($305,015), Morgan
    Stanley ($253,871), JPMorgan Chase ($207,728), Credit Suisse Group
    ($178,825), UBS ($178,515), Pinnacle West Capital ($164,050), Bank of
    America ($160,625), Lehman Brothers ($128,550) and Wachovia Corp

    McCain was one of the Keating Five, who were behind
    the 1980s scandal that epitomized Washington’s culture of corruption.
    He and five other senators tried to intimidate federal bank regulators
    on behalf of McCain friend Charles Keating, an Arizona real estate
    developer and owner of Lincoln Savings and Loan, who had raised $1.3
    million for the politicians. McCain, who received $112,000 from Keating
    and flew to the banker’s home in the Bahamas on company planes,
    attended several meetings in 1987 with federal bank regulators who were
    investigating Keating for swindling investors. In addition, McCain’s
    wife, Cindy, and her father, Jim Hensley, invested $359,100 in a
    Keating shopping center in April 1986, a year before McCain met with
    the regulators. McCain’s Senate colleagues censured him for his poor

    McCain didn’t just help one banker looking for a
    favor. In the 1980s he favored the deregulation of the Savings and Loan
    industry, which led to the industry’s collapse and a taxpayers’ bailout
    of more than $500 billion. The industry, like Keating’s Lincoln
    Savings, had balked at constraints on the S&Ls’ ability to compete
    with conventional banks engaged in commercial lending. They got
    Congress to change the rules, allowing S&Ls to begin a decade-long
    orgy of real-estate speculation, mismanagement, and fraud. Banks and
    S&Ls gobbled each other up and made loans to finance shopping
    malls, golf courses, office buildings and condo projects that had no
    logic other than a quick-buck profit. When the dust settled in the late
    1980s, about a thousand S&Ls and banks (including Lincoln) had gone
    under, billions of dollars of commercial loans were rendered useless
    and the federal government was left to bail out the depositors whose
    money the speculators had looted.In 1999, McCain supported the banking
    industry’s top priority, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which, as consumer
    groups had predicted, has been a major disaster.

    Orchestrated by
    then-Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, the bill further deregulated the
    banking and insurance industry and is directly responsible for the
    current wave of home foreclosures and bank failures. It tore down the
    last remaining legal barriers to combining commercial banking,
    investment banking and insurance under one corporate roof. By 2005, the
    ten largest banks controlled 60 percent of industry assets. Banks,
    insurance companies, credit-card firms and other money-lenders became
    part of a giant “financial services” industry. Washington walked away
    from its responsibility to protect consumers with regulations and
    enforcement. While federal regulators looked the other way, banks and
    private mortgage companies indulged in risky loans and speculative
    investments. They invented new “loan products”–such as subprime loans
    and adjustable rate mortgages–that put borrowers, and their own banks,
    at risk. Wall Street packaged these loans to investors without
    scrutinizing their risk. Deregulation encouraged the industry to create
    this house of cards. Every aspect of the financial industry was so
    short-sighted and greedy that they didn’t see the train wreck coming
    around the corner. Now major Wall Street banks are imploding.

    McCain’s top economic advisor and campaign co-chair for most of his
    presidential campaign, was the chief architect of the deregulation
    laws. Like McCain, Gramm was a free-market fundamentalist and a puppet
    of the financial industry. He used his power as chair of the Senate
    banking committee to do the banking industry’s bidding–and he enlisted
    McCain in that crusade. Gramm is now the vice chairman of UBS, the
    Swiss investment banking giant. Since leaving the Senate, he has used
    his political connections to lobby for further bank deregulation.

    was considered to be a leading candidate to be Treasury Secretary in a
    McCain administration until he was forced to resign from his official
    campaign position in July for his intemperate remarks that the country
    had become “a nation of whiners” in a “mental recession.”

    McCain has continued to parrot his mentor’s economic views, arguing in
    favor of further deregulation of banks and business in general. “I have
    a long voting record in support of deregulation,” McCain said in 2003.
    “I am a deregulator…. I believe in deregulation,” he told CNN that
    same year. Earlier this year, as Wall Street was in meltdown and
    millions of Americans were at risk of losing their homes, McCain told
    PBS that “we need less government [and] less regulation” and that “I’m
    always for less regulation.” This March, after the collapse of Bear
    Stearns, McCain continued to favor deregulating Wall Street.

    in the last week has McCain changed his tune. He’s endorsed the Bush
    plan to bail out Wall Street firms that engaged in risky, irresponsible
    behavior, instead of supporting government help for millions of
    troubled homeowners.

    Many of those homeowners live in Michigan,
    where the economy is in free-fall–the direct result of Bush’s
    misguided economic policies that McCain has consistently endorsed. In
    the last year, Michigan’s jobless rate has jumped from 7.2 percent to
    8.9 percent–the nation’s highest. Michigan had the highest foreclosure
    rate in the the nation and economists expect it to get even worse as
    the state sheds more and more jobs. So far this year, 95,272 Michigan
    residents have received foreclosure notices–13,605 in August alone,
    according to RealtyTrac.

