Sept. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Even before jurors begin deliberating the criminal case against Robert McDonnell, the former Virginia governor, it’s clear that he’s guilty of putting private gain above public service.
That’s not a crime in itself, of course, only a familiar and sad reality of modern-day politics.
Whether McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, get convicted of quid-pro-quo bribery boils down to the relatively mundane question of whether the governor went out of his way to promote the wackadoo-sounding products of businessman Jonnie Williams. What is beyond argument is that Williams showered a breathtaking bounty upon the McDonnell family: vacations, plane tickets, loans totaling $120,000, golf equipment, an engraved Rolex -- even $15,000 to cater their daughter’s wedding.
How in the world did this strike them as appropriate?
As the Washington Post noted in an editorial, “the trial illuminated Mr. McDonnell’s sense of entitlement -- the assumption that he somehow deserved to radically alter and improve his material circumstances simply by virtue of the office he held.”
This is one type of entitlement reform we can all get behind.
Former New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli accepted earrings, a television and a stereo from a friend who claimed the government of North Korea owed him money. (The friend said he also gave the senator suits and other gifts.) Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey accepted two flights to the Dominican Republic on the private plane of a friend, a Florida ophthalmologist who clashed with the U.S. government over Medicare payments. (Menendez eventually wrote a $58,500 check to reimburse him for the flights.)
Former Governor Frank Keating of Oklahoma accepted $250,000 in checks to his family from his “dear and trusted friend,” Jack Dreyfus, the mutual-fund pioneer. Keating gave the money back in 2001, after he disclosed the gifts in his application to be George W. Bush’s vice president.
And though former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens successfully overturned his conviction for failing to report more than $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts, his trial did produce this memorable note to his contractor buddy:
“Thanks for all the work on the chalet. You owe me a bill -- remember Torricelli, my friend. Friendship is one thing -- compliance with these ethics rules entirely different.”
Here’s the truth: for every rocket scientist who runs for public office seeking money for research, every medical doctor who runs for office advocating health-care changes -- not to mention every soldier who runs for office with first-hand experience about the harsh reality of war -- it seems there are a dozen sleek young professional pols who aspire to nothing more than the prestige and perks of winning elections. The pay ain’t great, but hey, “friends” with bulging wallets can help.
True public service shouldn’t have to mean loneliness, just basic sound judgment. Plus there’s always Harry Truman’s advice: If you’re a politician and need a friend, try one with four legs.
Today’s economic indicators lead with Markit’s U.S. PMI at 9:45 a.m., followed by construction spending and ISM manufacturing at 10 a.m.
No earnings of note today.
- Apple is concerned about nude celebrity pics. - JPMorgan sees rise in “stranded capital.” - Libyan militias seize control of Tripoli. - Revel casino closes today in Atlantic City, New Jersey. - Uber faces ban in Germany under court order. - North Carolina couldn’t mess with Texas in luring Toyota. - Fast-food workers plan big protest this week. - Hundreds of political donors have already exceeded the limit on giving that was struck down by Supreme Court. - Unusual betting at three Wimbledon matches among a couple dozen under review for match-fixing in tennis. - Questions remain about online fundraising for Ferguson police officer. - Eric Cantor joins investment bank Moelis & Co. - Four Philadelphia Phillies combine for a no-hitter. - Oakland Raiders tap rookie Derek Carr as starting quarterback. - Nigerian army says it repelled an attack by Boko Haram. - Loaned cats are the new toasters at Russian banks.
You almost want to like the guy.
By now, Angelo Mozilo has been punched, poked and slapped so many times he could probably qualify as a piñata. Rightly or wrongly, his tan visage has become the face of the 2008 financial crisis, for the freewheeling lending style that once made his company, Countrywide Financial, a darling of the stock market. Now Countrywide is mostly in the news for the pain it is inflicting on Bank of America, which bought it in 2008.
With federal prosecutors preparing a civil lawsuit against him -- on top of the $67.5 million accord he reached in 2010 with the Securities and Exchange Commission -- you can imagine that PR types might be urging Mozilo to show some remorse, maybe issue a non-apology apology.
“No, no, no, we didn’t do anything wrong,” Mozilo said in a rare interview, Max Abelson reports today.
As for why some in law enforcement believe he still has wrongs to answer for, he says, “You’ll have to ask those people, ‘What do you have against Mozilo, what did he do?’”
According to the SEC, what he and Countrywide did was write “increasingly risky loans” while assuring investors that the company “was primarily a prime quality mortgage lender that had avoided the excesses of its competitors.”
