Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends
a book by Peter Schweizer
(our site's book review)
The Amazon blurb says that From the New York Times bestselling author of Clinton Cash comes an explosive new political expose!
Peter Schweizer is the author of, among other books, Clinton Cash, Extortion, Throw Them All Out, and Architects of Ruin. He has been featured throughout the media, including on 60 Minutes and in the New York Times. He is the cofounder and president of the Government Accountability Institute, a team of investigative researchers and journalists committed to exposing crony capitalism, misuse of taxpayer monies, and other governmental corruption or malfeasance. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.
The Government Accountability Institute (GAI) is a conservative nonprofit investigative research organization. GAI was founded in 2012 by Peter Schweizer and Stephen Bannon with funding from Robert Mercer and family and big donations come in from Mercer and the Koch brothers.
Polls revealed that three out of four Americans believe that there is “widespread government corruption” in Washington, and perhaps the holdouts are not paying attention. See
- Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom, and Security
- The Corruption Chronicles: Obama's Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government
- Nation on the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy and What We Can Do About It
- Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic
Schweizer knows how to follow the money, using financial disclosures required by law
Schweizer knows how to follow the money, using financial disclosures required by law. As he tells it, "the corruption by proxy that is the subject of this book is far more troubling and difficult to detect. Because the transactions involved do not fall under disclosure laws, they are invisible or, at least, hidden from public scrutiny. Financial deals channeled through politicians’ family members do not require disclosure. Identifying deals and the parties involved takes intense research. These transactions nevertheless make good money for a politician and his family and friends. Politicians are constitutionally obligated to make decisions that are best for the people they serve. These deals direct the politician’s loyalty elsewhere."
We are used to the typical 'revolving door' corruption where government officials will carry out policies and then, after leaving office, take a job from those who benefited
The author says "We are used to the typical 'revolving door' corruption where government officials will carry out policies and then, after leaving office, take a job from those who benefited. But with most of the deals covered in this book, these politicians do not wait until they leave office. The accumulation begins while they are still serving. Rather than personal accumulation, the wealth flows to someone who is important in their life—a child, another family member, or a close friend. Those relatives are not required to disclose publicly how much money they are making or from whom. It is a pernicious form of what I call corruption by proxy."
Schweizer tells us about multibillion-dollar equity deals done in the dark corners of the world that get put into family members’ bank accounts. George Washington Plunkitt, a man that participated in running the corrupt Tammany machine*, explained that often what was called honest (legal) forms of corruption were more profitable than the illegal forms. According to Plunkitt, “There is so much [honest graft] in this big town that they would be fools to go in for dishonest graft.”
The New York political machine of Tammany Hall controlled politics through corruption and patronage
*The New York political machine of Tammany Hall controlled politics through corruption and patronage, but also how it helped poor immigrant communities in the late nineteenth century. As Tammany Hall degenerated into a power-hungry greed machine, its members looked to local gangs as "enforcers." Intent on having their favored candidates win elections, Tammany politicians dispatched gang members to polling places.
The author says "In the world of finance, everyone understands the subterfuge of 'offshore' assets. Corporations and high-net-worth individuals stuff their assets and money into obscure limited liability companies or bank accounts in places like Panama, Belize, and Cyprus. By doing so, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to map out their transactions. Some do it to avoid taxes. Others try to obscure how and with whom they do business."
The results of the various ethics crackdowns since the 1960s is that politicians have been required to disclose their income, assets, and financial transactions, and also the income, assets, and financial transactions of their spouses. But their kids are a different matter: failing to report big paydays engineered for one's children is not against any law, even though if an elected official performs an act for someone’s benefit and that someone provides a benefit to their family or close friend—it is still illegal and it is considered a bribe. Politician’s policy actions can be designed specifically for this purpose. (It really makes one wonder if this is related to Trump's nepotistic policy of surrounding himself with his kids in his job.) Schweizer likes to call this corruption by proxy. These relatives easily serve as legal conduits or middle men between those seeking influence and those who possess political power. It's almost as if the legislators left themselves legal loopholes to circumvent the laws.
European kings would marry off their sons and daughters to rivals or competitors, as a way of accumulating power and wealth
Another way to bribe or influence has been going on for centuries: European kings would marry off their sons and daughters to rivals or competitors, as a way of accumulating power and wealth. And in the United States, the great industrialists of the 1800s often married their daughters off to powerful politicians so they could literally be wedded to power in Washington, D.C. Many foreign oligarchs are eager to “marry” into powerful American political families via lucrative financial arrangements, thereby leveraging their access to the highest reaches of political power. See Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Still Benefiting From Business Empire, Filings Show.
The alliance of American political family members with foreign powers is a relatively new phenomenon in the United States. Widowed first lady Jacqueline Kennedy decided to marry Aristotle Onassis in 1968. Onassis was merely a friend. But after the June 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy hit her as a second trauma, she believed that Onassis’ wealth could provide security for her and her young children, Caroline and John Jr. She said Onassis is “lonely and wants to protect me from being lonely. And he is wise and kind. Only I can decide if I can [marry Onassis], and I decided." Jackie wanted safety and security, and with Kennedys dropping like flies all around her, who can blame her? Far from leveraging her access to the highest reaches of political power, she sought the type of security only great wealth can provide. As we can see, purposefully marrying into wealth can have many motives.
In Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends, many of the deals discussed involve Chinese state-owned companies doing deals with family members of America’s most senior politicians. China uses a strategy with other countries to make friends with foreign officials and politicians to further their own interests. The problem Schweizer sees is not commercial deals with China per se. He believes that business and trade relationships between American and Chinese firms are healthy. The problem is commercial and financial deals between Chinese government entities and the families of American politicians. Schweizer sees these sorts of deals as sophisticated payoffs or even bribes.
Chinese Princelings (the children of powerful political figures go into business and profit handsomely, underwritten by Chinese government entities)
Our mainstream media has run many stories on the Chinese Princelings (the children of powerful political figures go into business and profit handsomely, underwritten by Chinese government entities). Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends reveals that American Princelings are the sons, daughters, siblings, and closest friends of America’s most powerful political figures—presidents, vice presidents, cabinet officials, senators, and congressmen—who have accrued financial benefits because of the political power that their parents, family, or friends wield. America’s political elites are ethically obligated not to focus their loyalty and obligations on their kids’ financial interests, or the family financial “empire,” over the loyalty they owe to their country.
Foreign governments who cultivate commercial ties directly with our politicians and their families have realized that hiring armies of lobbyists and government-relations operatives to get what they want from Washington is a more efficient investment than "negotiations." Globalization has transformed the world economy, as everyone knows, but it has also “both exposed and accelerated corruption,” as noted by Laurence Cockcroft in his book Global Corruption.
Cronyism is defined as the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications. Smash and grab is an effective form of cronyism because, as with Princelings, it is by proxy and thus hard to track. Our government has smashed a variety of industries for apparently benevolent reasons, and then accomplices swoop in and buy up those industries for pennies on the dollar. Smash and grab generates wealth for the close friends of politicians by first destroying someone else’s wealth. It epitomizes win-lose.
When Joe Biden ran for office, he flung campaign money toward his family members. By 2008, Biden’s campaigns had paid more than $2 million to family members and their businesses. But he is merely one example.
"The astonishing widespread massive corruption of some of the biggest names in American politics that Peter Schweizer reveals in his new blockbuster expose is shocking, startling, stunning — and sickening. . . . Our national media can be expected to do all in its power to suppress the possibility of any uproar — even when the corruption is this vast. It’s what they’re best at — covering up their own malfeasance and protecting politicians with whose ideology they’ve allied themselves. One of the biggest scandals in American history was swirling around us. Leading U.S. government figures were embracing corruption. Foreign governments were colluding with American sleazes to hurt our country. Family and friends of these key political figures conspired as middlemen between foreign interests seeking influence and these enormously influential U.S. government officials. Yet not one of the country’s best-known, most-acclaimed, highest-paid members of the major media noticed the corruption . . ." (Source: The corruption occurring before their very eyes, Fred J. Eckert, Washington Times)
[the book] ". . . shows that the Obama administration and its cronies were up to their necks in questionable business deals and may even have intentionally distorted public policy to accommodate their own profit-making. . . . Let’s remind ourselves of Schweizer’s most recent history. He co-founded the Government Accountability Institute with Steve Bannon and financing from Robert Mercer. . . . Peter Schweizer knows better. This is nothing short of an attempt to distract us all from how Donald Trump and Republicans continue to exploit the working people of this country for their own political and financial gain. He and his pal Steve Bannon assume that this will give fuel to the mainstream media’s love affair with both siderism. So far, it’s not working. Schweizer’s book is literally lighting up right-wing news sites. But this time, even the New York Times doesn’t seem to be buying it. His claims are so absurd that perhaps people are finally beginning to see him for the propagandist he’s always been." (Source: This Time Peter Schweizer Went Too Far, Even for the New York Times, Nancy LeTourneau, Washington Monthly)
As you can see, opinions vary widely regarding the value of Peter Schweizer's tome. His connection to Steve Bannon was a surprise, but common sense tells us he will make his book(s) more of a hit piece on the Democrats than a hit piece on the Republicans.
However, the claims about Obama's corruption were corroborated by many sources:
- How Obama Betrayed America....And No One Is Holding Him Accountable
- The Corruption Chronicles: Obama's Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government
- Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington
- The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama
- The Left in Power: Clinton to Obama: Black Book of the American Left: Volume VII
- Obama's Enemies List: How Barack Obama Intimidated America and Stole the Election
Obama wants you to believe I AM NOT A CROOK, but you know better!
On the other hand, so were Nancy LeTourneau's assertions about Donald Trump:
- It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America
- No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need
- The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy
- One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported
- Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic
Trump wants you to respect his authoritah, but patriotic Americans want him to stop wrecking our democracy
"Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends, the new book from the Clinton Cash and Throw Them All Out author, details myriad examples of corruption from members of both major political parties. Rather than focusing on direct forms of corruption, such as bribes, Schweizer homes in on the more indirect graft of the modern era. Current ethics laws create a zero accountability zone for the Washington, D.C., political class. Rather than risk their careers taking bribes for potentially minuscule rewards, Schweizer points out how today’s politicians are savvier, engaging in what he calls 'corruption by proxy.'" (Source: How McConnell and Chao used political power to make their family rich, Larry Getlen, NY Post)
in Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends, Schweizer gives a thorough accounting on how cronyism and corruption by proxy take center stage in politicians' attempts to enrich themselves and their families, often at the expense of the country they are ethically bound to represent. Essential reading for corruption researchers.
Listen carefully—you can almost hear them counting their bribe money