The Office of the United States Trade Representative, the agency responsible for negotiating two massive upcoming trade deals, is being led by former lobbyists for corporations that stand to benefit from the deals, according to disclosure forms obtained by The Intercept.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed free trade accord between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries; the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a similar agreement between the U.S. and the E.U.
The Obama administration is pushing hard to complete both deals, which it says will increase U.S. trade opportunities. Critics say the deals will provide corporate interests with sweeping powers to challenge banking and environmental regulations. (...)
The contents of the trade deals are secret and therefore still veiled from scrutiny by the public and even most members of Congress. Only trade officials and select corporate representatives have been able to review them.
Despite growing opposition to both deals, Finance Committee Chair Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, may introduce legislation this week to provide President Obama with “fast track” authority to limit congressional review over and expedite approval of the agreements.
(...) Attorneys general are now the object of aggressive pursuit by lobbyists and lawyers who use campaign contributions, personal appeals at lavish corporate-sponsored conferences and other means to push them to drop investigations, change policies, negotiate favorable settlements or pressure federal regulators, an investigation by The New York Times has found.
A robust industry of lobbyists and lawyers has blossomed as attorneys general have joined to conduct multistate investigations and pushed into areas as diverse as securities fraud and Internet crimes.
But unlike the lobbying rules covering other elected officials, there are few revolving-door restrictions or disclosure requirements governing state attorneys general, who serve as “the people’s lawyers” by protecting consumers and individual citizens. (...)
(...) But what you won't learn from media coverage of IS is that many of these former Pentagon officials have skin in the game as paid directors and advisers to some of the largest military contractors in the world. Ramping up America's military presence in Iraq and directly entering the war in Syria, along with greater military spending more broadly, is a debatable solution to a complex political and sectarian conflict. But those goals do unquestionably benefit one player in this saga: America's defense industry.
Keane is a great example of this phenomenon. His think tank, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), which he oversees along with neoconservative partisans Liz Cheney and William Kristol, has provided the data on IS used for multiple stories by The New York Times, the BBC and other leading outlets.
Keane has appeared on Fox News at least nine times over the last two months to promote the idea that the best way to stop IS is through military action—in particular, through air strikes deep into IS-held territory. In one of the only congressional hearings about IS over the summer, Keane was there to testify and call for more American military engagement. On Wednesday evening, Keane declared President Obama's speech on defeating IS insufficient, arguing that a bolder strategy is necessary. "I truly believe we need to put special operation forces in there," he told host Megyn Kelly.
Left unsaid during his media appearances (and left unmentioned on his congressional witness disclosure form) are Keane's other gigs: as special adviser to Academi, the contractor formerly known as Blackwater; as a board member to tank and aircraft manufacturer General Dynamics; a "venture partner" to SCP Partners, an investment firm that partners with defense contractors, including XVionics, an "operations management decision support system" company used in Air Force drone training; and as president of his own consulting firm, GSI LLC.
To portray Keane as simply a think tank leader and a former military official, as the media have done, obscures a fairly lucrative career in the contracting world. For the General Dynamics role alone, Keane has been paid a six-figure salary in cash and stock options since he joined the firm in 2004; last year, General Dynamics paid him $258,006.
Keane did not immediately return a call requesting comment for this article.
Disclosure would also help the public weigh Keane's policy advocacy. For instance, in his August 24 opinion column for The Wall Street Journal, in which he was bylined only as a retired general and the chairman of ISW, Keane wrote that "the time has come to confront the government of Qatar, which funds and arms IS and other Islamist terrorist groups such as Hamas." While media reports have linked fundraisers for IS with individuals operating in Qatar (though not the government), the same could be said about Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where many of the major donors of IS reportedly reside. Why did Keane single out Qatar and ignore Saudi Arabia and Kuwait? Is it because his company, Academi, has been a major business partner to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar's primary rival in the region? (...)
A top insider at Kansai Electric Power Co. has come forward to reveal a nearly 20-year history of doling out "top secret" huge donations to Japanese prime ministers, funded on the backs of ratepayers.
Chimori Naito, 91, a former KEPCO vice president, said that for 18 years from 1972, seven prime ministers received 20 million yen (about $200,000 now) annually from Yoshishige Ashihara, who served as both KEPCO president and chairman.
At that time, political donations to individual lawmakers were not illegal. However, in 1974, electric power companies declared a ban on corporate donations to politicians because of strong public opposition to the use of electricity fees to pay for such contributions.
Naito said that "ban" was only a superficial stance taken by the electric power companies.
"There is no way those companies could (ban such donations)," he said. "Nothing would have happened if we angered politicians."
Naito had long taken pride in working closely with Ashihara in making the donations as part of efforts to promote nuclear energy and to further develop the electric power industry.
However, the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 and the inept handling of that disaster by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator, politicians and bureaucrats led Naito to have a change of heart.
"As I began to think about my own death, I also recalled the course I had taken in life," Naito said. "A reporter (from The Asahi Shimbun) came just at the time when I began feeling that I wanted to talk about matters I had never spoken about until now. I thought it would serve as a lesson for future generations." (...)
Corinthian College Inc. (CCI), one of the largest for-profit college and technical training schools in the US, has cut a deal with the Obama administration to sell 85 of its campuses and shut down 12 others. The publicly-traded company has 72,000 students and 12,000 employees in more than 25 states and Canada which will be affected.
The forced sell-off amounts to the largest collapse in the for-profit education industry to date. Reports indicate the following campuses are slated to close: Bensalem PA, Chelsea MA, St. Louis MO, McLean VA, Silver Springs MD, Salt Lake City UT (Main Campus), Fort Worth TX, Cross Lanes WV (Main Campus), Eagan MN, Grand Rapids MI (Main Campus), Kalamazoo MI and Merrillville IN.
The immediate cause of the selloff was the Department of Education’s (DOE) demand for CCI documents regarding job placement among graduates. When the school failed to produce their statistics, the DOE imposed a 21-day waiting period for the company to draw on federal student aid funds.
The DOE action, together with the reintroduction of “gainful employment” regulations, are largely pre-Congressional midterm election public relations moves designed to camouflage the administration’s abandonment of its election promises to clean up the palpable exploitation and illegality rampant among for-profit colleges. (...)