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CBS Falsely Portrays Stanford as Democratic Bagman

February 18, 2009

On Wednesday, federal authorities reported they did not know the whereabouts of Texas banker and scammer Allen Stanford. But what we do know for certain about the financier whose frauds may yet rival the $50 billion Madoff Ponzi scheme is that he donated generously to both political parties in Washington. Of course, that would be news to viewers of CBS Evening News. Because while Stanford gave early and often to Texas Republicans John Cornyn, Tom Delay and George W. Bush, CBS portrayed the fleeing financier as a bagman for Democrats alone.
During a segment on the February 17th broadcast of the CBS Evening News, correspondent Bob Orr suggested Stanford' was a Democrats-only influence peddler (video here):

Just three months before, he hob-knobbed with top Democrats in Denver as the lead sponsor of the National Democratic Institute conference.
[Clip of Bill Clinton] "I'd like to thank the Stanford Financial Group."
Since 2000, Stanford has funneled $1.7 million to politicians, $4,600 last year to President Obama's campaign.

But as Public Citizen, Huffington Post, ABC News and Talking Points Memo all reported, Stanford and his Stanford Financial Group PAC contributed to politicians and political action committees of both parties (including $448,000 in soft money contributions from 2000 to 2001 alone) to advance his agenda of banking and money-laundering deregulation. Many others journeyed on Stanford's junkets to Antigua and elsewhere, prompting TPM to brand his company "a travel agent for Congress."
The list of Stanford beneficiaries is long and bipartisan. Democrats and affiliated 527's including Tom Daschle (D-SD), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Martin Frost (D-TX) and candidate Barack Obama all received Stanford donations. Among the GOP, Trent Lott (R-MS), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), John McCain (R-AZ) and Phil Gramm (R-TX) were just a few of those on the receiving end of Stanford's largesse. As ABC reported this morning, many on both sides of the aisle, including the campaign committees of Bill Nelson, John Cornyn, John McCain and Barack Obama, moved to give his donations to charity.
But it is Stanford's ties to some of the leading lights of the Republican Party that is strikingly absent from CBS' coverage of the growing scandal.
As Huffington Post reported Tuesday, President Bush was among the first visited by the Stanford gravy train in 2001:

Stanford gave an additional $100,000 to the Bush Inaugural Committee - as the new administration prepared its own money laundering strategy. More stringent controls were not proposed. Instead, the Treasury Department went to work watering down reporting requirements that are considered burdensome by many (including Stanford) in the financial services industry In August, Treasury changed its tax shelter regulations to allow corporations to avoid some reporting requirements in an attempt to "ease tax administration."

(As TPM noted, Stanford's bipartisan fundraising preceded the arrival of the Bush administration. According to Public Citizen, Texas Senator Phil Gramm boasted, "I killed the administration's anti-money-laundering legislation" during Bill Clinton's tenure.)
As the Dallas Morning News detailed, Texas Senator John Cornyn was among the top five beneficiaries of Stanford's checkbook and airplanes. In 2004, Stanford's company bankrolled a four-day trip to a Caribbean resort for Cornyn and his wife Cindy. (Cornyn did report as required the $7400 junket.) In all, Cornyn received $19,700 in contributions. Through spokesman Kevin McLaughlin, Cornyn denied any wrong-doing:

"It was strictly a fact-finding trip. They have offices in Houston, and they were doing a lot of business out of Antigua. There was nothing untoward or unseemly about the company five years ago."

And then there's indicted former House Majority Leader Tom Delay. As HuffPo related yesterday:

Though tough anti-money-laundering legislation overwhelmingly sailed through the House Banking Committee in 2000, it had difficulty getting to another vote as powerful GOP lawmakers -- then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay and then-Senate Banking Committee chair Phil Gramm stymied its future.
DeLay was among the largest recipients of Stanford's largesse. And "DeLay's committees paid for flights on Stanford's jets at least 16 times since 2003, including on Oct. 20, the day the former House majority leader was booked in a Houston courthouse on money-laundering charges," according to Bloomberg News.

None of which is to suggest that any of the politicians from either party listed above broke the law. But with the cost of Stanford's financial frauds at $8 billion and growing, it sure doesn't look good. And if you only watched CBS News, you'd think it's just a problem for Democrats.
UPDATE: In updated report on allegations Stanford may have laundered funds for a Mexican drug cartel, ABC again plays up Stanford's Democratic ties. Meanwhile, TPM offers readers a slide show of Stanford's bipartisan Caribbean junkets.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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