Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Stanford Financial and Ben Barnes -- and the big picture

Truly remarkable how he is connected to all these scandals:

From the Sharpstown banking fraud that ended his political career to the current financial collapse of his lobby client Stanford Financial Group, former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes has played a constant character on the stage of state and national scandals. ...

Most recently, Barnes surfaced when the Securities and Exchange Commission last month filed a fraud lawsuit against his client Stanford Financial Group and its founder R. Allen Stanford. When Stanford was missing, Barnes was the person who confirmed that he had been served with the lawsuit.

Barnes’ lobby firm earned $1.8 million representing Stanford Financial between 2002 and 2008, working issues ranging from federal regulation of offshore banks to tax codes for the U.S. Virgin Islands. Barnes was surprised by the company’s collapse.

“It’s hard to believe. Our firm wasn’t hired to look at the books or do anything with the business,” Barnes said.

Over the years, Barnes has been associated with the 1971 Sharpstown scandal, the collapse of his real estate business with former Gov. John Connally, the GTECH lobbying controversy at the Texas lottery, and (Dan) Rather’s 60 Minutes report in 2004 on President George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard.

Did you know that Barnes was once labeled the "51st senator" by Tom Daschle? I didn't:

Barnes is one of the top money-raisers for Democratic U.S. senators. He and his wife, Melanie, personally gave more than $600,000 to federal Democratic candidates and committees since 2004. Barnes last month donated $1 million to the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.

When the U.S. Senate was evenly divided early in this decade, then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle called Barnes the “51st senator.”

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Schumer at a New York luncheon for 250 committee donors last year singled out only two fund-raisers with exceptional praise. Barnes was one.

The clients Barnes has represented before Congress have paid his firm $24 million since 1999. They include:

• Texas top trial lawyers John Eddie Williams of Houston, Wayne Reaud of Beaumont and Harold Nix of Daingerfield.

• Ruth Parasol, an Internet gambling entrepreneur from California who first made a fortune off of Internet pornography, earning her the nickname of “Princess of Porn” in the British press.

• GloFish, an Austin company that markets genetically altered tropical fish that glow in the dark.

• The Huntsman Cancer Institute in Utah for which Barnes says he obtained a $100 million appropriation for cancer research.

• Moynihan Station Developer LLC, a company renovating New York’s Penn Station, tearing down Madison Square Gardens and renovating 16 blocks of Manhattan.

Financial corruption -- or at least his nearly constant association with those who are financially corrupt -- has been a hallmark of Ben Barnes' life.

If the Democratic party wants to avoid traveling down the same path as the Republicans, it needs to end its association with Barnes and his ilk.

(Yes, I hear the peals of laughter.)

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