Monday, January 09, 2006

American Psychos

I can't imagine anything more gratifying than the news that Richard Pombo and Charles Hurwitz might be going to jail together.

I've discussed Pombo here more than once. Hurwitz, however, makes Pombo look like Dennis Kucinich. One of his most notable accomplishments was looting United Savings Association of Texas (USAT), a crime that cost taxpayers $1.6 billion. Using his profits, and some junk bonds provided by his pal Michael Milken, he engineered a hostile takeover of a family-owned Northern California firm called Pacific Lumber, and immediately engaged in an orgy of unprincipled, unnecessary, and virtually unregulated clearcutting of old-growth redwoods. When he wasn't losing lawsuits and getting Pacific Lumber's logging license suspended, Hurwitz found time to loot its pension fund, in order to make interest payments on the junk bonds that financed the hostile takeover.

It's almost impossible to describe the complexity and breadth of Pacific Lumber's corruption under Hurwitz, or the number of people - including state and national Democrats - who are implicated in it. (Dianne Feinstein, for instance, shook loose millions of dollars of taxpayer money for Hurwitz at a time when he owed millions of dollars to the government, and then essentially turned the Headwaters Forest over to him in defiance of the Endangered Species Act.) Pacific Lumber racked up almost 250 logging violations in a few short years, from harming federally protected animals like the marbled murrelet, to logging in protected riparian zones, to failing to prevent or mitigate erosion.

Today, the firm hovers near bankruptcy. If it goes down, it'll take a goodly number of Humboldt County workers with it. Sustainable logging practices under Pacific Lumber's previous ownership had translated into sustainable jobs. The company provided subsidized housing for employees, and declined to lay off workers regardless of market conditions. Hurwitz, needless to say, ended these sensible and humane policies as part of his project of looting the company's assets.

Pombo's been a whore for Hurwitz for years. In 2001, after receiving substantial contributions from Hurwitz, Pombo helped to float a remarkably weird conspiracy theory, in which EarthFirst! was supposedly working in concert with the FDIC to defraud Hurwitz of the redwood forest he'd bought with the sweat of his brow (the FDIC was trying to recoup taxpayer losses on the United Savings Association of Texas bailout). As Pombo's partner in crime John Doolittle put it:

[B]ank regulators at the FDIC and OTS deviated from their statutory charge and actually concocted a scheme, in concert with the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, to obtain redwood trees from an owner of the failed bank. The scheme was initiated, promoted, and lobbied by radical EarthFirst! ecoterrorists. It was embraced by FDIC lawyers and facilitated by FDIC's outside counsel, and it was sanctioned at the highest levels of the agency.
Pombo inserted this tall tale into the Congressional Record, and tried to pass it off as an official finding:
Pombo...released the task force's findings after the task force that created it and the Resources Committee itself had dissolved to make way for the new Congress. Rep. Pombo did this by sneaking the "report" into the Congressional Record, rather than calling for a Committee vote, as it the normal procedure. Pombo and MAXXAM, Inc. then to deliberately mislead the media into thinking this was an official Congressional report.
Pombo and John Doolittle also subpoenaed the FDIC's confidential records on Hurwitz, and inserted them into the Congressional Record for the perusal of Hurwitz's lawyers, thereby damaging the FDIC's case against Hurwitz. As the story linked at the top notes:
The documents were so voluminous that Doolittle and Pombo had to pay a total of about $20,000 from their congressional accounts to cover the extra printing costs.
Your tax dollars at work!

Perhaps I'm old-fashioned, but I see criminals like Hurwitz, Pombo, and Doolittle as a greater danger to the lives and liberties of Americans than just about any "Islamofascist" on earth. Their contempt for the law, and for the well-being of Americans, represents a far greater existential threat to this nation than al-Qaeda does. These monsters of vanity owe us, and it's high time we were repaid. At the very least, their assets should be used to offset the public expense of keeping them in jail for the rest of their lives.

No comments: