478 of 493 people found the following review helpful
It's good to be a Congressman. Prove it's possible to get rich trading options without knowing about technical analysis. Always get out of the market just before TSHTF (that's a standard survival preparedness expression). Life is fair - for some people.
If I weren't already a Declinist, this book would make me so. When I go to the election booth, I don't see the option, "None of the above," below the candidate names. If Peter Schweizer's research is correct, I never stood a chance.
How do our nation's top politicians exit office with millions more than credible based on their salaries and perhaps some patient investing? Nobody has directly and fully answered that question until Throw Them All Out was published.
(Recommended reading: Declare Independence from Party Affiliation)
The club Schweizer calls the 'Permanent Political Class' makes rules for itself. Members with no time to meet small business constituents do not spare any trouble to legally enrich themselves through earmarks, real estate deals, securities violations, trading on inside information, self-dealing with stimulus funds and literally every budget item.
This gets into the purpose of the nation's Capital from the perspective of elected officials. DC is a profit center for them and all that support them in various capacities. They use government to enforce sophisticated pay-to-play and don't-make-no-waves rules. There is little incentive for them to leave Washington, which is one reason they became the permanent political class.
Schweizer cites popular officials that play the IPO (Initial Public Offering) game. For example, he shows how Nancy Pelosi, the 60th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives with an estimated net worth of $58 million, bought 5,000 shares of V (Visa) at the privileged IPO price $44. This trade showed a profit immediately. The shares reached about $88 in a matter of days. However, Pelosi worked on major related legislation that was killed in the body she led. This helped avoid a strong negative affect on the price of the stock, and she benefited. The rest of us can't do it because we're subject to conflict of interest rules, unlike lawmakers. Plus without political favors to offer, we're not invited to participate in IPOs until after the price is run up.
Schweizer points out that if you're an elected official and you sit on an important committee, you are allowed to trade on information that comes your way. These officials can even help shape decisions that have economic consequences and then participate in the winnings. It stands to reason that if you're on the banking committee, you probably trade bank stocks, playing it both long and short. If you're a staffer, you may accumulate sensitive non-public information and sell it to hedge funds.
This book is a manual on ways to give money legally to elected officials. The Pay-to-Play regime and the flow of insider information can be used by even the most novice traders using an online brokerage account. One big story is how Congressman Spensor Bauchus used a private meeting with Fed Chair Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson. Bauchus was in the role of Ranking Member on the House Financial Services Committee. He used the dire information presented to him in this meeting to bet heavily that the market would go down, using leveraged trades. Bauchus, working with Bernanke and Paulson from July 2008 to November 2008, scalped $50K out of the falling market after first having moved his funds to safety. The book has lots of war stories like that.
Here are some politicians cited without their titles for brevity in Part One in this book (Part Two gets into their cronies):
Chapter 1 - John Kerry; Tom Carper; Melissa Bean; Jared Polis; James Oberstar; Jeb Bradley; John Boehner; Jim McDermott; Amo Houghton; Johnny Isakson; Sheldon Whitehouse.
Chapter 2 - Max Baucus; Jim Moran; Dick Durbin; Rahm Emanuel.
Chapter 3 - Nancy Pelosi; Gary Ackerman.
Chapter 4 - Dennis Hastert; Carolyn Maloney; Judd Gregg; Ken Calvert; David Hobson; Heath Shuler; Bennie Thompson; Maurice Hinchey; Jerry Lewis; Harry Reid.
Congressmen are big winners in the stock market. They cultivate companies in their loyalty structure from whom they get insider information often at the committee level. There are many ways they get rich while serving constituents, especially if you know what big deal Warren Buffett will do and when. Many names are given in this book of successful inside information operators within Congress.
While Throw Them All Out is our wake up call, it is also a potential training guide for future politicians. After all, Congress is unlikely to change the substance of rules that allow them to make a killing year on year. We should not aspire to do what they do. This would land the rest of us in prison and earn their contempt for us.
186 of 199 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2011
With the big expose on 60 Minutes and interviews all over, this book promises to provide one of the great muckraking stories of our generation, and perhaps of American history. The premise is straightforward and scary: Congressmen and women are exempt from a lot of the laws that restrict the rest of us from financial misdealings such as insider trading. The result, as one could imagine, is that many, perhaps most of the privileged class of senators and congressmen have invested in and then benefited from deals that would have landed the rest of us in jail. Everyone remembers Martha Stewart and how she had to go to prison for her insider trading. What the congressmen and women are doing is pretty much the same thing, and worse since they are actually sometimes involved in the actual deals that send federal grants and loans to the companies they invest in.
To take some examples, the book examines many of the most recent deals that congressmen and women have gotten away with. For instance, About $16 billion of the $20 billion that the Obama administration has doled out has gone to financial backers of the Obama administration. Former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi received 5,000 shares of an almost impossible-to-get credit card stock. And 10 members of the national finance committee received Solyndra-type loans.
Perhaps the scariest is when the bureaucrats are also involved in the actual company's success, what is called "pump-and-dump." The book goes into such trades that Al Gore made in which he and a Silicon Valley investor put in $16 million into a company before a $25 million grant was issued by the federal government, after which Gore's initial investment turned into $89 million.
The real unfortunate thing is that this is just the tip of the iceberg and the kinds of deals that these public officials get away with are so pervasive that it affects almost all that regular citizens do. Everyone knows that the government plays a huge role in the economy and that if a group of government officials wants to make a company succeed, it will do so. And the people who know where that money is going will benefit from it. The problem is that public officials can get away with it, and the rest of us would go to jail for the same action.
In the immortal words of George Orwell, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
This whole process is explained in the similarly excellent Juggernaut: Why the System Crushes the Only People Who Can Save It by Eric Robert Morse, which also outlines a fantastic history and solution for this problem, which seems to only be getting worse.
154 of 168 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2011
Here is my review of this outstanding book from the Washington Post:
Crony Capitalism Exposed
Insider trading is illegal -- except for members of Congress. A Wall Street executive who buys or sells stock based on insider information would face a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and quite possibly a federal prosecutor. But senators and congressmen are free to legally trade stock based on nonpublic information they have obtained through their official positions as elected officials -- and they do so on a regular basis.
On Sunday night, CBS News' "60 Minutes" looked into this form of "lawful graft." The "60 Minutes" story exposed, among others, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for participating in a lucrative initial public offering from Visa in 2008 that was not available to the general public, just as a troublesome piece of legislation that would have hurt credit card companies began making its way through the House (the bill never made it to the floor). And it showed how during the 2008 financial crisis, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) -- then-ranking Republican on the House Financial Services Committee -- aggressively bought stock options based on apocalyptic briefings he had received the day before from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.
The report was based on an explosive new book by Peter Schweizer that will hit stores on Tuesday. It's called "Throw Them All Out: How Politicians and Their Friends Get Rich off Insider Stock Tips, Land Deals, and Cronyism That Would Send the Rest of Us to Prison." (Full disclosure: Schweizer is a close friend, a former White House colleague and my business partner in a speechwriting firm, Oval Office Writers.
The "60 Minutes" story only scratches the surface of what Schweizer has uncovered. For example, Bachus was not the only member of Congress trading on nonpublic information during the financial crisis. On Sept. 16, 2008, Schweizer writes, Paulson and Bernanke held a "terrifying" closed-door meeting with congressional leaders. "The next day Congressman Jim Moran, Democrat of Virginia, a member of the Appropriations Committee, dumped his shares in ninety different companies .'.'. [his] most active trading day of the year."
Rep. Shelley Capito (R-W.Va.) and her husband "dumped between $100,000 and $250,000 in Citigroup stock the day after the briefing," Schweizer writes, and "at least ten U.S. senators, including John Kerry, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Dick Durbin, traded stock or mutual funds related to the financial industry the following day." Durbin, Schweizer says, "attended that September 16 briefing with Paulson and Bernanke. He sold off $73,715 in stock funds the next day. Following the next terrifying closed-door briefing, on September 18, he dumped another $42,000 in stock. By doing so, Durbin joined some colleagues in saving themselves from the sizable losses that less-connected investors would experience." Some members even made gains on their trades, at a time when ordinary Americans without insider knowledge were seeing their life savings evaporate.
Schweizer also documents numerous examples of how members of Congress of both parties -- including Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former House speaker Dennis Hastert -- have used federal earmarks to enhance the value of their own real estate holdings. They have done so, Schweizer shows, by extending a light-rail mass transit line near their property, expanding an airport, cleaning up a nearby shoreline, building roads and bridges, and beautifying land and neighborhoods nearby -- in each case "substantially increasing values and the net worth of our elected officials, courtesy of taxpayer money."
