Iowa Presidential Watch
Holding the Democrats accountable


October 26, 2005


J U S T   P O L I T I C S


Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin update:
Harkin's tricks and treats

It is nearly Halloween and we find that there is a theme that is very scary if we look at Iowa's Sen. Tom Harkin (the nation's 7th most-liberal senator * ) and what has happened to us because of his efforts.

Harkin screams

Once again Sen. Tom Harkin is screaming the liberal scream of raise taxes, soak the rich and give to the poor.

Sen. Tom Harkin is joining senators Kennedy, Schumer and Dorgan, by calling on the Bush Administration to rebuild the Gulf Coast in a way that is 'fair to workers.' The four Democratic senators will criticize the Bush Administration for suspending the Davis-Bacon Act, awarding no-bid contracts to "corporate cronies," and for waiving affirmative action while refusing to "use their tax cuts for the wealthiest to offset the costs of rebuilding."

But what does the Davis-Bacon Act really do? The ghoulish aspect of the Davis-Bacon Act is that it unfairly raises costs so that families can no longer afford to rebuild their homes and communities pay inflated rates that are not competitive. It's unfair to families and unfair to communities.

Harkin’s treats

Sen. Tom Harkin has been caught with his hand in the ethical "cookie jar." The Hill newspaper reports on the ethical lapse of Harkin’s campaign to pay for the use of Rep. Tom DeLay’s former aide Jack Abramoff’s sky-box at the Washington MCI Center. Abramoff is the lobbyist who is under serious investigations for wrong doings.

The Hill reports:

Sen. Tom Harkin failed to account properly for two fundraisers he held in lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s skybox at Washington’s MCI Center in 2002 and 2003, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and a spokeswoman for the Iowa Democrat.

Abramoff, the subject of multiple federal criminal probes for his dealings with Indian tribes and a Florida casino chain, routinely hosted political fundraisers in skyboxes at four sporting venues in the Washington area. Several members of Congress admitted earlier this year to having failed to disclose properly or pay for the use of the skyboxes.

The Hill reports that Harkin recently had to reimburse the Mississippi Indian tribe:

Harkin’s campaign committee and leadership political action committee reimbursed a former Abramoff client, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, on Sept. 28 for use of the box, paying $1,800 for a campaign fundraiser held July 15, 2002, and $1,900 for an event in December 2003 for the leadership political action committee To Organize a Majority. An online schedule for MCI Center showed that the WNBA held its all-star game July 15, 2002.

The name on the outside of the sky-box said "Jack Abramoff." However a handful of Abramoff’s tribal clients -- including the Choctaws and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians -- paid for the box over the years.

Harkin constantly portrays himself as a populist who is continuously fighting for the interest of the little guy in Iowa. However, the record of his political contributions and his wife’s revolving door in government shows a very different Tom Harkin... as his attempt to not pay for the sky-box shows.

Previous tricks and treats

The Harkins have always used the Senator’s wife to bring the sugar train of treats into the Harkin household.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton chose Ruth Harkin to be President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation -- OPIC.

OPIC is a government agency that encourages mutually beneficial American private investment in developing countries and newly emerging free market economies, such as the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union, South Africa, South America, and the Middle East. Under Ruth Harkin's leadership, OPIC increased its activity to the highest levels in the agency's 23-year history.

Ruth had previously left the Department of Agriculture to work in the Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld lawfirm. There she worked with the legendary Robert Strauss and Ron Brown, who became head of the Commerce Department. Brown was famous for helping not only his old firm but rewarding those who contributed to the Democrat coffers while at Commerce.

Brown's September 1994 trip to Beijing is revealing of the kind of activity that occurred. Embarking three months after Clinton extended most-favored-nation trade status to China, Brown's entourage included:

·        Lodwrick Cook of Atlantic Richfield, gave $201,500 to the Democrats between 1992 and 1994. Cook is also close to Clinton, who presented the Arco chief with a birthday cake during a White House lunch for executives.

·        Edwin Lupberger of Entergy, who closed an $800 million deal to build a power plant in China. Lupberger is a personal friend of Clinton, and in the last election cycle Entergy donated $60,000 to Democratic candidates.

·        Bernard Schwartz of the Loral Corporation, who negotiated deals that will net his telecommunications company $1 billion over the next decade. Three months before the trip Schwartz donated $100,000 to the D.N.C.

·        Raymond Smith of Bell Atlantic, which has given nearly $200,000 to the Democrats since 1991. According to Democratic fundraising memos Smith was also a party "trustee," who had personally helped raise $100,000 or more.

·        Leslie McGraw of Fluor, which came through with $108,450 for Democratic candidates in the last election. McGraw, was also a donor and board member of the Democratic Leadership Council.

All told, at least twelve of the twenty-five firms whose officials made the trip to China were major donors or fund-raisers for the Democrat party. Those companies gave almost $2 million to Democratic candidates during that last election cycle. "I only believe in coincidences occasionally," said Chuck Lewis, head of the Center for Public Integrity about the Clinton days. "Here you see consistent patterns."

Ruth Harkin helped her former law partner Brown with the deal with US West. US West signed a telecommunications agreement while on a different trip to Russia that was backed by a $125 million loan guarantee from the U.S. government's Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

One of the most disconcerting aspects of Ruth Harkin’s time at OPIC was the large amount of loans given to Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld client ENRON.

From fiscal year 1993 to fiscal 2000, OPIC gave at least $544 million in loans to Enron-related projects, the agency reported in a letter to the Senate panel. It provided another $204 million in political-risk insurance. OPIC listed only projects supported at that time.

"It appears the agency made no loans to Enron-related businesses from 1985 to 1992," said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who at the time of the Senate investigation was the ranking member of the Finance Committee.

Ruth was appointed president of OPIC in 1993.

Senator Wayne Allard in September 1997 began to bring to light the record on OPIC:

What makes this even more problematic is that OPIC does not back this investment with their own finances, but with the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government-in its simplest terms, the U.S. taxpayer. Every loan and loan guarantee that OPIC finances puts the U.S. taxpayer at risk. Today, nearly $25 billion is being risked in the name of the taxpayers of these corporate OPIC loans.

Compounding the situation is that these loans and loan guarantees are not safe investments. The Congressional Budget Office supplied a list of the quality of the portfolio at the end of the year, 1995. OPIC has consistently taken risks in operations that are defined with the D-minus credit rating and even an F-double-negative credit rating.

Sen. Allard also questioned some of the benefit that the U. S. taxpayer was receiving for their money:

What do OPIC loans buy? We, the taxpayers, have developed a soft drink bottling company in Poland and Ghana, a travel agency in Armenia, a magazine in Russia, a lumber mill in Lithuania, an art gallery in Haiti, cable television in Argentina, a hamburger bun bakery and phone book directories in Brazil.

Following the Democrats defeat Ruth, Harkin returned to Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld lawfirm to cash-in on her greasing the way for the firm during her stint at OPIC.

After that Ruth went to work for United Technologies as its senior vice president of international affairs and government relations. In addition, Harkin served as chair of United Technologies International -- UTC's international representation arm. She took up her duties on June 1, 1997.



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