The Words "Conflict Of Interest" Come To Mind

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on July 1, 2009

This is what happens when you allow government to get a toehold in private business:

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye’s staff contacted federal regulators last fall to ask about the bailout application of an ailing Hawaii bank that he had helped to establish and where he has invested the bulk of his personal wealth.

The bank, Central Pacific Financial, was an unlikely candidate for a program designed by the Treasury Department to bolster healthy banks. The firm’s losses were depleting its capital reserves. Its primary regulator, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., already had decided that it didn’t meet the criteria for receiving a favorable recommendation and had forwarded the application to a council that reviewed marginal cases, according to agency documents.

Two weeks after the inquiry from Inouye’s office, Central Pacific announced that the Treasury would inject $135 million.

Many lawmakers have worked to help home-state banks get federal money since the Treasury announced in October that it would invest up to $250 billion in healthy financial firms. But the Inouye inquiry stands apart because of the senator’s ties to Central Pacific. While at least 33 senators own shares in banks that got federal aid, a review of financial disclosures and records obtained from regulatory agencies shows no other instance of the office of a senator intervening on behalf of a bank in which he owned shares.

Inouye (D-Hawaii) declined a request for an interview but acknowledged in a statement that an aide had called the FDIC to ask about Central Pacific’s application. Inouye said he was not attempting to influence the outcome. The statement did not address Inouye’s personal role in the inquiry, including whether he directed the aide to make the call or knew at the time that it had been made.

Presumably, according to the article, this kind of behavior doesn’t even violate Senate rules. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will.

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