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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Teflon Pete

by digby

Representative Pete Sessions was very adamant about passing the bankruptcy reform bill and he told everyone in the house the reasons why:

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today that this House will have the opportunity to once again during the 108th Congress consider and send to the Senate much-needed bankruptcy reform legislation under this fair rule. I am proud of the tireless efforts on behalf of many Members and their staffs, who have put in countless hours towards the passage of this legislation over the last four Congresses.

Their efforts allow us today to again urge Senate action to ensure that our Nation's bankruptcy laws operate fairly, efficiently, and free of abuse. Congress has the opportunity to once again end, once and for all, the loophole to debtors who are able to repay some portion of their debts to game the system and increase the cost of credit, goods and services for other law-abiding citizens. Between 2002 and 2003, the Federal court system reported that there was a 9.6 percent increase in bankruptcy filings to over 1.650 million filings, and these filings have a real cost not only to every consumer but also to simple, everyday Americans.

In 1998, debtors who filed for bankruptcy relief discharged more than $44 billion of debt. When amortizing on a daily basis, this amounts to a loss of at least $110 million every day; or put more simply, bankruptcies cost each American family that pays their bills on time $450 a year in the form of higher costs for credit, goods and services. As the other body continues to stall on this legislation to protect the system from further abuse, these numbers and totals only continue to mount.

It has been estimated that if current practices continue, one out of every seven households will have filed for bankruptcy by the end of this decade, with many of these losses as a result of the misuse of the law by irresponsible, high-income filers. The Credit Union National Association, known as CUNA, reported last year that credit unions have lost nearly $3 billion from bankruptcies since Congress began considering bankruptcy reform legislation in 1998.

This bill is crafted to ensure the debtor's right to a fresh start while protecting the system from flagrant abusers by those who can, should, and, we believe, will be paying their own bills. Bankruptcy should not be a convenience or just another financial planning tool, and this legislation will ensure that it will remain a safety net for those who genuinely need it while trying to prevent bad actors from imposing their costs on everyone else.

Stirring words, I'm sure you'll agree. But apparently these calls to protect business from fraud are meant for losers and Democrats, not good Republican friends of Pete's:

In the first day of September last year, Congressman Pete Sessions was in a place no congressman would want to be: sitting in a conference room with a pack of divorce lawyers, describing how a longtime friend and campaign contributor shuffled assets while trying to avoid a $1.4 million judgment in a stock fraud case.

The Dallas Republican’s friend and donor—69-year-old Ahron Katz—had begun transferring assets to his wife Lucia shortly after the judgment. The transfers were done, Sessions knew, with the understanding that when the legal storm blew over, she would give them back. When the fraud case was settled 10 months later, Lucia Katz thanked her husband for his generous gifts of real estate, cash, and securities, and decided it would be bad manners to return them.

When the marriage ended up in a Collin County divorce court, the congressman found himself in the odd position of providing testimony about his knowledge of the transferred assets. First, in a sworn affidavit, Sessions recounted a telephone conversation in which the Katzes described their scheme to him: “The intent expressed to me was that both understood that it was clearly never intended by Ahron to gift this property to Lucia and Lucia clearly understood this.”

Later, in the September deposition, Sessions reiterated that the whole arrangement had been a ploy to fend off the creditors: “I think they were trying to find a way to hide and move those assets,” the congressman said under oath.

Read more at the link about the ethically challenged Sessions and then come back and tell me again how I'm being shrill and hyperbolic when I make the generalization that Republican politicians are crooks. They break laws and do unethical things even when it doesn't benefit them directly --- just because that's the way their system works.

They simply don't believe that the rules apply to rich and powerful people. Read his words once more about that bankruptcy legislation which it more difficult for families without health insurance to recover from massive, obscene medical bills when they had a health crisis. Then look again at the sanctimonious gasbag complaining about business being defrauded, which apparently is only a problem if it isn't one of his rich friends doing it, since he admits under oath that this contributor and his wife were hiding their assets from creditors.

This is just one guy. But those who fail to rein them in, who refuse to distance themselves from this --- particularly the so-called religious right, who also worship big bucks --- are aiding and abetting. The fact is that there are so damned many of the that I don't know why we should avoid making the sweeping generalization that the GOP is basically a racket. It makes sense when you think about it: their swaggering rhetoric that says you're a dupe if you pay taxes and calls government the enemy would naturally draw the kind of political leader who literally believes that the rules don't apply to him.

H/T to BB