As the New York Times’ Gretchen Morgenson reminded us recently, Mozilo bragged about his company long after its fall. In a 2010 interview with the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, he said Countrywide, by lending to minority borrowers, “was one of the greatest companies in the history of this country, and probably made more difference to society, to the integrity of our society, than any company in the history of America.”
Abelson reports that Mozilo, 75, still likes real estate. He’s an investor in a building outside Phoenix that houses a Taco Bell and plans to build a two-story commercial building in Templeton, California.
He also helped teach an undergraduate course at Gonzaga University’s campus in Florence, Italy. His topic: “the basics of finance based on my own experiences.”
Branching out into new careers wasn’t exactly a choice for Mozilo. His 2010 settlement with the SEC bars him from serving as an officer or director of a publicly traded company.
Uber’s effort to get out ahead of investigative reporting into its competition-crushing practices didn’t win over everybody.
In “Why Uber Must Be Stopped,” Salon.com writer Andrew Leonard says Uber’s tactics against competitor Lyft are worthy of historic comparisons.
“There’s little doubt that Uber is the closest thing we’ve got today to the living, breathing essence of unrestrained capitalism,” he writes. “This is like watching Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockefeller in action. This is how robber barons play.”
On Aug. 26, the ride-sharing service released information on its “Operation Slog,” its uber-clever acronym for “Supplying Long-term Operations Growth.” While lamenting what it called “a lot of misinformation” about its driver-recruitment efforts, Uber didn’t directly address whether booking rides to recruit Lyft drivers, then canceling the rides if the driver has already said no, is part of the playbook.
Uber, of course, has challenges on many fronts, not least in Germany, where a few hours ago a judge imposed a nationwide ban in a challenge brought by taxi drivers.
We’re getting to see what “disruptive” really means.
In Major League Baseball, 100 pitches has become the standard threshold for what one arm can safely be expected to throw in one game. In the Little League World Series, featuring players 11 to 13 years of age, coaches make intricate personnel decisions based on an 85-pitch daily limit and mandatory days of rest between pitching appearances.
And then there’s Japanese high-school baseball.
In a game that’s rapidly assuming a well-deserved mythic status on the Internet, Chukyo High School broke a scoreless tie in the top of the 50th inning -- that’s not a typo -- to defeat Sotoku High School, 3-0.
The game took four days, stopping and restarting to allow, one imagines, for a bit of refreshment and sleep. Neither team changed pitchers, so the loser, Jukiya Ishioka, threw 689 pitches over four days, while the winner, Taiga Matsui, threw 709.
This was part of Japan’s National High School Rubber Baseball Tournament, and that word “rubber” is important. Kenny DeJohn writes at bleacherreport.com, “Throwing a rubber ball generally creates less stress on one’s arm, but that doesn’t lessen how impressive (or mildly horrifying) it is that these high schoolers combined for nearly 1,400 pitches.”
The win, finally sealed on the morning of Aug. 31, put Chukyo in the championship game, which took place that afternoon. According to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, Matsui -- he of the 709 pitches -- was brought in as a relief pitcher in the fourth inning and finished the game as his team won the title.
See any good movies this summer?
That’s a trick question. The film industry “finished the worst summer for ticket sales since 2006,” Anousha Sakoui and John Detrixhe report.
Think how bad it would have been without “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The superhero movie from Walt Disney’s Marvel studio finished the Labor Day weekend atop U.S. and Canadian theater sales and is the biggest film in the U.S. this year. (The biggest worldwide is “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”)
Question for Hollywood:
Will we see any good movies this fall?
Oh tennis, you crazy late-night party.
In a match that stretched to 2:26 a.m., Kei Nishikori defeated Milos Raonic of Canada to become the first Japanese man to reach the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open since 1922. Oddly, two other men's matches, in 2012 and 1993, also ended at 2:26 a.m., meaning there's now a three-way tie for latest ending at Flushing Meadows.
Joining Nishikori in the final eight will be top seed Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka. The other four spots will be filled today, with five-time champion Roger Federer among the hopefuls.
Like Djokovic, women's top seed Serena Williams cruised into the quarterfinals without dropping a set in the first week of play. She'll face Flavia Pennetta. Women's quarterfinal play begins today with Caroline Wozniacki facing Sara Errani, and Belinda Bencic playing Peng Shuai. Also in the women's quarterfinals are Ekaterina Makarova and Victoria Azarenka.
To contact the reporter on this story: Laurence Arnold in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Marty Schenker at email@example.com