How the business community works in New York

Last week Governor Cuomo was joined by John Mack and Leslie Whatley to launch Start-Up NY, which will create zones around universities where businesses can locate tax-free for 10 years. Mack, formerly CEO and chairman and currently senior advisor of Morgan Stanley, will be an advisor to the governor and to Empire State Development’s board on the program. Whatley, formerly global head of corporate real estate at Morgan Stanley, will be running the program as executive vice president.

Why did Cuomo appoint Whatley and Mack to these new positions? From Crain’s New York Business:

The governor said that when he spoke to Ms. Whatley, the former head of global real estate at Morgan Stanley and previously JPMorgan Chase, about running the program, she said, “I know nothing about government,” and he replied, “Exactly. You’re hired.”

The governor explained his reasoning: “This is not about how government works; this is about how the business community works.”

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Testimonies on transparency: House Intel Committee weighs FISA changes with two panels

Today the House Intelligence Committee will address “Potential Changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)” which would include efforts to increase transparency. The opening hearing with be comprised of two panels. On the first, the usual suspects (household names by now): Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper; DOJ Deputy Attorney General, James Cole; NSA Director, General Keith Alexander; and NSA Deputy Director, Chris Inglis. The second panel is less well-known so I’d like to take a moment before the committee convenes to consider their perspectives.

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LittleSis is here to help!

We are excited to roll out a new, comprehensive help center to guide our users as they add, edit and analyze data on LittleSis. We have added lots of documentation, as well as a simple layout and a search bar that makes it quick and easy for beginner and advanced analysts to find the information they’re looking for.

Our community of users is the lifeblood of LittleSis. We wouldn’t have over 640,000 relationships among the power elite documented on the site without all of you! That’s why we decided to revamp our help pages and make it easier than ever to map power networks on LittleSis.

  • Joining us for the first time? The help center can get you started adding and editing content.
  • Ready to take your analysis to the next level? Learn how to use our advanced features in the help center.
  • Got stuck before? Give it another shot with the help center at your side!

Check it out now or read on to learn more about some of the new features.

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Petraeus joins pro-fracking choir at Harvard’s Belfer Center

Harvard University announced this week that Gen. David Petraeus, former director of the CIA and current chair of private equity giant KKR’s global institute, has been appointed as a non-resident senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a unit of the university’s Kennedy School of Government. According to the school’s press release, Petraeus will be jointly leading a Belfer Center project on “The Coming North America Decades,” which shares the name with the course he is currently teaching at the City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College. As DeSmogBlog revealed this summer, Petraeus’s imminent “North American decades” will be partially attributable to the embrace of hydraulic fracturing and the exportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG); among the required readings for his course at Macaulay are two industry-funded studies endorsing natural gas as safe for the environment.

Petraeus’s enthusiasm for natural gas gels nicely with his position at KKR, which was the subject of a Forbes article titled “Guess Who’s Fueling the Fracking Boom?” last year thanks to its massive investments in shale gas companies over the past several years. His voice also is a natural fit at the Belfer Center, which has extensive ties to the oil and gas industry and is home to the BP-funded Geopolitics of Energy Project.

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JPMorgan negotiates through the revolving door

It is quickly becoming clear that JPMorgan’s tentative $13 billion settlement with the Department of Justice is not the massive, overly-punitive sanction that some press reports have made it out to be. The weaknesses in the deal may be explained in part by the fact that in arranging the settlement, JPMorgan was negotiating through the revolving door.

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Roundup: Military industrial pundits, Heinz Endowments, and more!

Last week PAI Director Kevin Connor joined Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! to discuss our latest report on defense industry ties to the Syria debate. The Military Industrial Pundits segment opened with a series of clips of several military analysts we reviewed in our report being introduced under their former titles.

On October 16th he joined Ahmed Shihab-Eldin on HuffPost Live with guests Tara Maller from the New America Foundation and freelance journalist Rania Abouzeid to discuss the report and debate the nature of conflicts of interest.

These media appearances followed a stream of press from the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Politico. The Washington Post‘s coverage of the report prompted their editorial page editor Fred Hiatt to defend his own failure to disclose Stephen Hadley’s ties to defense industry titan Raytheon.