Perhaps the most disturbing revelations come from Schweizer's investigation into the Obama Energy Department and its infamous "green energy" loan guarantee and grant programs, a program Schweizer calls "the greatest -- and most expensive -- example of crony capitalism in American history." The scandal surrounding Solyndra -- the now-bankrupt, Obama-connected solar power company that received a federally guaranteed loan of $573 million -- is well known. But Solyndra, Schweizer says, is only the tip of the iceberg.
According to his research, at least 10 members of President Obama's campaign finance committee and more than a dozen of his campaign bundlers were big winners in getting tax dollars from these programs. One chart in the book details how the 10 finance committee members collectively raised $457,834, and were in turn approved for grants or loans of nearly $11.4 billion -- quite a return on their investment.
In the loan-guarantee program alone, Schweizer writes, "$16.4 billion of the $20.5 billion in loans granted went to companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers -- individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama's National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party." That is a staggering 71 percent of the loan money.
Schweizer cites example after example of companies that received grants or loans and documents their financial connections to the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party. And he shows how "the [Energy] department's loan and grant programs are run by partisans who were responsible for raising money during the Obama campaign from the same people who later came to seek government loans and grants."
There is much, much more, which means that when Schweizer's book hits stores Tuesday, heads in Washington are going to explode.
41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2011
Finally, someone has put all the pieces of the puzzle together. This is a very short book that will pop your eyes wide open and provide you with the information we all need if we are ever to see change. We the People are being taken to the cleaners by the very civil "servants" we elect - with all sorts of help from those folks on Wall Street and those who run the companies listed on those big boards.
It's time to clean House, Senate and boardrooms ... if there's still time!
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2011
Democrats and Republicans can't agree on a feasible plan for reducing the deficit or restoring economic prosperity. But they can agree on one thing, according to Peter Schweizer. Namely, that elected politicians have the right to profit almost shamelessly from public office and engage in stock market transactions that would land almost anybody else in prison. In Throw Them All Out, Schweizer points to some truly disturbing instances of insider trading by members of the U.S. Congress. Insider trading basically refers to buying or selling particular stocks on the basis of privileged information that is not available to the general public. For members of Congress this can be especially lucrative because they often have power to determine the fate of individual companies or specific sectors of the economy.
Neither party is spared from Schweizer's investigative reporting, which never hesitates to name and shame specific members of Congress who have committed the most egregious legal and ethical violations. He shows how conservatives like John Boehner as well as liberals like Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry all have their hands in the cookie jar. They have made stock market transactions with almost supernaturally good timing and earned millions of dollars from information that they were privy to as members of Congress or through their work on specific committees and legislation. And while most Americans are struggling with the ramifications of a severe economic recession exacerbated by the incompetence of our elected officials at regulating Wall Street, our politicians will leave office as millionaires.
Schweizer points to several particularly egregious episodes in which members of the House and Senate used their privileged access to information to make profits. One was during the 2003 Medicare overhaul where several politicians, most notably Senator John Kerry, invested in pharmaceutical companies that they knew would benefit from the legislation on the table. Kerry earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from these transactions. Another disturbing episode occurred in 2008 where members of Congress who had heard special testimony from the Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke about the deteriorating state of the economy earned thousands of dollars by shorting the market.
Some members of Congress such as Hose Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have accused Schweizer of being a right-wing hitman. This is nonsense. His book points to problems that both conservatives and liberals need to pay attention to because they are central to the efficient functioning of any democracy. It is time for both parties to take responsibility for the corruption that is rampant in our political system and stop trying to turn it into a partisan issue.
What is the solution? Unfortunately, many Americans continue to show an inexplicable loyalty to the two political parties that have brought our nation to the brink of economic disaster. We have come to tolerate and even expect corruption in our public officials. Schweizer brilliantly shows how our own complacency is preventing us from electing new leaders who are dedicated to honesty and integrity in public service. Only by calling our elected officials more fully to account for their dishonest behavior can we begin to set our country back on the right path.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2011
Awesome book, well researched (with a lot of footnotes and references to back up) and well written. The book got a lot of press about the insider trading of members of congress. I knew already that members of congress were not subject to insider trading rules, but didn't know how rampant the was. I actually find that the other facets of crony capitalism are much more damaging, e.g. Dennis Hastert's Highway in Illinois.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2011
Saying the phenomenon is a scandal is an understatement as Schweitzer lists transaction after transaction by named politicians that would be deemed insider trading if anyone but a congressman did it. The book lists politicians of both parties enriching themselves through insider trading that would be illegal for a Wall Street banker but congressmen have thoughtfully exempted themselves from ethical and criminal considerations that the rest of us citizens are subject to.
