WEST WING

Michael Rebain: ‘Hey! You only missed one episode last Sunday. And the ‘go to’ site for synopses of shows like this is televisionwithoutpity.com.’

☞ Good lord – that is one detailed (and entertaining) synopsis. But I only read the first couple of pages. My tape should be arriving soon. Thank you!

DON’T SELL YOUR AMERI*******

Today American Express officially bifurcates. Instead of 100 shares of American Express alone, you now own 100 shares of American Express (AXP) and 20 shares of Ameriprise Financial (AMP). Hang on to both.

If you own American Express LEAPS, each one now represents a call on both 100 shares of AXP and 20 shares of AMP.

AMP has been trading in the ‘when issued’ market at around $35, meaning that today – now that it will be issued – you will have about $7 worth of AMP for each AXP share . . . which, in turn, means that AXP alone, which closed Friday at $57.44 (up from $52.50 when suggested a few months ago), should open today down about $7. (That’s what happens when a company issues a dividend, whether in cash or stock; on the day it begins trading ‘without’ that cash or stock, it opens down by an equal amount.) Except that investors can quickly make adjustments by deciding to pay more or less.

If this is confusing, not to worry: just do nothing. If we’re lucky, in a year or two your LEAPS, or your shares of AXP and AMP, will be worth more than they are today.

ABUSE OF POWER: THE REPUBLICANS’ DEEP BENCH

Friday, I wrote:

. . . former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted for funneling illegal corporate money to local Texas races. What makes this significant is that he allegedly did this in order to gain enough power in the state legislature to be able to gerrymander Congressional districts. And he did that in order to pick up several House seats and thereby strengthen the Republican stranglehold on Congress. It worked.

One of you write in to chastise me for failing to presume his innocence – hence the insertion of ALLEGEDLY, above. (Another of you wondered why I hadn’t referred to the three instances in which the bipartisan House Ethics Committee had already admonished DeLay.) OK. We’ll see how all this plays out.

Meanwhile, the Republican bench is deep. Enter the new (temporary) Majority Leader, Roy Blunt.

Joe Cherner: ‘Here’s a report from the Washington Post on Roy Blunt’s efforts to secretly aid Philip Morris. Note that one of his sons is (or was) a lobbyist for Philip Morris in Missouri. Also, when he married a Philip Morris lobbyist the following year, Blunt received a waiver from the House Ethics Committee that exempted him from the requirement to report his wedding gifts.’

GOP Whip Quietly Tried to Aid Big Donor
by Jim VandeHei
Provision Was Meant To Help Philip Morris
June 11, 2003

Only hours after Rep. Roy Blunt was named to the House’s third-highest leadership job in November, he surprised his fellow top Republicans by trying to quietly insert a provision benefiting Philip Morris USA into the 475-page bill creating a Department of Homeland Security, according to several people familiar with the effort.

The new majority whip, who has close personal and political ties to the company, instructed congressional aides to add the tobacco provision to the bill — then within hours of a final House vote — even though no one else in leadership supported it or knew he was trying to squeeze it in.

Once alerted to the provision, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert’s chief of staff, Scott Palmer, quickly had it pulled out . . .

Blunt has received large campaign donations from Philip Morris, his son works for the company in Missouri and the House member has a close personal relationship with a Washington lobbyist for the firm [whom he later married – A.T.].

It is highly unusual for a House Republican to insert a last-minute contentious provision that has never gone through a committee, never faced a House vote and never been approved by the speaker or majority leader. Blunt’s attempt became known only to a small circle of House and White House officials. They kept it quiet, preferring no publicity on a matter involving favors for the nation’s biggest tobacco company and possible claims of conflicts of interest. . . .

A senior Republican lawmaker who requested anonymity said some GOP members worried at the time that it would be “embarrassing” to the party and its new whip if details of the effort were made public. Another Republican said Blunt’s effort angered some leaders because there was “so little support for” a pro-tobacco provision likely to generate controversy. . . .

Philip Morris has contributed more than $150,000 to political committees affiliated with Blunt since 2001, according to Federal Election Commission records. . . .

Because Blunt’s actions in the Philip Morris matter were kept quiet, there were no apparent repercussions or threats to his leadership ambitions. . . .

☞ And even after this story broke, there were no apparent repercussions. Roy Blunt is now House Majority Leader.

It is a grand time to be rich and powerful in America.

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s porch will be better than ever one day. Current Senate Majority Leader Frist will save a small fortune in reduced capital gains tax on his exceptionally well-timed stock sale. We will borrow $200 billion from the Chinese to rebuild New Orleans so we don’t have to roll back those tax cuts on the best off. And we’ll do our darnedest to eliminate the estate tax on Dr. Frist’s fortune when he goes. We’ll make up the difference, when the time comes, by borrowing that, too. It’s modern Republican priorities. Teddy Roosevelt, General Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, Nelson Rockefeller – Richard Nixon, even – they must all be rolling over in their graves.

And speaking of graves . . .

Philip Morris is the world’s leading promoter of cigarettes, which are the world’s leading cause of preventable death. Nothing illegal in that.

But what does it say about the Republican leadership that its kids go to work lobbying for Philip Morris, that it marries Philip Morris lobbyists, and that it does what it can to promote the interests of Philip Morris? This is family values? (The Clinton/Gore White House, you will recall, was smoke-free and leaned heavily against the tobacco industry.) Let’s face it: the pay at Philip Morris is great. You’d never get that kind of money lobbying for the environment or nursing lung cancer patients.

 

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