Culture of corruption – followup

January 24, 2007

In a previous post, I discussed the fact that the Democrats’ proposed minimum wage increase would exempt American Samoa, a move that would strongly benefit one of the companies in Nancy Pelosi’s district. In response to the backlash caused by this action, Pelosi claimed the following (link via QandO):

"I have asked the education and labor committee as they go forward with the legislation to make sure that all of the territories have to comply with U.S. law on the minimum wage," Mrs. Pelosi said earlier this month.

Let’s see what happened:

The House, however, passed the minimum-wage bill with the American Samoa exemption.

Oops. I guess either Speaker Pelosi’s influence with the committee wasn’t strong enough, or she didn’t push quite as hard as she said she would. Go figure.

UPDATE: In the comments, Cyril points out some information that makes this seem less like a clear-cut case of corruption and more like simple hypocrisy:

Pelosi co-sponsored the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 1999 (and subsequent
bills), all of which had pretty much the same language. But all of
those bills were sponsored BEFORE Del Monte bought StarKist. All of
those bills included a wage hike for the Commonwealth of the Northern
Mariana Islands but not for American Samoa.

This information is similar to that presented in the defense of Pelosi posted by Media Matters. While I don’t believe that it lets the Speaker off the hook, particularly given her statement that she would have this loophole closed, I do believe that it makes it significantly less likely that this was an attempt to reward a company in her district and more likely that it was merely a recognition of the negative effects a minimum wage would have on a Democratic constituency. I still think it is worth looking into, but I am less inclined to believe that there was any sort of quid pro quo here.

 

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10 Responses to “Culture of corruption – followup”


  1. Ah, this again. Okay, let me try and make a few points …

    1) It is documented fact that the company in question (Del Monte) gives most of their political contributions to the GOP.

    2) If this is such a big deal for the Republicans then why weren’t they worried about it in 2005 and 2006? In both of those years they proposed a wage hike and in both cases American Samoa was exempted. It certainly seems odd that all of a sudden this is really important, yet it wasn’t when they proposed their increase.

    3) Pelosi co-sponsored the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 1999 (and subsequent bills), all of which had pretty much the same language. But all of those bills were sponsored BEFORE Del Monte bought StarKist. All of those bills included a wage hike for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands but not for American Samoa.

    As far as I can tell this is something of a non-issue. The Republicans weren’t interested in it until they realized they could make it look like corruption. They weren’t interested in it enough to actually do something about it when they proposed their wage hikes, and all of the news programs seem to be leaving out a lot of important information.

  2. Jake Savage Says:

    Cyril,

    The arguments you’ve made are beside the point. Speaker Pelosi promised that she would have the committee make sure that all territories were included, then they proceeded to pass the bill with the exemption for American Samoa intact. We can argue about all the particulars, including who stands to benefit and whether a minimum wage hike would devastate local economies (as you know, I think the minimum wage is bad just about everywhere), but can you really defend Pelosi’s action in this case given her previous statement?

    Jake


  3. No offense, but I don’t think they are beside the point. The point that the article you linked (and many other articles like it) seem to be saying is that she did this because of the company (Del Monte) that is in her district. That’s the something “fishy” that you speak of. You can argue all you want that you are disgusted that she didn’t do what she said … but that wasn’t the original issue. Look at the clip you had just a few days ago …

    “House Republicans yesterday declared “something fishy” about the major tuna company in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district being exempted from the minimum-wage increase that Democrats approved this week.”

    Note how the outrage was about corruption, that the general claim seemed to have been that she was passing a bill that would benefit Del Monte. Yet, like I said, that company gives most (if not all) of their contributions to the GOP and she had been pressing for this bill since BEFORE the company even bought StarKist. That is NOT beside the point, that IS the point.

    I’m sorry that you are so upset that she said a week ago or so that she would try to get rid of the loophole, but to me it just seems like you are looking to be upset about something. If it’s not the supposed corruption of Del Monte, then it’s that she said something and wasn’t able to deliver.

    Were you this upset when the Republicans tried to raise wages in exactly the same places? It’s it kind of hypocritical to cry foul when one party does it but not care when another party does exactly the same thing?

  4. Jake Savage Says:

    Cyril,

    With all due respect, I think your cry of ‘hypocrisy’ applies to you as well. In your initial response to this story, you argued that no matter Pelosi’s faults, the Republicans had been worse. By your logic above, that is hypocritical, since you won’t accuse Pelosi of what you thought was so awful under the Republicans.

    Then, after looking into it a bit, you brought up Pelosi’s recent statement that she would have the committee make sure the law applied to all territories, believing that this showed her virtue on the issue. Perhaps the initial exemption had just been a mistake.

    Now the facts of the situation demonstrate that her promise to ensure equal application of the law has not been kept (the idea that she was not capable of changing the bill had she really wanted to is laughable). So, you cite her previous intentions to exempt American Samoa as evidence of her consistency. If she had a legitimate policy reason to argue for this exemption, why did she not use that argument rather than lying that she would make sure the exemption was removed?

