How to Ruin a Life

Gather ’round boys and girls, I have a story to share with you:
This is a story about unmitigated greed. A tragic story about obscenely wealthy people eager to fleece middle-class Americans, and how those same people had to destroy the life of one man to do so.

You see, our current mortgage & loan crisis did not develop overnight. The loan sharks were ravaging homebuyers throughout 2003 (the so-called “heyday”) and into 2006. Early on, a second-term politician found himself increasingly concerned about these predator lenders and the false or misleading mortage terms they were foisting on consumers (especially egregious rates, we later learned, if you were African-American).

Fortunately, all 50 states have laws regulating predatory lending and protecting buyers. For all their faults, these laws are remarkably successful and have widespread bi-partisan support.

This, of course, did not please the banks. They helped elect George Bush Jr, so why wasn’t he helping them pillage this country? So they — Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and others — asked some obscure government officials to help out: The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an agency under the Department of the Treasury. “Why,” they asked in April 2003, “do we have to follow state laws that restrict our powers to impose terrible loans on unwitting customers?” So in August 2003 the “OCC invoked a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act to issue formal opinions preempting all state predatory lending laws, thereby rendering them inoperative” (WaPo). The Democrats on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee naturally told the OCC how ridiculous this all was, but they obviously didn’t care one iota.

Seeing as this was one big middle finger to each of the states from Comptroller John D. Hawke Jr, all of the state attorney generals (including both Republicans and Democrats) were pretty upset over such an obvious impositional declaration of federal power in the interest of a small cohort of banking buddies. By January 2004, the OCC was proudly trumpeting it’s right to “sole governance” in these banking matters. Our aforementioned second-term politician was one of these concerned state attorneys, and he organized everyone together and sued the OCC over their usurption of power and general asshattery. The playground for this epic battle was in the form of Michigan (backed by all 49 other states) versus Wachovia, a momentous trial that nobody’s heard about.

Aiding Wachovia, of course, were the most high-powered legal authorities around — backed by U.S. Chamber of Commerce, our country’s largest pro-business lobbying firm. The USCC decided to go on the offensive, launching attacks on our crusading attorney general (who was now governor) and accusing him of bullying. This governor, and his 50-state strong league, stood no chance against Wachovia. They lost their final appeal in December 2007. They were really fighting the OCC, of course, and to a lesser degree the Department of the Treasury.

These banks, however, couldn’t let it go. Who was this bully, elected by the people, to attempt to oversee their procedures and checkbooks? A few months after he lost the lawsuit, with the OCC ruled the henhouse and states impotent to regulate their own banks, our intrepid crusading governor made a tactical mis-step: he went public.

In February 2008 he wrote an editorial for the Washington Post, explaining the situation, predicting an impending mortage & loan disaster, and faulting the OCC for their role in this. Except he also faulted President George W. Bush. Naturally Bush and the banks look out for each other, see, and having a popular governor blast you in the conservative press didn’t look so good. Oh, not to mention that whole three-year lawsuit thing.

And so this crusading/bullying corporate-watchdog governor was taken out, a mere three weeks after his WaPo editorial appeared.

Not by bullets, you see, for these people have morals (they leave that dirty stuff to their friends in the CIA). But these people found a way to completely discredit him, a way to permanently disgrace him and get him out of their way forever. “Revenge’s a bitch” they said, tapping his phone and beginning the process of destroying one man’s life as payback for his attempt to stop, or at least slow, their fleecing of the American public.

Unfortunately for him, among his many other faults was one in particular that stood out: like so many other elite, he liked to pay beautiful women to have sex with him. And so dear friends, his penchant for high-priced hookers, including a brunette named “Kristen,” is the reason we don’t hear a whole lot from ex-Governor Eliot Spitzer these days — arguably one of the few men best in a position to tell us what’s gone on this September and how we got this terrible mess we’re in.

-> Predatory Lenders’ Partner in Crime: How the Bush Administration Stopped the States From Stepping In to Help Consumers by Eliot Spitzer, February 2008.

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