‘Fast and Furious’ scandal covers a larger Republican scandal
By Jerry Mazza for VT
The Operation Fast and Furious scandal, as reported by the Washington Post, contains two scandals in one, with the latter being far more egregious. First, the Republicans, most notoriously in the form of Representative Darrel Issa from California, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is holding Attorney General Eric Holder’s feet to the fire, blowing whistles and triggering sirens, for more documents in the Fast and Furious scandal.
That is, “Operation Fast and Furious was run out of the Phoenix division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives between 2009 and 2011, with the backing of the U.S. attorney in Phoenix. Federal agents targeting the Mexico-based Sinaloa drug cartel did not interdict more than 2,000 guns they suspected of being bought illegally, in the hope of later tracking them to the cartel. The ATF lost track of most of the firearms, some of which have been found at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States.
Two of the guns connected to the botched operation were found at the Arizona site where U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agent Brian Terry was killed in December 2010.” That’s the scandal in a nutshell—with all due respect to Agent Terry.
Yet, “As part of a congressional inquiry and a subpoena issued last year, Justice officials have given the Issa committee 7,600 pages of Fast and Furious documents, but he has said that they represent a sliver of the 80,000-plus documents that officials have turned over to the DOJ inspector general, which is also investigating the gun operation.
“In recent weeks, Issa narrowed his request to the internal Justice deliberations since early February 2011, when Grassley first began asking Justice about Fast and Furious. On Feb. 4, 2011, the Justice Department sent the committee a letter denying use of the “gunwalking” tactics used in Fast and Furious. Officials were later forced to retract the letter after whistleblowers came forward and said they had used those very tactics.
“Issa also has asked Justice for all documents related to the treatment of the whistleblowers.” He wants everything short of a copy of President Obama’s “real” birth certificate. Obama used his executive privilege for the first time to overrule the request for the purported 80,000 plus documents. Now, Issa is demanding that Holder be held in contempt for his refusal to supply additional documents on the basis that they would “inhibit the candor of such Executive Branch deliberations in the future and significantly impair the Executive Branch’s ability to respond independently and effectively to congressional oversight,” Holder wrote to Obama.
Fundamentally, this amounts to a Republican offensive headed by Issa, a man with a great fortune, and Speaker Boehner, who would like to have one. The scandal is being inflated to amplify the representative’s fortune, believe it or not. How so? Let’s cut to the real scandal.
As reporter Lee Fang writes in, Think Progress reports “Exclusive: Goldman Sachs VP Changed His Name, Now Advances Goldman Lobbying Interests As Top Staffer To Darrell Issa Report.”
Fang reported, “ThinkProgress has found that a Goldman Sachs vice president changed his name, then later went to work for Issa to coordinate his effort to thwart regulations that affect Goldman Sachs’ bottom line.” The former Goldman Sachs vice president Fang was referring to is Peter Simonyi, now known as Peter Haller.
Imagine that for a minute, a Goldman Sachs operative as a top congressional staffer, lobbying for Goldman Sachs, in this case to block strengthening Dodd-Frank regulations on derivatives. Issa’s wish is exactly the banks’ wish, to weaken the legislation so Wall Street’s Derivatives Casino can keep its stakes up.
Fang asks, “Has Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) turned the House Oversight Committee into a bank lobbying firm with the power to subpoena and pressure government regulators?”
In fact, “In July, Issa sent a letter to top government regulators demanding that they back off and provide more justification for new margin requirements for financial firms dealing in derivatives. A standard practice on Capitol Hill is to send a letter to a government agency with contact information for the congressional staffer responsible for working on the issue for the committee. In most cases, the contact staffer is the one who actually writes such letters. With this in mind, it is important to note that the Issa letter ended with contact information for Peter Haller, a staffer hired this year to work for Issa on the Oversight Committee.”
Pretty diabolical scheme: deflect Issa’s corrupt lobbying techniques to emasculate oversight, by ferreting out a DOJ scandal to cover the Democrats with the Fast and Furious scandal, burying the larger scandal of planting a Goldman operative in Congress to lobby for soft laws on derivatives. The Fast and Furious scandal is nowhere near the magnitude of the Goldman Sachs operative scandal, with the add-on that Goldman is trying to get the U.S. attorney general held in contempt and discredit Obama for using his presidential override of the charge.