    Look, I don’t know her motivations and I’m not actually accusing her of corruption, despite what you may think (read all of my comments and posts and you’ll see that I’m merely raising the issue). Maybe she has legitimate reasons for this exemption. But her behavior does lead to questions.

    One of the links in this post suggests that Pelosi’s husband owns stock in Del Monte. Is that enough to suggest corruption to you? Is it enough to say that Northern Mariana is represented by a Republican and American Samoa by a Democrat? I suspect if the situations were reversed it would be plenty for you.

    In any case, I don’t think it’s a big deal. I’m certainly not upset (I expected no better) – rather I’m amused by the strong reaction you have had when your party gets questioned.

    Jake

    As an aside, there are actual reasons to believe that the minimum wage increase would have greater negative effects on the islands than they would in states where the minimum wage is already $5.15 or higher. However, these effects would be smaller, but still significant, in all areas of the country. If American Samoa stands to lose so much from a minimum wage increase, why does the same argument not apply to a lesser degree in the rest of the country?

  5. Jake Savage Says:

    Another side note: I’m quite pleased by some of the earmark reform rules and proposals that have passed in the House and, somewhat, in the Senate. Overall, I think the switch in control of Congress is probably good for the country right now (though once the Democrats get comfortable and if the Republicans go back to their small-government roots, I’ll want it to change back). However, I think the Democrats are no more immune to corruption than the Republicans, and I think we need to hold their feet to the fire to keep them honest.

    Jake


  6. First and foremost, I never said that I was defending her. In fact, neither you nor I knows what happened. You can spend all day guessing, but neither of us were there and we don’t know what went down.

    I will stand by my comments that what the Republicans have done with that region is worse. There are sweatshops in that region that should have been shut down, I find it insulting what Tom Delay has said about that area. However, I don’t think that this is on par with what Pelosi did.

    You seem to feel that you know exactly what is going on in her mind. You say that she’s lying, which may or may not be the case. As I said, I’m not sure what happened, but it’s clear that you know what was going on in her head and that she was lying. I brough up her quote NOT to defend my point, but rather to add to the discussion.

    You are backpeddling, at one point you were accusing her of corruption … which is what I was defending. I agree with you on the broader point, if she “lied” (as you say) then it’s a shame. Like I said before, I’m not defending her (or the party in general), I just felt like there were some issues that were not being addressed. The shoe has been on the other foot … quite a bit, actually, and I wasn’t one of those people that cried corruption without all of the details. Say what you will, but there’s a difference between what I posted (which was further facts against your allegations of corruption) and saying that she did no wrong.


  7. “However, I think the Democrats are no more immune to corruption than the Republicans, and I think we need to hold their feet to the fire to keep them honest.”

    While I would agree with that, I just have to wonder if you were outspoken on the very large issues that plagued the Republicans the past few years. The way it seems is that when there’s even a slight appearance of corruption on the Republicans you pounce on it as if it’s breaking news, yet where were you on the dozens of larger stories that brought Republicans down? There is no shortage of corruption cases going against the Republicans, a few of which are still in power.

  8. Jake Savage Says:

    Perhaps you could name some of these ‘very large issues’ related to corruption you believe make the Republicans so much worse than the Democrats that we should leave the latter off the hook. As I said in a comment on my first post, I do believe that the Republicans got way too comfortable in power and acted in a corrupt manner, or at least a manner that was opposed to the principles they espoused to get into office.

    I have not accused Pelosi of corruption, though I have certainly pointed out that her actions in this case warrant further discussion. You’re exactly right that neither of us knows what happened and why she allowed this exemption to pass despite her statements that she would not. Unlike her Democratic colleague, she wasn’t found with $90,000 in her freezer, so we can’t establish a quid pro quo. I’m not even claiming that there should be an ethics investigation.

    However, she and her party ran under the mantra of ending the ‘culture of corruption’ and then moved forward with a law that excuses a major employer located in her district from the consequences of that law. When questioned about this action, she promised to change it and then did not do so. The fact that you are willing to ignore these circumstances demonstrates either a large amount of trust in her integrity or such a blind hatred of the Republicans that you think their opponents must be better.

  9. Jake Savage Says:

    Look, I don’t mean to antagonize you on this. You’ve made some good arguments in Speaker Pelosi’s defense. Particularly, your suggestion that Pelosi supported a bill with this same exemption before DelMonte bought StarKist is a strong point. It’s still kind of inconsistent to demand a minimum wage for the rest of the country and exempt one Democratic territory, but it may not be as corrupt as it initially appears. However, the main thing that still looks strange to me is Pelosi’s statement that she would have this exemption changed combined with the fact that it was not. As I say above, I think it is ridiculous to suggest that the Speaker of the House would be unable to get that change if it were important to her. Without this aspect, I may be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

  10. Jake Savage Says:

    Cyril,

    After consideration of some of the points you have brought to my attention and some additional research, I have updated my original post. I still don’t think Pelosi is totally blameless in this, but I am willing to accept that there could be many explanations for the initial exemption. Thanks for your dogged determination. I think we still disagree on the importance of Pelosi’s failure to uphold her statement and on the relative corruption of the two parties, but I have to admit you’ve made me reconsider the seriousness of the original charge.

    Jake

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