The report also received a warm twitter reception including some tweets from PAI favorites Spies for Hire author Tim Shorrock and Pulitzer prize-winning conflict journalist C.J. Chivers:

 

 

Glenn Greenwald weighed in on Fred Hiatt’s dismissive quote in the Washington Post:

 

Our June report on the Center for Sustainable Shale Development was back in the news with the abrupt resignation of Heinz Endowments president Robert F. Vagt. The report, “Big Green Fracking Machine,” revealed Vagt’s ties to natural gas pipeline company, Kinder Morgan. Bill Zlatos of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review alluded to the report as causing a stir but did not specify the reasons behind Vagt’s resignation.

Finally, the Eyes on the Ties blog tackled an array of interesting questions:

In Colorado, “grassroots” pro-fracking groups hire former legislator to campaign against moratoria

This week the Denver Post reported that according to campaign filings, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), an industry trade group, has spent more than $600,000 to defeat local fracking moratoria along the front range of the Rockies, donating to a number of groups with names such as Boulder Citizens for Rational Energy Decisions and Lafayette Campaign for Energy Choice.

Though they have the appearance of grassroots citizens’ campaigns, the groups appear to be part of a coordinated industry effort to defeat ballot initiatives in Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins, and Lafayette that would enact a five-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in each of the municipalities. Thanks to the money from COGA, the pro-fracking groups are poised to outspend groups supporting the moratoria 30-1. Most of that money has gone to iKue Strategies, a Denver consulting firm for which B.J. Nikkel, a former Colorado legislator, is advising the campaign.

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For Tomahawk missiles, image is everything

Last week PAI released a new report detailing the defense industry ties of analysts and think tanks who commented on military intervention in Syria. The report profiled 22 commentators and seven think tanks, paying special attention to Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to George W. Bush, who now serves as a director for Raytheon, the weapons manufacturer that makes the Tomahawk cruise missiles that were widely cited as a weapon of choice in a potential strike in Syria.

Through the seemingly endless and redundant debates around intervention in Syria the Tomahawk cruise missile enjoyed a level of media attention that would strike envy in the heart of any high-profile Washington hawk.

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Oh, what a tangled web CCA weaves

Last week hundreds of people gathered in Arizona to protest record-high levels of deportations from the US this year.  Activists shut down Operation Streamline by chaining themselves to buses carrying detainees and to the Eloy Detention Center entrance, where detainees are held.  Operation Streamline is a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy that requires undocumented immigrants to be arrested and then deported.

The activists are demanding action from President Obama, who has executive power to stop deportations, and Congress. Comprehensive immigration reform was assembled by the bipartisan Gang of 8 and passed in the Senate but has stalled in the House. Obama said Tuesday that immigration is his top priority after the shutdown is resolved.

ICE contracts with Corrections Corporation of America to run Eloy in Arizona.  According to CCA’s 2012 Annual Report, the company earned $752 million from its federal government contracts (including ICE, the Bureau of Prisons and the US Marshals Service) that year, constituting 43% of its total income.

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Dudley’s daybook goes dark

In the wake of a report from ProPublica that the New York Fed fired a senior bank examiner for challenging inadequacies in Goldman Sachs’ management of conflict of interests, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the daily schedules of the New York Fed’s president, William Dudley, a Goldman alum.

Dudley spent two decades at Goldman Sachs before joining the New York Fed, so he was steeped in the ways of the bank, which apparently include a systematic, almost absurd disregard for conflict of interest monitoring and management. According to the ProPublica article, Goldman has no firm-wide conflict of interest policy. One Goldman unit instructs employees not to write down their conflicts. The bank’s conflict of interest unit is the same as its business selection unit, a bizarre structure that almost seems designed to encourage conflicts. The head of this unit does not see it as serving any compliance function. Carmen Segarra, the bank examiner who was fired, suggested that Goldman executives could not even demonstrate a basic understanding of what a conflict of interest is.

Was the New York Federal Reserve conflict of interest training enough to help Dudley overcome years of learning the Goldman way? Had he really avoided any awareness or involvement in the Segarra situation? These are hard questions to answer, and answers are unlikely to surface in any documents (the Goldman way: don’t write it down). A New York Fed spokesperson told ProPublica that Dudley was not involved in firing Segarra. But Dudley’s calendar might reveal that he had had meetings with Goldman executives during the whole saga, which would be interesting and would probably look bad for Dudley (though it would not be proof of his involvement).

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