Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Culture of Corruption

Integrity is not determined in the ballot box. We incarcerate petty thieves and elect the great ones to office.

InfoUSA is one of the largest compilers of consumer information in the world.

Basically, they make lists of people and sell them to junk-mailers and spam-blasters. For example:

1) "Oldies But Goodies" – lists 500,000 gamblers over age 55.
2) "Elderly Opportunity Seekers" – lists 3.3 million older people looking for ways to make money.
3) "Suffering Seniors" – lists 4.7 million elderly people with cancer or Alzheimer's disease.

Vinod Gupta is the chairman and CEO of InfoUSA. He hails from Rampur Maniharan, a town in Uttar Pradesh state. And if you can find it on a map, you win a cookie.

He received a BTech degree from IIT Kharagpur in 1967, and an MS in Agriculture Engineering and an MBA from the University of Nebraska in 1972.

Gupta served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (appointed by President Bill Clinton). He was nominated (by President Bill Clinton) as the U.S. Counsel General to Bermuda. He was also nominated (by President Bill Clinton) to be U.S. Ambassador to Fiji.

It's nice to have friends in high places.

In January of 2002, Bill and Hillary Clinton (and others) took a vacation in Acapulco, Mexico. They traveled on Gupta's private company plane. According to court records, InfoUSA paid $146,866 for the excursion.

From 2002 through 2006, InfoUSA paid Bill Clinton over $2 million as a consultant. They spent $900,000 to fly him around the world for his presidential foundation work and to fly Hillary Clinton to campaign events.

It's nice to have friends with deep pockets.

These outrageous examples of a fat-cat entrepreneur trying to ingratiate himself with high-profile political figures came to light in 2007 in a lawsuit filed in Delaware, initiated by angry shareholders of InfoUSA stock.

According to the New York Times, May 26, 2007, an InfoUSA spokesman described Mr. Clinton's consulting services by stating, "They were limited to making appearances at one or two company events each year."

It's nice to be paid oodles of money for showing up once or twice a year and making an appearance.

I'll do it for half the price and even throw in a card trick.

But not to worry. Nancy Pelosi has come along to save us from unscrupulous politicians.

Since 1987, Nancy Pelosi has been a member of the House of Representatives, representing the Eighth Congressional District of California. As a Democrat, she was the House Minority Leader in 2002 to 2007.

When the Democrats gained a majority in the House of Representatives in 2008, she became the Speaker of the House, and as such is second in line of succession, behind the Vice President, to become President.

When she became Speaker of the House, she vowed to rid politics of the "culture of corruption" that had prevailed under the Republicans.

Apparently, Democrats are honest folks and Republicans a bunch of crooks.

Well, isn't that refreshing. Finally, someone is going to clean up all the sleazy political influence peddling.

In February of 2007, shortly after Ms. Pelosi was sworn in as Speaker of the House, her son Paul Pelosi, Jr. was hired by InfoUSA as its Vice President for Strategic Planning, at a salary of $180,000 per year.

And to make it convenient for Paul Pelosi, Jr. to strategically plan things for InfoUSA, he's able to remain at his full-time job as a mortgage officer for Countrywide Loans in California. Unlike all the other employees at InfoUSA, he does not have to report to work at the company's headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska.

Call me curious, but the strategic planning (or lack thereof) and mom's new job has a bad smell to it. Cultures of corruption tend to emit an odor much like a dead skunk in the middle of the road. And it stinks to high heaven.

"Democrats are committed to reforming the way Washington does business," Ms. Pelosi announced proudly in 2006 while supporting a bill banning members of Congress from putting spouses on campaign staffs.

Ms. Pelosi's husband, Paul F. Pelosi, owns Financial Leasing Services Inc. (FLS), a real estate and investment firm in San Francisco. Over the last 9 years, FLS has received $99,000 in rent and accounting fees from Nancy Pelosi's Political Action Committee (PAC), funded by political contributions.

Paul Pelosi took over as treasurer of his wife's PAC committee in 2007. Federal Election Commission records show that FLS skimmed $48,000 in fees in 2008 alone, which was eight times as much as it received annually from 2000 to 2005 under a different treasurer.

It's nice to have a helpful spouse to assist you in your quest for power.

In April of 2009, Ms. Pelosi stated that the American people were demanding "discipline and accountability" after the multi-billion dollar federal bailouts of financial institutions. She promised to create legislation with broad oversight to investigate Wall Street.

We can all sleep easier now with the gallant Ms. Pelosi keeping a sharp eye out for discipline and accountability.

In May of 2009, Ms. Pelosi, a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, claimed she was never briefed by the CIA in 2002 about torture, specifically water-boarding. She later claimed she was briefed that it was an approved technique but that it hadn't yet been used. When CIA memos were produced to show she had been briefed and that she was told it had been used, she then claimed the CIA misled (lied to) her about it.

If she was indeed told about the technique of water-boarding and it had not yet been utilized, as she claims, then why didn't she object to it being used in the future. She made no such objection. Instead, she attempts to blame others for not properly informing her. Or perhaps she took a nap in the meeting and missed the entire presentation.

Ms. Pelosi, who seems a bit light on integrity and competence, is next in line to be President of the United States behind only the Vice President.


It is not in the nature of the best men and women to strive for political office – the best men and women have no desire to govern the affairs of others. And when commerce is controlled by politicians, the first things bought are politicians.

Politicians are just like everyone else; some are good, some are bad and most are somewhere in-between. Party affiliation doesn't seem to matter much either. There are plenty of corrupt politicians to go around.

Even though there are men and women of principle in both parties, neither one is a party of principle.

Ironically, according to John McCain, a Japanese General was hanged after World War II for torture, that included water-boarding. Even with that as a precedent, Justice Department lawyers under George Bush somehow determined that water-boarding was not considered to be torture. Accordingly, the USA can execute an enemy for the same act the USA perpetrates on others with impunity.

It's nice to be in a high level of a righteous government where hypocrisy is of no concern because you're on the side of the good guys.

The problem with political jokes is they get elected.

Quote for the Day – "The Democrats seem to be basically nicer people, but they have demonstrated time and again that they have the management skills of celery. They're the kind of people who'd stop to help you change a flat, but would somehow manage to set your car on fire. I would be reluctant to entrust them with a Cuisinart, let alone the economy. The Republicans, on the other hand, would know how to fix your tire, but they wouldn't bother to stop because they'd want to be on time for Ugly Pants Night at the country club." Dave Barry

Bret Burquest is a former award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and no friends in high places. His blogs appear on several websites, including

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