If Allen Stanford ever took the notion to seek elected office, you can bet your first-born child he’d have had TV ads identifying himself as a “small businessman.”
You can bet that those in Washington who consumed — and returned in kind — his many good graces would say they responded to the needs of a “small businessman.”
Never mind that the Mexia native stands accused of constructing a $50 billion Caribbean business around phony money. He was a small businessman right here on the streets of Waco, and so the ads would say. Maybe that’s how he’ll plead to a judge.
Stanford had a fitness club and a burger joint in our fair city, but would become an international financier where fields were greener, at least for taxable purposes.
Though he took his assets to another land entirely, that didn’t mean he lost interest in his homeland. Indeed, he was interested to the tune of $3.3 million spent lobbying Washington.
You can bet your second-born child that he would describe his interest as “good government” rather than self interest.
And you can bet that members of Congress who accepted flights on Stanford’s corporate jets would cite the same concern.
Actually, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions told the Dallas Morning News that the objective of trips with his wife were, figuratively, to sift through the sands of whatever matters concerned “the entire Caribbean basin.” Whatever.
The fact is, Stanford wanted more from Congress than for members to do fact-finding in the surf of his adopted island of Antigua. He wanted to block legislation aimed at curbing money laundering. He succeeded for a while.
Among his allies were sandy-beaches guests like then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Sen. John Cornyn and Sessions, each being utterly sensitive to any and all things Caribbean.
These trips weren’t financed directly by Stanford but by an organization called the Inter-American Council. It’s just that he supplied 85 percent of the council’s revenue.
DeLay knows that game. At the height of his power, he created a charity called Celebrations for Children. The Washington Postfound it to be not so much about helping children but to be a slush fund for soft-money political contributions.
Back to the legislation that small businessman Allen Stanford was trying to block. He succeeded in 2000 when Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, then chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, applied the kibosh.
After Sept. 11, the quest to monitor off-shore bank accounts became more compelling to Congress. Language that Stanford had opposed was written into the Patriot Act and became law.
Speaking of losing battles in Congress, Stanford and his ilk lost another when Democrats took over Congress, and DeLay was indicted and resigned, ending a political empire predicated on back scratching and campaign cash for kindness.
In 2007 under new leadership the House adopted an ethics law that bars members from accepting free trips on private planes.
This is not to say that Democrats didn’t enjoy the good graces of the small businessman from Antigua by way of Mexia. Stanford paid for a candidate forum at the 2008 Democratic National Convention and contributed $500,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in one year alone, 2002.
Rest assured, it was all in the interest of good government on behalf of a small-business man.
John Young writes for the Waco (Texas) Tribune-Herald. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.