Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I wouldn't want to attend a movie with Chuck Schumer

It’s against the law to scream, “Fire!” in a crowded theater — at least most of the time.  If you are a U.S. Senator, you don’t have to worry about it.  You can scream all you want with impunity.

That seems to be the result of this week’s decision of the California Attorney General’s office in rebuffing requests to investigate Chuck Schumer. 

On June 26th this year, Schumer’s office released a letter to the Federal Office of Thrift Management wanting to know what they were going to do to protect investors and borrowers in preventing a run on the then teetering Indymac Bank.

Terrified by this communiqué, depositors withdrew 1.3 billion dollars out of their Indymac accounts over the next eleven business days, sending the bank into insolvency.   On July 11, the FDIC took over what was left of the bank.

The Office of Thrift Management publicly blamed Schumer for this mess, which is going to cost the U.S. taxpayer almost $8 billion dollars.  The agency director called the public airing of the letter, “reckless and grossly irresponsible.”

The Senator denied any responsibility, claiming that he was only rehashing public information on Indymac’s troubles. 

A group of former Indymac employees, now jobless because of the bank closing, squarely blame Schumer for causing the very thing he was “concerned” about.  In their words, “Because of a malicious and politically motivated act of Charles Schumer, our lives have been shattered.”

Seeking justice in the state where the bank had been headquartered, the former employees petitioned the Attorney General, former California Governor Jerry Brown, to prosecute him “under a state law making it a misdemeanor to spread false and damaging rumors about a bank.”

But the A.G.’s office has refused to investigate the matter any more for two reasons.  The first, they believe that showing a causal relationship between Schumer’s letter and the bank run would be difficult, if not impossible.  Secondly, the U.S. Constitution protects members of Congress for being sued or prosecuted for statements made in their official capacity.

L.A. Times and Forbes have more.

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