Lee Fang writes, “Issa’s demand to regulators is exactly what banks have been wishing for. Indeed, Goldman Sachs has spent millions this year trying to slow down the implementation of the new rules. In the letter, Issa explicitly mentions that the new derivative regulations might hurt brokers ‘such as Goldman Sachs.’
“Haller, as he is now known, went by the name Peter Simonyi until three years ago. Simonyi adopted his mother’s maiden name Haller in 2008 shortly after leaving Goldman Sachs as a vice president of the bank’s commodity compliance group. In a few short years, Haller went from being in charge of dealing with regulators for Goldman Sachs to working for Congress in a position where he made official demands from regulators overseeing his old firm.
“It’s not the first time Haller has worked the revolving door to help out Goldman Sachs. According to a report by the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight, Haller—then known as Peter Simonyi—left the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2005 to work for Goldman Sachs, then quickly began lobbying his colleagues at the SEC on behalf of his new firm. At one point, Haller was requiring [sec] to issue a letter to the SEC stating that he did not violate ethics rules and the SEC agreed. A brief timeline of Haller’s work history underscores the ethical issues raised with Issa’s latest letter to bank regulators:
“● After completing his law degree in 2000, Haller was employed by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as an economist, and later with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the Office of Enforcement.
“● In April of 2005, Haller resigned from the SEC to take a job with Goldman Sachs. Although he was not a registered lobbyist, he soon began lobbying the SEC on compliance issues on behalf of Goldman Sachs.
“● In 2006, Haller left Goldman Sachs, according to a Goldman official who spoke to ThinkProgress.
“● In 2008, he took a job with the law/lobbying firm Brickfield Burchette Ritts & Stone.
“● In January of 2011, Haller was hired to work for Issa on the Oversight Committee. Under the supervision of Haller, Issa sent a letter dated July 22, 2011 to bank regulators (including the heads of the Federal Reserve, FDIC, FCA, CFTC, FHFA, and Office of Comptroller) demanding documents to justify new Dodd-Frank mandated rules on margin requirements for banks dealing in the multi-trillion dollar OTC derivatives market, like Goldman Sachs.”
This resume embodies everything that is wrong with the financial industry.
So much for Haller; now back to Issa. “When he took over the chairmanship of the Oversight Committee this year, Issa dramatically shifted the committee’s focus away from its traditional role of investigating major corporate scandals. Instead, Issa has used the committee to merge the responsibilities of Congress with the interests of K Street and Issa’s own fortune.” In some way he spelled out his own end by doing this.
“In June of this year, ThinkProgress broke the story about Issa’s own complicated relationship with Goldman Sachs. [They] revealed that Issa purchased a large amount of Goldman Sachs high yield bonds at the same time as he used the Oversight Committee to attack an investigation into allegations that Goldman Sachs had systematically defrauded investors leading up to the financial crisis. This conflict of interest, along with our exclusive story about Issa’s earmarks benefitting his own real estate empire, received coverage in a recent piece by the New York Times.
“We also broke a story last month revealing other revolving door conflicts within Issa’s staff. Peter Warren, Issa’s new policy director, maintains some type of financial contract with a student loan lobbying group he led last year, and received a bonus from the lobbying group before leaving to work for Issa. Since joining Issa’s staff, Warren and his colleagues have fought to weaken the recently created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the new agency charged with overseeing student loans.
“The new revelations about Peter Haller, however, raise even more significant ethical concerns than Peter Warren and other ex-lobbyists working for Issa. Why did Issa hire a high-level Goldman Sachs executive to work on stopping regulations on banks like Goldman Sachs? Haller’s direct involvement in the July letter brings Issa’s ability to lead the Oversight Committee—charged with conducting investigations on behalf of the public interest—into serious doubt.”
If all of this information doesn’t bring the resignation of Haller, Warren, and Issa, I would be shocked. The question is, can this article, highlighting the findings of ThinkProgress break through to President Obama and Eric Holder. I’m not a great fan of either, but I am a fan of the truth and justice. And I believe this report furthers the greater truth. Hopefully, the ruse request for more and more information will go away, perhaps like Issa himself to prison, taking his friend Haller and Warren with him. And perhaps Goldman Sachs will get more than a slap on the wrist to insure campaign contributions—and get a few of its key players in the paddy wagon as well.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at [email protected].
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