Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Tea Party and RICO

Having fulfilled their purpose of dumping the vulnerable US economy back into the toilet of recession, the Tea Party wing of the GOP has a final job: to flush it using the president as a commode handle. However, in bragging about it as some kind of ideological triumph, they admit ownership of creating a lucrative opportunity for profiteers to engage in short-selling the United States. As Republican sympathizers and media pundits attempt to divert public attention almost apologetically for this blatant racketeering, the Republican Tea Party members have breached their Congressional oath of office knowing that they cannot be impeached nor be recalled. But they are not above the law. It is called RICO.

“We're going to make sure Barack Obama is a one-term president!” Michele Bachmann (R-MN) proudly exclaimed in Iowa. Next to an actual default, which she sought to enable by voting against raising the debt ceiling four times, the founder of the Tea Party Caucus and declared presidential candidate tells her audience that Standard & Poor's lowering America's bond rating from AAA to AA+ is a triumph. "What we saw last week is the markets agreed with me," Bachmann proclaimed. "It [US bond rating] was lowered for the first time in American history!"

Put another way, the way to defeat the incumbent president is by manipulating the market and then blaming the administration.

Earlier this year, the new Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told the 87 freshmen who had given the GOP control of the House, “I’m asking you to look at a potential increase in the debt limit as a leverage moment when the White House and President Obama will have to deal with us.” Having recently received money and support, they listened as their leader told them, “Either we stick together and demonstrate that we’re a team that will fight for and stand by our principles, or we will lose that leverage.” As CNN reported, the message from Cantor to House Republicans was "to stop grumbling and whining and to come together as conservatives and rally behind the speaker and call the president's bluff."

They stuck together and refused to compromise on ending tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Put another way, the way to gain power is through extortion.

That may all look and sound merely political, but it is not. The behavior has less to do with proclamations about ideology and principal than it does about money. In this regard there is an argument that has not yet been made. That argument is that allegedly these Tea Party Representatives in Congress have deliberately conspired to devalue the US credit for political and/or personal benefit. Whether it has to do with preparation for an election or not, allegedly they have knowingly or otherwise been party to committing the following actions punishable under the RICO Act: securities fraud, obstruction of justice and extortion.

Originally written to go after the Mafia in 1970, Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act [Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1961-1968]. However, RICO is almost never applied to the Mafia today. RICO is applied to individuals and businesses. In addition to criminal claims, Section 1964(c) of the RICO Act allows civil claims to be brought by any person injured by reason of a RICO violation. Tea Party members of Congress are not immune.

Their behavior looks like that of racketeers. As such they could be seen as an ongoing criminal organization subject to the federal law (RICO) that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action that focuses specifically on racketeering and allows for the leaders of a syndicate, such as the Tea Party appears to be, to be tried for the alleged crimes which they ordered and assisted. Violations of the RICO laws can be alleged in civil lawsuit cases. It is important to bear in mind that a RICO-related charge focuses on patterns of behavior as opposed to criminal acts. Additionally, a civil RICO action can be filed in state or federal court. Both the federal and civil components allow for the recovery of triple the amount of actual and compensatory damages.

Look at the provision for private parties to sue. For example, stock holders whose stocks lost value can be considered as a "person damaged in his business or property." They can sue one or more "racketeers", Tea Party members. As plaintiffs, the stock holders, including people with 401(k)s must prove the existence of an "enterprise", that they are victims of the racketeers. What needs to be shown is that the defendants conducted or participated in the affairs of the enterprise "through" the pattern of racketeering activity.

The crimes punishable under the RICO Act alleged here are securities fraud, obstruction of justice and extortion.

Tea Party members committed securities fraud in several ways. They made and publicized misstatements on the financial report of United States and the US debt as elected public officials. That resulted in driving down stock prices. As a stock manipulation scheme, that allowed for insider trading. Those fraudulent schemes that have been perpetrated in the securities and commodities markets can ultimately have a devastating impact on the viability and operation of those markets at home and abroad, which is what Tea Party Representative Bachmann bragged about in Iowa.

Tea Party members have obstructed justice by interfering with the work of other government officials, such as the Secretary of the Treasury and members of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Obstruction can include crimes committed by elected officials. In this regard, they were aware that their actions could manipulate markets for the purpose of financial gain of others or themselves. It was obstruction of justice that the House used to impeach President Clinton and brought about President Nixon’s resignation from office.

Tea Party members, as elected government officials, have practiced extortion under color of authority. That includes false pretenses, like Cantor’s charge to stick together and “demonstrate that we’re a team that will fight for and stand by our principles.” Their extortion has included promises and representations as well as the deprivation of the right of citizens to the honest services of their elected officials. While extortion is more commonly practiced by and associated with organized crime groups, it is defined as a criminal offence which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.

There is no excuse for the Tea Party members of Congress deliberate effort to drive down the credit worthiness of the United States, let alone to do as elected public officials. There is no defense for participating in actions by which people can make money on the resultant market manipulation which is unfolding. That their pattern of behavior has hurt both investors and consumers in the false claim of principal is calumny. Seeking the political defeat of the president by purposely trashing the US economy is criminal.

The administration may feel its hands tied and not unleash the Justice Department to prosecute the alleged criminal activity, but that does not prevent the private sector from bringing these seeming racketeers to justice severally and jointly. The harm that has been perpetrated by the Tea Party cannot be justified. Both criminal and civil litigation under RICO can at least marginalize the Tea Party’s willful and destructive influence in Congress and defeat its members.

They are not above the law.

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Article first published as The Tea Party and RICO on Technorati.

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