COMMENTARY Slime covers GOP Senators Cornyn, Ensign

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, head of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, is scrambling to distance himself from Texas financier R. Allen Stanford arrested and awaiting trial on charges of bilking people of $8 billion in a Ponzi scheme.

Stanford bankrolled a four-day junket for Cornyn and his wife, Sandy, to Antigua, where Stanford’s company, Stanford Financial Group (SFG) is headquartered. SFG picked up the entire tab, $7,441, to pay for the Senator’s lavish digs at the island resort.

“It was strictly a fact-finding trip,” explained Cornyn spokesman Kevin McLaughlin, describing SFG as an upstanding corporate citizen. “They have offices in Houston and they were doing a lot of business out of Antigua. There was nothing untoward or unseemly about the company five years ago.”

Yet just last week, Cornyn wrote an op ed piece denouncing President Obama’s bill aimed at clamping down on corporate offshore tax shelters of which Antigua is one of the most notorious. Cornyn complained that Obama’s attempt to close this gaping tax loophole that costs the American people millions in lost jobs and hundreds of billions in tax revenues could “put the United States at a competitive disadvantage” adding, “The populists and protectionists want to demonize American businesses that invest overseas.”

Cornyn received $19,700 from R. Allen Stanford’s firm making him the fifth largest recipient of SFG largesse. The New York Times reports that Stanford focuses his campaign contributions “particularly on legislators considering bills that would change off-shore banking rules.” Cornyn, this year, became a member of the Senate Finance Committee that oversees banking regulations.

The Times of London posted an article this week in its online edition headlined, “Caribbean Playground that Allen Stanford Helped Turn into an Offshore Tax Haven.” Stanford-owned businesses in Antigua have abruptly laid off 200 workers since he was indicted. The article reports that Stanford controls the Bank of Antigua. His $2.2 billion personal fortune “is larger than Antigua’s Gross Domestic Product.” He bankrolls political parties in Antigua. He had himself knighted by the Queen of England and owns sports teams.

Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer called Stanford, “haughty, arrogant, and obnoxious” and charged that he “has a lien on the whole country….This is not a looming crisis. The fallout threatens immediate and catastrophic consequences” for the people of Antigua-Barbuda.

Cornyn’s junket to Antigua is described in his legally required disclosure report as a “financial services industry fact-finding mission hosted by constituent company with substantial operations on site.” Translated into plain English, this means that Cornyn considered Stanford and SFG, with major operations in Texas, as his “constituents” and he was rendering “constituent services.”

But what facts did he uncover in his “fact-finding mission?” Didn’t he discover any hint that Stanford had a “lien” on the entire country? Didn’t he catch a single whiff of something corrupt about Stanford’s operations?

TPM Muckraker points out that Cornyn went on the junket “right after the November 2004 election during which Cornyn was working hard for George W. Bush.” This begs the question: Was it a fact-finding mission or a little rest and rehabilitation from the hard work of stealing an election? Currently, Cornyn’s chief preoccupation is stealing the U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota by blocking the duly elected Democrat, Al Franken, from being seated. Cornyn has boasted that the defeated Republican Norm Coleman will continue appealing the election for “years.”

Stanford and SFG joined a long list of disgraced or defunct Texas corporations including Enron, and Halliburton that recently changed its name to conceal its trail of crime. Cornyn, a former Texas Attorney General, is the author of the “Public Corruption Prosecution Improvement Act,” which he brags would help ferret out corruption in high places.

Cornyn’s colleague, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R. -TX, was the second-biggest recipient of SFG cash, collecting $41,375, nearly all of it in the final weeks of the 2004 race that unseated Democratic Rep. Martin Frost, of Dallas, a veteran, pro-labor member of Congress. The drive to unseat Frost was one of the Republican’s dirtiest campaigns ever. Sessions now chairs the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee.

Republican Senator John McCain, and Senators Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., were also in the top five SFG recipients.

The Grand Old Party’s other embarrassment of the week is Nevada Sen. John Ensign, heir to a fortune in the Las Vegas casino industry and a rising star of the Republican right. Ensign was on the short-list of likely candidates for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012 until he admitted June 16, to having an extra-marital affair with a former treasurer of several of his campaign committees. The woman’s husband was also a top Senate staffer who reportedly attempted to extort hush money from Ensign. After leaving his Senate position, the husband, Doug Hampton, got cushy jobs from companies tied to Ensign, according to the Washington Post. He was hustled into the position of Vice President for Government Affairs at Allegiant Air, a Las Vegas-based airline that has poured $86,000 into Ensign’s election campaigns.

Ensign was loud in demanding that President Clinton resign when his sexual misconduct with Monica Lewinsky came to light. There are now demands that Ensign resign to prove he is not just a “sanctimonious blowhard” as one website described him.