Not only politicians but their friends are also enriching themselves, even Warren Buffett, who looks like a grandfatherly old figure played with two administrations and profited by the Bank failure and resurgence as the lawmakers changed laws to suit his suggestions. John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Spencer Bacchus, Dick Durbin, Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner, John Boehner, Al Gore, Jr., Rahm Emmanuel, and many more individuals are implicated in the insider trading that is a perk of office of the permanent political class but a crime to any other US citizen.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2011
Peter Schweizer has done such a great service to voters by writing this book. It is easy and enjoyable reading. It shines the light on the shady behavior that goes on in our political system. I is everything that you sensed was going on clarified. It will be very interesting to see the developments that follow this book. Thank you, Mr Schweizer!
49 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2011
This book should be mandatory reading for every high school senior. Politicians are bought. The only way to mitigate this is term limits.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2011
Pick this book up today! Peter Schweizer's work was both liberating and extremely frustrating. Most have a sense of the recurring corruption in Washington. I've heard buzz words such as lobbying, bundling, special favors, ear marks, etc... Yet, until now, it has been difficult for me to truly pin-point and provide specific examples of the political ruling class' nefarious behavior. In this sense, it was quite liberating to read. Yet, the book was also painful to digest. As someone who is trusting and believes in human goodness, I had multiple "say it ain't so" moments. "it can't possibly be this bad." Or, can it? The public has been turning a blind eye for too long! Our indifference coupled with our attention being well-contained within the "American-comfort bubble" to include the Kardashians, football, video games, TV (to name a few) have allowed politicians to slither, connive, and benefit with little threat of being ousted at the next election. It all makes sense now after reading this book. Schweizer names names and doesn't care whether they are democrats or republicans. It is also quite clear why politicians have favored inaction over problem-solving when it comes time to the debt crisis, entitlement reform, and defense spending. Schweizer sums it up with this foreboding statement on pg 167-168:
"The problem with Washington isn't gridlock. It isn't that things aren't getting done. The problem is the corruption of the public spirit. The Permanent Political Class has no sense of urgency to change because, for them, business is good."
What specifically is considered good business? Well, it is common practice, according to Schweizer, for Congressmen to stock trade based off of inside information they receive during the formation of legislation. In addition, politicians often purchase real estate in areas where they can control city development and funding thus driving up the value of their property. There also exists an unwritten understanding that politicians will return favors to campaign funders via lucrative grants, tax breaks, or legislation. After these revelations, it is quite clear why politicians seem out of touch with the people they supposedly represent. Unfortunately, our system has largely devolved into representation of the powerful and not representation of the people.
Throughout the book, Schweizer provides countless examples and names the following players within politics or closely attached: Bachus, Baucus, Boehner, Boxer, Buffett, Calvert, Chu, Coburn, Frist, Gore, Gregg, Hastert, Hatch, Immelt, Kerry, McCaskill, McDermott, Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Soros, Zoi. While not all inclusive, these are some of the major mentions.
Schweizer treads lightly avoiding direct accusations and rather unveils trends. For example, Senator John Kerry was deeply involved in the health care legislative process for years. Simultaneously, he was consistently trading and profiting in the health care sector stock that would benefit from healthcare legislation. In 2009, he bought shares in the pharm company Teva based on the "hunch" that the company would benefit when Obamacare passed. Once the bill was signed into law, Kerry's $50 per share purchase was worth $62. He then cashed out the capital gains. Schweizer points out that such trading behavior is essentially too coincidental and recurring to be merely good luck. This is one small example, and the rest packs such an explosive punch, I would be misguided to share them here!
Another subtle, yet very important point Schweizer alludes to is that the founding fathers warned society against such follies. In Federalist Papers 57, James Madison states:
"I will add, as a fifth circumstance in the situation of the House of Representatives, restraining themselves from oppressive measures, that they can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of society. This has always been deemed one of the strongest bonds by which human policy can connect the rulers and the people together...."
Unfortunately, politicians seem to reject through their actions the notion that they are on the same legal plane as the masses. It is time we start giving the founding fathers some credit. They thought through the potential rise of a ruling class (as fed 57 suggests). Human nature is timeless and our founders knew this. Hence, they created a government that mitigated the imperfections and power drive of man. This system is contingent, however, on people taking their role as "watchdogs" seriously and ensuring representatives earn their keep. I fear the American people have generally neglected this charge, and Schweizer's brilliant book exposes the corruption that consequently results. It is time to wake up!