Huffington-AOL Deal: Asking Tough Questions Not a Matter of Left or Right

Here’s Politico being just dense (but I repeat myself):

“We don’t see ourselves as left,” she told POLITICO. “And I think it’s one area where news consumers are ahead of the media, because they know that continuing to see everything that’s happening as a right-left issue is missing what’s happening, and is also making it much harder for us to be properly informed.”

Some on the left worry that the sale to AOL could mean an end to HuffPost in its current incarnation — away from its roots in the progressive community, which were its first bloggers, commenters and readers, and toward a more middle-of-the-road posture, to make it more broadly appealing.

Aside from the fact that HuffPo is far more a gossip site than a political one, there’s just a lot being confused here. Those on “the left” (and Politico doesn’t identify them, and says two paragraphs later that “The left … is supportive of the deal,” so I don’t even think they know what they mean by it) who are worried probably means the same people who are consistently angered and frustrated by HuffPo’s topline reporting – Democratic operatives and the White House. They can’t stand the Huffington Post, particularly not its political reporting team. And that’s because that team manages to ask uncomfortable questions. Such as, why have their been no prosecutions resulting from the largest financial crisis since the Depression, of which fraud has been a clear and distinct and primary element?

After the last major banking crisis, some two decades ago, roughly 3,800 bankers were prosecuted and sentenced to prison terms, by the Justice Department’s count. Yet this time, some four years after the economy descended into the most punishing financial crisis since the Great Depression, the public still waits for the Obama administration to deliver a similar kind of justice.

The 2007-’09 financial crisis was “avoidable,” a bipartisan, congressionally-appointed panel concluded last week. Mortgage fraud “flourished” in the run up to the collapse. Securities fraud was apparently widespread […]

And yet, the perp walk so many Americans crave — Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner once referred to it as the “very deep public desire for Old Testament justice” — hasn’t occurred. Wall Street figures have largely gone untouched. Bank directors kept their jobs. In a sign that perhaps the fallout from the crisis has passed, outsized compensation is back.

“People need to go to jail,” said Liz Ryan Murray, policy director of National People’s Action, an advocacy organization that helped launch the website “If you steal something, you go to jail. If you falsify documents, you go to jail. Why doesn’t that apply to big bank executives?”

I could look in major American newspapers going back several years and not see that question asked, let alone answered to any satisfying degree. And rather than keep cheerleading the work at HuffPo, I think it’s better to amplify this and pick up the question. [cont’d.]

While the FCIC report does address the spate of mortgage fraud and actually takes the lead in address the federal securities fraud from the big bank trustees who used the data from their due diligence reports to get discounts on loan pools rather than purge the pool of bad loans, it sidesteps how central this fraud was to the crisis. The FCIC refused to detail which cases they referred to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, nor did they address fraud as the primary explanation for the crisis. In fact, they cast their net so broadly as to absolve everyone from blame:

For instance, I choked on this language: “As a nation, we must also accept responsibility for what we permitted to occur. Collectively, but certainly not unanimously, we acquiesced to or embraced a system that…gave rise to our present predicament.” That sounds like the same self-serving baloney the establishment can be counted on to deploy to avoid blame.

If everyone is to blame, then no one can be blamed. This reminds me of when the Iraq War went bad, and the Bush administration couldn’t find the WMDs. People who had led cheers for war started saying, “Well, we were all fooled, weren’t we?” No, we were not. Congress and the Obama administration took a similar tack on the financial crisis. It would be wrong and vengeful, they said, to point fingers at major miscreants. In this complacent milieu, referring cases to the Justice Department is not exactly comforting. Angry citizens want to know why more people didn’t go to jail.

Determining criminal intent is a long and difficult path, but just the failure to file suspicious activity reports, as required by law, represents a major dereliction of duty on the part of federal prosecutors. Furthermore, the penchant for allowing a settlement without the need to admit wrongdoing has become depressingly normal practice for the SEC.

This breaks a covenant between a government and its people to apply the law fairly and evenly. Questioning that is not a matter of left and right, but a matter of the public versus failed elites. That’s especially true when the enforcement agencies being criticized are under a Democratic Administration. Whether the even richer Arianna Huffington and her new venture represents the public in this scenario remains to be seen, but in asking these questions thus far, it most certainly has. And there is an army right behind her if she fails to continue.

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