    So, to rub salt in these wounds, the
    Michigan GOP hatched a plan to take away the votes of people who’ve
    lost their homes. As reported in the Michigan Messenger, Republicans
    intended to use foreclosure lists to challenge voters at the polls. In
    a conference call with reporters, Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan
    Democratic Party, said that the McCain campaign “wants to add insult to
    injury by denying those residents their right to vote.”

    Bauer, general counsel for the Obama campaign, called the GOP plan “a
    new and especially repellent version of caging.” Caging is a technique
    used to challenge voters by taking a list of addresses, mailing letters
    to them marked “do not forward” and then claiming that those voters
    whose letters were returned no longer live at the addresses at which
    they are registered and thus are ineligible to vote.

    Said Bauer:
    “It is an absolute attack on their right to vote,” and a “completely
    false and completely illegal basis” to challenge votes. He explained
    that getting a foreclosure notice is not evidence that the person’s
    address has changed. In Michigan, homeowners have the opportunity to
    redeem the foreclosure even after a sheriff’s sale has occurred,
    permitting them to remain in the house for several months after a
    foreclosure notice has been sent. In addition, Michigan law allows
    people vote at their old precinct if they lost their home within sixty
    days of the election.

    Bauer told the Wall Street Journal that
    the Michigan suit against the Republicans was meant to send a message
    to Democrats around the country to be on guard against voter-supression
    tactics. “This can’t be just an isolated event,” he said. Republicans
    use these tactics “where they expect the vote to go to the other side.
    They’re not caging in Beverly Hills. By filing the suit, we are
    assuring people they can be allowed to vote.”

    Carol Guzman,
    director of ACORN’s Financial Justice Center, said foreclosure lists
    would be unreliable indicators of who had been forced to leave their
    homes. Because state law allows a redemption period of up to a year
    after a foreclosed home has been sold, “you could still legitimately
    and legally be in your home and be challenged,” she told the Lansing
    State Journal. But she believed that the GOP was trying to intimidate
    voters facing foreclosure from going to the polls in the first place.
    “I think they’re hoping that there will be people who will just stay
    away,” Guzman said.

    David Lagstein, head organizer for Michigan
    ACORN, which has registered 200,000 new voters this election cycle,
    said, “You would think they would think, ‘This is going to look too
    heartless.’” ACORN runs a foreclosure counseling program and has
    battled the Republican-led State Senate, which has opposed several
    anti-predatory lending and anti-foreclosure bills. “The Republicans
    won’t protect homeowners from predatory lending but they try to prey on
    those who have fallen victim to foreclosure to suppress the vote,” said

    Michigan Republican leaders insisted that they never
    had such a plan. Carabelli claimed that he was misquoted by the
    Michigan Messenger. Reporter Eartha Jane Melzer stood by her story. So
    did Jefferson Morley, editorial director for MichiganMessenger.com’s
    parent organization, the Center for Independent Media. “The reporting
    is 100 percent accurate and there is no validity to the claim that
    statements attributed to Mr. Carabelli were fabricated,” Morley said in
    a statement.

    McCain’s headquarters is located in a building
    owned by Trott & Trott, a law firm that specializes in
    foreclosures. ACORN’s Lagstein called them “notorious and aggressive
    foreclosure lawyers” who are “hated by anyone who has faced
    foreclosure.” On September 12, about twenty-five members of ACORN and
    Jobs for Justice protested outside McCain’s Farmington Hills
    headquarters to demand that McCain fire Carabelli, the Macomb CountyP chairman. (See a video of the protest here.)

    In their
    lawsuit, the Democrats accuse the Republicans of a “long history” of
    voter-suppression practices. Obama counsel Bauer said that “this is a
    standard operating procedure in the Republican Party.” Michigan
    Democrats chair Brewer told the Detroit News, “Every two years for the
    last 20 years we’ve seen a Republican Party program to intimidate,
    harass and suppress voters.” These charges are documented in a Project
    Vote report showing longstanding GOP efforts to intimidate voters,
    especially African-Americans, in many states, including Michigan.

    week, thirteen senators petitioned Attorney General Michael Mukasey,
    asking the Justice Department to guarantee that voters are not harassed
    or intimidated at their polling places. “Foreclosures are devastating
    enough for affected families and neighborhoods without adding the
    outrage of disenfranchisement,” wrote Michigan Democrats Carl Levin and
    Debbie Stabenow along with Senators Barack Obama (D- IL), Charles
    Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward Kennedy (D- MA), Joseph
    Biden (D-DE), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Russell
    Feingold (D-WI), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Benjamin Cardin (D- MD),
    Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).Rep. John Conyers
    of Michigan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called on
    McCain to “step forward now and halt the Republican Party’s efforts to
    profit politically from the economic misery of others.”