Search This Blog

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Mnuchin's Rent-a-Friends

Many posts have shown how interest groups cynically use charitable contributions to buy political support.  The latest example comes from the designee for Treasury Secretary, as Isaac Arnsdorf and Kenneth P. Vogel report at Politico:
Donald Trump’s choice for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, earned tens of millions of dollars from a 2015 bank sale that got a boost from an array of nonprofit groups that had one thing in common — they had received tens of thousands of dollars each from the bank’s foundation, which was run by Mnuchin.

The sale of OneWest, a bank that Mnuchin co-founded and chaired, to CIT Group for $3.4 billion drew significant opposition from public interest groups because OneWest had been accused of wrongful foreclosures and racial discrimination in its mortgages and small-business loans.

But a parade of community-based nonprofits stepped forward to testify to the federal regulators considering the merger about the good corporate citizenship of OneWest. All of the groups — ranging from a pair of local Boys Girls Clubs to a pair of Junior Achievement clubs — were beneficiaries of grants from the bank’s charitable arm, the OneWest Foundation, which Mnuchin chaired, according to a POLITICO review of filings with the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Reserve.
In all, 14 groups that sent letters to the Fed in support of the merger received a combined total of $2.5 million from the OneWest Foundation in the four years leading up to the merger. In their letters, the groups lauded OneWest’s support for community groups. In seven of the letters, the groups acknowledged the dollar amounts they received from Mnuchin’s charity arm; in the other seven, they referenced only having enjoyed the support of the bank.
The Fed received 593 petitions in support of the banks’ request to forgo a public hearing on the merger, which could have slowed down the process. But all of the petitions came from Yahoo email accounts, even though Yahoo’s share of the email market at the time was 3 percent, according to a letter to regulators from the California Reinvestment Coalition, an advocacy group that opposed the merger.
The letter claimed that when attempts were made to contact those 593 petitioners about their support, 30 percent of the emails bounced back, and other petitioners replied saying they did not in fact support the merger, according to the letter. In addition, many of the messages were time-stamped around 2 a.m. on the night of Feb. 13, 2015.