StarKist, Pelosi, political favors, and political corruption

When I heard that StarKist was being fined as much as $100 million for price-fixing, I thought of Nancy Pelosi.

Here's a story from NPR:

StarKist Co. has reportedly agreed to plead guilty to charges of price fixing as part of a conspiracy with two of its competitors to keep the price of canned tuna high.

Federal prosecutors announced the plea agreement on Thursday, which includes a fine of up to $100 million, according to The Associated Press.  In the same deal, a former StarKist executive and two former Bumble Bee Foods executives pleaded guilty to price fixing.

...and another from the Washington Post:

StarKist Co. agreed to plead guilty to a felony price fixing charge as part of a broad collusion investigation of the canned tuna industry, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.

The DOJ said StarKist faces up to a $100 million fine when it is sentenced. Prosecutors allege that the industry's top three companies conspired between 2010 and 2013 to keep prices artificially high.

I knew that since the media are so concerned about corporate and political corruption and the rich that they would then talk about House minority leader Pelosi and her husband in the article about the corruption, so I was just shocked that...the Pelosi name didn't come up.

Because not too long ago, the news headlines were like this:

The Minimum Wage, Pelosi, Tuna and American Samoa

Paul Pelosi owns a $17 million investment in H. J. Heinz's company, which in turn owns ~75% of Del Monte Corp's stock. Del Monte is the parent company of StarKist. StarKist Tuna owns one of the two packing plants on American Samoa. Combined both plants employ over 60% of the population paying less than $3.75 a hour in wages.

...and this...

Pelosi's Tuna Surprise

Economists of every political stripe agree that a higher minimum wage will cost some low-skill workers their jobs. But don't believe us; just ask Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The House last week whooped through an increase in the minimum wage to $7.25, by a vote of 315-116.  But, lo, included as part of this boon to the working man was a loophole: The new, higher wage floor applied to all of these United States and its territories – save for the Pacific outpost of American Samoa.  In the immortal words of Congressman Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.), "There's something fishy going on here."

It turns out that American Samoa has a big fish and tuna canning industry, specifically operations run by StarKist and Chicken of the Sea.  Both companies are headquartered in California, and StarKist's parent is located in none other than Ms. Pelosi's own San Francisco district.  So faster than you can say "middle class squeeze," Democrats rediscovered the eternal economic truth that a higher minimum wage can cost jobs and granted Samoa its reprieve.

They have a good point.  In 2004, according to the Department of Labor, Samoan canneries directly employed some 4,800 people, or nearly 40% of the work force.  StarKist and Chicken of the Sea would have plenty of other low-wage locations to do their canning.  The average hourly wage for the American Samoan canneries in 2004 was about $3.60.  In contrast, the average cannery wage in Thailand was 67 cents an hour and in the Philippines 66 cents.

Funny how Pelosi finds her name so closely connected to StarKist.

Of course, while we are on the topic of Democratic politicians from deep blue California, the Feinstein family has also greatly benefited from the generosity of the taxpayers.  Like what we see here:

The real estate giant chaired by Richard Blum, the husband of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, is cashing in on a new federal crisis.

Just a few years after the firm now known as CBRE Group collected more than $108 million from a contract to help the FDIC sell foreclosed properties, the company owned in part by Blum is selling off old post offices under an exclusive contract with the financially struggling U.S. Postal Service, records show.

Then there is the brilliant Rep. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles.  Her husband was on the board at One United Bank, and the bank got extremely special treatment from President Obama and the Democrats.

If the Democrats get control of the House, she will head the powerful Financial Services Committee.  What could go wrong?

From the moment Boston-based OneUnited Bank began seeking a federal bailout in the summer of 2008, it received special treatment that went beyond what the Treasury Department or the bank and its political supporters have previously disclosed.

Congress adjusted the law and regulators broke with customary practices, despite an explicit internal warning that the bank was in financial trouble.  Among other exceptions, the bank was allowed to count as part of its capital $12 million in federal bailout money – before the aid arrived.

OneUnited was the only bank to receive all of these considerations among the 707 recipients of money from the Troubled Assets Relief Program, according to documents and interviews.

A close look at how OneUnited – which is now at the center of an ethics investigation involving Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) – won bailout money shows how the Treasury Department, federal regulators and another influential lawmaker helped it despite its record of bad investments and extravagant spending.

A Washington Post review of documents and interviews with many involved in the decisions show that regulators flagged the bank early on for its "highly visible" connection – in OneUnited's case, a former board member who is married to Waters, the chairman of an important banking subcommittee.  The alert was part of a previously undisclosed practice at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. of trying to identify banks that might cause "unnecessary press or public relations" problems, according to testimony a top FDIC official gave to House ethics investigators.

Then, the bank won a rare chance to make its case for help to top Treasury Department officials, a meeting requested by Waters. When it became clear that the bank did not qualify, House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) sponsored a legislative provision encouraging officials to provide special relief for banks such as OneUnited. Other favorable considerations followed.

...and this...

Rep. Maxine Waters' Democratic colleagues are sticking by her as the party's top candidate to run the powerful Financial Services Committee[.]

It's a good thing that Pelosi, Feinstein, and Waters never owned hotels that foreigners stayed at because then the media and Democrats would investigate and sue.

And nope, the media never cared about the massive kickbacks to the Clintons for political favors.  All I can see from these minimally reported stories is that maybe corruption by Democrats is just fine.

Image credit: Gage Skidmore via FlickrCC BY-SA 2.0.