The military junta ruling Burma/Myanmar has cut off Internet
access as it attempts to quell pro-democracy protests.
** GIULIANI’S TOP FUNDRAISER, A PROMINENT “VULTURE FUND” OPERATOR, WAS MYSTERY MONEY MAN BEHIND THE COLLAPSED SCHEME TO CHANGE CALIFORNIA’S ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTE. The collapsed attempt by some Republican operatives to change the rules surrounding the allocation of California’s votes in the presidential Electoral College — see this morning’s column — received most of its previously secret funding from a New York hedge fund impresario who is Republican presidential frontrunner Rudy Giuliani’s top fundraiser. He is also, it turns out, and you won’t see this in the New York Daily News report below, said to be one of the most prominent “vulture fund” investors in the world. Here’s the scoop from the politics blog of the New York Daily News. The vulture fund stuff follows after that. It would seem that Mr. Singer is a very controversial figure.
Rudy Giuliani’s top fundraiser, hedge fund giant Paul Singer, revealed himself today as the sole financial backer of a stalled ballot drive to turn California into a motherlode of Republican votes in 2008.
Singer’s disclosure, made in a statement to The Daily News, came a day after Republican operatives in the Golden State announced they were halting their ballot effort, in part because they were unsure of their own funders’ identity.
The group, Californians for Equal Representation, had received exactly one donation for $175,000, from a mysterious, Missouri-based corporation identified only as Take Initiative America.
The lack of specifics left organizers in California open to allegations they had something to hide, and several — among them lead lawyer Tom Hiltachk and spokesman Kevin Eckery — resigned Thursday rather than defend the arrangement.
“I have demanded that Take Initiative America fully disclose the source of its funds and have been assured that it will do so,” Hiltachk said in resigning. “Nonetheless, I am deeply troubled by their failure to disclose.”
But Singer, apparently eager to put the disclosure issue to rest, stepped out of the shadows to reveal himself.
“I contributed to the Take Initiative America because I believe in proportional voting in the Electoral College,” Singer said in a statement e-mailed to The News. “I made the contribution without any restrictions, including whether or how it would need to be disclosed. I left disclosure completely up to TIA.”
Sources added later that all $175,000 came from Singer, a founding partner of Elliot Associates, a $7 billion hedge fund with a long history of funding GOP causes.
Singer is reported to be one of the most important “vulture fund” operators in the world. These so-called vulture funds are defined by the International Monetary Fund and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown as funds which buy up heavily discounted debt of poor nations and then sue to receive closer to the debt’s original value, plus interest, undermining the point of debt relief. The BBC attempted to interview Singer, described as “a reclusive billionaire” and the man who “virtually invented vulture funds,” in February of this year. But he didn’t want to talk to them.
In the ’90s, his company paid $11 million for deeply discounted Peruvian debt and then demanded, and got, $58 million. According to the BBC, Singer’s company is now suing Congo Brazzaville for $400 million for a debt it bought for $10 million.
** CLINTON GLOBAL INITIATIVE MEETING WRAPS UP WITH BIG COMMITMENTS. The annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York wrapped up with some big commitments for action from its participants announced by the former president. From the ranks of the 1200 attendees — who reportedly pay $15,000 for the privilege of attending and rubbing shoulders with President Bill and various business and political leaders and Hollywood stars such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie — came major commitments to help impoverished children, fight disease, and offset greenhouse gas emissions.
The Clinton Global Initiative — you can check it out here — has met for the past two years at the same time as the UN General Assembly in New York. But next year, says Clinton, it will meet in Hong Kong. Whatever one thinks of Bill Clinton, there is no question that as a former president he has become a huge force in the US and around the world. I’m quite certain that if he were able to run again for president, he would win. It’s actually quite a story, which I under-report because his wife is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Otherwise there would be way too much Clinton here.
** OAKLAND IS THE PLACE SUNDAY FOR THE CLINTON AND OBAMA CAMPAIGNS. Hillary Clinton attends a big block party with thousands of her friends from 4:30 PM on in downtown Oakland. That’s where Barack Obama drew 12,000 people for a rally outside Oakland City Hall several months ago. Expect a host of politicians to be on hand as well as the hoped for families tha the New York senator is looking forward to.
