GUEST OPINION: Green Center money was not donor's to give

  • 11/29/2009: B1:

    PC: Susan Lamont, office manager of the Peace and Justice Center in Santa Rosa November 24.

Recently, The Press Democrat wrote of Joan and Sandy Weill's $12 million gift for the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University. The editors noted that Weill is a former CEO of Citigroup but failed to say where the money came from. That money wasn't Weill's to give. He and Citigroup stole it from us. Instead of giving it to the Green Music Center, he should give it back.

Those are pretty harsh words, but when was the last time you were able to buy Congress so that the laws you were breaking would be undone? In the last 15 years of Weill's tenure, Citigroup executives gave $23 million in contributions/bribes to their favorite, ready-to-be-bought candidates. And that doesn't include money for lobbyists. And, surprise, the laws that governed the financial industry were loosened, resulting in a financial crisis long predicted by those who know where deregulation leads.

The Glass-Steagall Act, enacted after the Great Depression to protect us from a reckless financial industry, forbade the merging of insurance underwriters and banks. In 1998, Weill illegally merged Citicorp with Travelers Group. But he wasn't worried, as we might be about breaking the law. He said "the legislation will change .<TH>.<TH>. we have had enough discussions to believe this will not be a problem."

$12 Million Donation To Green Music Center


His office sported a huge plaque with his photo and the words "Shatterer of Glass-Steagall."

An Internet check on Wikipedia will give you a clear history of Citigroup's frauds, conflicts of interest and outright theft. Over the years, Citigroup (Weill's "baby") has paid many fines ($3 billion for its involvement in the Enron scandal), so why would it continue to commit these crimes? Because it makes more money than it is fined and no one goes to jail. You have to rob a corner store (not a country) to be sent to jail.

And Citigroup steals. Citigroup was fined for moving money from customer accounts into its own fund through improper computerized "sweeps." When he was California attorney general, Jerry Brown wrote that Citigroup "knowingly stole from its customers, mostly poor people and the recently deceased, when it designed and implemented the sweeps."

If someone swiped an old lady's purse and gave the money to charity, would you call it "philanthropy"? So why is it philanthropy when Sandy Weill does it? His lawyers will say he did nothing illegal, but that word has no meaning where money buys legality and the lack of money can put you behind bars.

We've reached one of those points in history where the difference in wealth and power between us and them is so huge as to be obscene. How did it happen? They <NO1>(and we're in this predicament because we forgot there is a "they") bought the government, drastically reducing their share of the tax burden while greatly increasing ours.

With very few exceptions, they do not work harder than you, aren't smarter than you, don't contribute more of value to the world than you. They move money around. We do the work.

In 2005, Weill and Citigroup released an investment advisory titled "Revisiting Plutonomy: The rich getting richer." Here's an excerpt:

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