He donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats. He lobbied members of Congress to expand offshore tax shelters. He shook the hand of a grinning Barack Obama last July. He smooched it up with Nancy Pelosi and schmoozed it up with Bill Clinton at the DNC convention in Denver last year. And he is currently wanted for fraud, embezzlement, and possibly laundering money for a powerful Mexican drug cartel.
Yesterday, Federal Agents raided the Houston office of Stanford Financial Group, a massive money management firm with affiliated offices in the United States, Antigua, Venezuela, and elsewhere. As of this time, Stanford’s whereabouts are a mystery, but many people strongly suspect that he fled the country and is taking refuge at his home in the U S. Virgin Islands.
Being a political power player, Stanford worked both sides of the aisle in Washington, DC. He either gave money to, or solicited the lobbying talents of, prominent Republicans like Robert Ney (who did prison time for corruption), Pete Sessions, Dick Armey, and John McCain. But his connections to Democrats are the most troubling. The Wall Street Journal reports:
For the past few years, Mr. Stanford, who moved to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, has been lobbying to preserve and expand tax rules that enable him to pay minimal federal income taxes as a resident there, according to lobbyists. While allies of Mr. Stanford in Congress have managed to fend off attacks on rules, his efforts to expand them further have thus far been unsuccessful, lobbyists said.
Among the recipients of Mr. Stanford’s largesse is House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.), who has long advocated lenient tax policies toward Virgin Islands residents and in 2007 introduced a bill to enforce a statute of limitations on IRS scrutiny of islanders’ old tax returns. That year, Mr. Rangel traveled to Antigua for a development conference partly sponsored by Mr. Stanford, who also donated $28,300 to Mr. Rangel in 2008.
“I met Stanford a couple of times,” Mr. Rangel said. “He has never discussed any legislative issue with me nor has anyone to my knowledge representing him ever discussed any legislation.”
Mr. Stanford wrote two $250,000 checks to the Democratic Party in 2002.
He also was a big supporter of New York Democrat Gregory Meeks, a member of a House Financial Services subcommittee dealing with offshore banks that received an estimated $17,600 from a Stanford fund-raiser held in the Virgin Islands in July. Mr. Meeks’s campaign later reimbursed the organizers of the event $3,591 for the cost of food and beverages, according to the campaign’s financial disclosures.
From 2003 to 2006, Mr. Meeks and his wife traveled to the Caribbean every January on trips paid for by the Inter-American Economic Council, a group backed by Mr. Stanford, federal records show. The first trip was for “fact finding” and subsequent trips were for a “business roundtable,” often including hotel and meal charges of over $2,000. On at least one occasion, the trip was taken on Mr. Stanford’s jet.
“For me, I have a vested interest in the Caribbean,” Mr. Meeks said, noting that he is a member of the Caribbean Caucus and that he represents a district in Queens with a large population of immigrants from the islands.
On the state level, the largest recipient of Mr. Stanford’s help was former California Gov. Gray Davis. The Stanford Financial Group gave $200,000 for his 2002 campaign and another $100,000 to fight his recall by ballot initiative the next year. Mr. Sessions and Mr. Davis didn’t respond to a request for comment before press time. (emphasis added)
The WSJ also notes that among Stanford’s most prominent lobbyists is Texas Democrat Ben Barnes. Remember him? The Democrats used Barnes as a character witness of sorts to bolster the veracity of the forged Texas Air National Guard memos that emerged just before the 2004 Presidental election. Barnes was featured in the original 60 Minutes II story on the memos, telling CBS News that he remembered George W. Bush being given special treatment by Texas Air National Guard commanding officers.
So here’s the $500,000 question: will the press work overtime to plaster Stanford’s picture all over every newspaper and TV news broadcast, and repeatedly mention his connection to the DNC and prominent Democrats — including President Obama — just as they did with Jack Abramoff, the Republican party, and the Bush White House in 2006?
No, I’m not holding my breath either.
Nothing to see here. Move along please.