For its part, the Obama campaign will be opening its Northern California headquarters nearby, a few hours earlier, at 1 PM. They won’t have Obama himself, of course, but former state Controller and eBay honcho Steve Westly, now a leading greentech venture capitalist, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, state campaign director Mitch Schwartz, and other notables should be on hand. And they’re having a block party, too.
** HILLARY RUNNING STRONGER AGAINST REPUBLICANS IN NEW FOX NEWS POLL WITH CLEAR LEADS OVER ALL. Hillary Clinton has improved her position against potential Republican opponents for the presidency in the new Fox News poll. She leads Rudy Giuliani now by 46% to 39%, Fred Thompson by 48% to 35%, and John McCain by 46% to 39%. Barack Obama also holds leads over the Republicans, but they are smaller than Clinton’s. This is a reversal of the previous pattern.
Republican Mitt Romney does not seem to have been tested in the match-ups by Fox News. Nor was Democrat John Edwards.
** BUSH CALLS FOR CLIMATE CHANGE SUMMIT. Belatedly hopping onto the anti-greenhouse gas bandwagon, President George W. Bush this morning called for a summit next year to take the greenhouse effect. He said the world needs to set a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which most scientists believe are causing climate change.
However, he did not say what the goal should be, nor did he accept that a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions is needed.
He did endorse the UN process that the special session of heads of state addressed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday in New York is part of. The UN process includes its own high-level summit this December in Bali.
It’s unlikely that Bush’s proposal will amount to much.
Meanwhile, former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown is preparing to sue the Bush Administration next month for blocking California’s 2002 law to curtail tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases in new vehicles.
** MYANMAR DICTATORSHIP CRACKS DOWN ON “INTERNET REVOLUTION.” It’s been heralded as an “Internet revolution,” the move by pro-democracy protesters in Burma, the military dictatorship prefers Myanmar, to use networked computers and cell phones to organize and to transmit information to the world. So the regime has just retaliated by cutting Internet access. This may presage a bloodier crackdown than has happened thusfar. A Japanese journalist was shot dead covering the protests and the overall death toll — which the regime puts at 10 — is in dispute, with others saying it is substantially higher.
** HUGE OBAMA RALLY LAST NIGHT IN NEW YORK CITY. Moving into Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s backyard, Barack Obama held a huge rally last night in New York City. MSNBC this morning estimated the crowd at 25,000. Obama himself, apparently recovering from the cold that reportedly hampered his performance the night before in a debate at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, delivered a rousing address to the crowd which spilled out of Washington Square in the Big Apple’s Greenwich Village.
Although Clinton, New York’s senator, will undoubtedly win the New York primary on February 5th, there are plenty of delegates to be had there and Obama clearly aims to win a big share of them.
** CLINTON WON’T REVEAL PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY DONORS. While Hillary Clinton said in Wednesday night’s debate that she was sure that Bill Clinton “would be happy to consider” disclosing donors to his presidential library, the man himself shut the door on that idea yesterday in a press conference for his Clinton Global Initiative in New York.
“The people who have given me money, I don’t think I should disclose it unless there is some conflict of which I am aware,” said former President Clinton. Presidential libraries are currently not required to disclose their contributors. However, they are the province of politicians retired from electoral politics. The US has never had a situation in which vast sums of of money can be contributed to promote a political partnership in which one member is a former president and the other a possible president.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. American troops are now in the midst of a 135th day of searching for the remaining two US soldiers captured by Al Qaeda in an ambush south of Baghdad. They have had no luck so far. A video put out by Al Qaeda forces in Iraq claims that all three men were executed after being captured. But, with the exception of the Californian found floating in the Euphrates River, that claim can’t be confirmed. The US high command in Baghdad has revealed that ID cards for the other two American prisoners were found in an Al Qaeda safehouse on June 9th.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices are moving back up to record territory, over $83 per barrel.
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