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Archive for October 18th, 2010

Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner is an expert on corruption and sleaze inside the beltway, and his column this morning is a perfect example. He shows how corrupt insiders in Alaska use something known as the “Rent-an-Eskimo” scam to pull in hundreds of millions of tax dollars from no-bid federal contracts. These insiders, meanwhile, steers big bucks to Washington lobbyists (almost all of whom worked for politicians like Lisa Murkowski), who then provide campaign cash to the corrupt officials who pass the laws that enable the circle of graft to continue. Here are some key passages from Tim’s column.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write-in candidacy is being funded by $100,000 contributions from a handful of Alaska corporations that have been handsomely subsidized by the federal government. These six-figure donors have pulled in billions of taxpayer dollars thanks to special legislative favors from Murkowski and her mentors — the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R), and Lisa’s father, former senator and governor, Frank Murkowski (R). …In late September AST took in $800,000 from nine Alaska Native Corporations — unique, privileged, and politically connected for-profit entities created in the 1970s by legislation written by Stevens.  While the companies are technically owned by the natives, the taxpayer-funded spoils from these contracts accrue to the well-connected nonnative lobbyists, subcontractors, and executives in the “Alaska mafia” made up of aides, friends and donors of Stevens, the Murkowskis, and Rep. Don Young (R). Meanwhile the 130,000 Alaska Natives, who are shareholders in the ANCs, have received $720 million over the last nine years, which comes to $615 per native annually. In effect, the natives are unwitting frontmen for this racket. Critics on Capitol Hill say this is worse than Jack Abramoff’s exploitation of Indian tribes, and, in a dark joke, dub the ANCs with the politically incorrect name “rent-an-Eskimo. …These multimillion-dollar (in some cases billion-dollar) corporations are exempt from competition requirements that cover most federal contracts because they are automatically treated as small businesses from socially and economically disadvantaged populations — although their success in pulling in federal contracts would suggest otherwise. …These overpriced no-bid contracts aren’t welfare for poor natives as much as they are patronage for politically connected lobbyists and executives, most of whom are not natives. …The ANCs highlight the truly corrupt aspect of pork-barrel spending, especially in Alaska. “Bringing home the bacon” is not simply about transferring wealth north from the Lower 48 — it’s often about using taxpayer money to line the pockets of the politically connected, who return the favor in the form of campaign contributions. Much of the pork doesn’t make it all the way to Alaska — it stays right here on K Street.

This is just one example of how big government creates a breeding ground for corruption. The circle of graft is Washington’s version of recycling. Money gets taken from taxpayers and then winds up getting passed back and forth among special interests, lobbyists, and politicians. This video provides more of the sordid details.

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 I’m finally back in Washington after a week in Australia for the Mont Pelerin Society general meeting. Aussies are great people, but their government is just as misguided as the one we’re burdened with here in America. A friend took this pic of me on a visit to Manly Beach. You may notice a similarity to this other photo (though the Australian sign has not been changed to reflect truth-in-advertising).

Moreover, it also appears that the Australian Tax Office is just as odious as our internal revenue service. One of the Aussies at the Mont Pelerin meeting told me that his nation’s tax police were going to investigate a bunch of people because…drum roll, please…they purchased hail-damaged cars at an auction.

Yes, you read right. Being a frugal shopper and looking for bargains apparently is seen as behavior that cries out for harassment by the tax man. I expressed some skepticism when told this story, but the Aussie sent me a link to a story that ran in the West Australian. Here’s an excerpt.

Tens of thousands of Perth residents who bought a new car after the March hailstorm face a new danger – a close examination of their tax details. The Australian Taxation Office revealed yesterday it was expanding its data matching program to take in cars worth more than $10,000 that were sold, transferred or newly registered between July 1 last year and June 30 this year. Tax commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo said…”In the past our motor vehicle data matches focused on luxury cars, but the net is now being cast much wider,” he said. “We’re looking to identify businesses that sell vehicles and fail to report or under-report those sales. “We’re also looking at whether a person’s income was not sufficient to support the purchase of the vehicle. …Car sales in Perth went through the roof after the March 22 storm when many hail-damaged vehicles were written off by insurance companies. WA car sales hit an all time high of almost 12,000 in April, a jump of 29 per cent on March, as drivers rushed to buy a replacement vehicle. Almost every one of those purchases will fall under the ATO’s watch.

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