David Corn

David Corn

Washington Bureau Chief

Corn has broken stories on presidents, politicians, and other Washington players. He's written for numerous publications and is a talk show regular. His best-selling books include Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.

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Is McCain More the Populist than Obama?

| Fri Sep. 19, 2008 1:01 PM EDT

Is John McCain out-populisting Barack Obama?

On Friday morning, McCain, at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, delivered a speech on the financial crisis. He tore into Wall Street and Washington, proclaiming, "The crisis on Wall Street started in the Washington culture of lobbying and influence peddling." And he named names. He blasted Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae:

These quasi-public corporations led our housing system down a path where quick profit was placed before sound finance. They institutionalized a system that rewarded forcing mortgages on people who couldn't afford them, while turning around and selling those bad mortgages to the banks that are now going bankrupt. Using money and influence, they prevented reforms that would have curbed their power and limited their ability to damage our economy.

McCain noted that years ago he had tried to reform these institutions and had run smack into Washington's same-old/same-old:

At the center of the problem were the lobbyists, politicians, and bureaucrats who succeeded in persuading Congress and the administration to ignore the festering problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Moreover, McCain accused Obama of having been pals with Freddie and Fannie. Obama, McCain pointed out, has taken large amounts of campaign contributions (a total of $165,400) from donors associated with the two institutions. In addition, Obama put a former Fannie CEO, Jim Johnson, in charge of his vice presidential search committee. McCain also charged that Obama has been receiving policy advise from Franklin Raines, another former Fannie CEO. The Obama camp says Raines is no adviser to Obama and that earlier this week Raines sent an email to Carly Fiorina, a McCain adviser, informing her of this. Still, McCain declared:

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Palin Contradicts Palin on Troopergate Explanation

| Tue Sep. 16, 2008 3:33 PM EDT

palin-motorcycle-250x200.jpg

As part of an effort to beat back the investigation into whether Governor Sarah Palin fired Alaska's public safety directory Walt Monegan because he refused to dismiss a state trooper involved in an ugly divorce with her sister, Palin's attorney filed papers on Monday claiming that Palin fired Monegan because of his "outright insubordination" regarding policy and budgetary matters. The problem with this explanation: it directly contradicts Palin's own story.

In mid-August, Palin spoke with New Yorker writer Philip Gourevitch, who was in Alaska--prior to Palin being named John McCain's running-mate--to do a piece on "the peculiar political landscape" of the state. During his time there, the controversy regarding Monegan's dismissal was in the news in Alaska. And Gourevitch asked Palin about it:

[Palin] said that one of her goals had been to combat alcohol abuse in rural Alaska, and she blamed Commissioner Monegan for failing to address the problem. That, she said, was a big reason that she'd let him go--only, by her account, she didn't fire him, exactly. Rather, she asked him to drop everything else and single-mindedly take on the state's drinking problem, as the director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. "It was a job that was open, commensurate in salary pretty much--ten thousand dollars less"--but, she added, Monegan hadn't wanted the job, so he left state service; he quit.

Top McCain Surrogate Says McCain's Not Qualified To Run a Corporation

| Tue Sep. 16, 2008 3:26 PM EDT

First, a McCain aide suggested John McCain invented the BlackBerry. But now, another top McCain aide--Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard--says that McCain (and Sarah Palin) would not be qualified to run a major corporation. Really, she did:

Update: The fallout of this comment has not been good for Fiorina.

McCain Blasts Wall Street Failure, Neglects To Mention His Adviser Helped Cause It

| Mon Sep. 15, 2008 1:44 PM EDT

As the news broke of the Lehman Brothers meltdown and the rest of the latest financial crisis, John McCain, speaking at a campaign rally in Florida on Monday, angrily declared,

We will never put America in this position again. We will clean up Wall Street. This is a failure.

And in a statement released by his campaign, McCain called for greater "transparency and accountability" on Wall Street.

If McCain wants to hold someone accountable for the failure in transparency and accountability that led to the current calamity, he should turn to his good friend and adviser, Phil Gramm.

As Mother Jones reported in June, eight years ago, Gramm, then a Republican senator chairing the Senate banking committee, slipped a 262-page bill into a gargantuan, must-pass spending measure. Gramm's legislation, written with the help of financial industry lobbyists, essentially removed newfangled financial products called swaps from any regulation. Credit default swaps are basically insurance policies that cover the losses on investments, and they have been at the heart of the subprime meltdown because they have enabled large financial institutions to turn risky loans into risky securities that could be packaged and sold to other institutions.

Lehman's collapse threatens the financial markets because of swaps. From Bloomberg:

Sarah Palin's Wasilla Emails: Did She Violate State Law?

| Fri Sep. 12, 2008 12:45 AM EDT

Sarah Palin made her bones as a self-proclaimed Republican reformer in Alaska when she turned on a Republican Party state chairman who had had been accused of wrongdoing. In 2003, that GOP leader, Randy Ruedrich, was one of three members of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission; Palin chaired the commission and served as its ethics officer. After the news broke that Ruedrich had hosted a Republican fundraiser with several oil company executives and had sent out an email notice for a different Republican fundraising event, critics demanded he resign.

Leading the anti-Ruedrich pack was Palin. She threatened to quit the commission unless Ruedrich resolved his conflicts. "It was a very simple issue," she said at the time. "It was black and white." And after Ruedrich was forced out, Palin, acting at the behest of state investigators, examined his computer files and found emails and documents showing that Ruedrich had used his state office to conduct partisan work for the Republican Party. The records Palin unearthed became evidence in a state investigation that led to a settlement under which Ruedrich paid a $12,000 fine.

Thanks to this episode, Palin became known as a Republican willing to take on a fellow Republican who had abused his office and misused state resources. But what was not known at the time was that a year earlier, Palin had used official resources for her own partisan purposes. In doing so, Palin, now the governor of Alaska and the Republican vice presidential nominee, might have run afoul of state law and the municipal code of Wasilla.

According to emails obtained by Andrée McLeod, a self-described independent government watchdog in Alaska, and shared with Mother Jones, in 2002, when Palin was in her last year as mayor of Wasilla and running for lieutenant governor in a Republican primary, she used her official city email account for campaign purposes. In a June 11, 2002 email to Randy Ruedrich--sent from her sarah@ci.wasilla.ak.us account--Palin asked if the state Republican Party would disseminate notices for her fundraisers. "I have a heckuva' lot of notices I would love to be distributed to all the [state party] lists because I'm not networked into all the valuable distribution lists that other candidates may be networked into," she wrote. "Can you do that for me?"

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