This is Naked Capitalism fundraising week. 387 donors have already invested in our efforts to shed light on the dark and seamy corners of finance. Join us and participate via our Tip Jar or another credit card portal, WePay in the right column, or read about why we’re doing this fundraiser and other ways to donate, such as by check, as well as our current goal, on our kickoff post. And read about our current target here
The last two weeks, including this fundraiser proper, show how important your contributions are to this site’s independence. One of the things we pride ourselves on is that we aren’t hostage to tribal or partisan loyalties. We look at things through a lens of “Does it work? Does it produce good outcomes?” And we define “good outcomes” in terms of broader social impact, not the interests of the wealthy and powerful. And we are particularly hard on people who peddle products or policy proposals that fall short of that standard, particularly if they know, or should know, better.
On one of our fundraising posts, an anonymous Washington insider listed some of the practices and organizations that we had examined unsparingly over the last year. He included the Occupy Wall Street group Strike Debt, whose Rolling Jubilee project had gone to ground after raising over $600,000 and repeated promises of “full transparency.” Even though we usually focus this kind of scrutiny on much bigger targets, we’ve been involved in several Occupy initiatives and sport the Occupy banner. We find it troubling when Occupy-related activities invoke the name of Occupy for its PR value and then fail to live up to the principles that the movement represents.
The insider’s post elicited this remark in comments from David Graeber, the well-known author of Debt: The First 5000 Years:
David Graeber says:
October 7, 2013 at 9:40 am
And we at Strike Debt will be preparing a detailed exposé of EXACTLY how she spends every penny of it.
That’s awfully thuggish but unless Graeber has friends at the NSA, it’s an empty threat. Even if he could get this information, it would only show how bare bones this operation really is. Needless to say, readers pilloried Graeber’s mudslinging.
And most importantly, Graeber’s not a good faith response to legitimate criticisms and concerns. Rolling Jubilee’s replies to our questions were and remain evasive, legalistic, and incomplete. Now they may redeem themselves with their promised November release of their financials and the information about the debt purchases they say they have made. But the jury remains out.
We also got a call to my landline at 6 PM the Friday before last that forwarded to my cell. It went pretty much like this:
Male voice: Is this Susan Webber?
Me (assuming this is telemarketing): Who is this?
Male voice: [garbled]
Me: I’m sorry, I’m having trouble hearing you.
Male voice (loud and annoyed): O-R-I-N Kramer. Does that ring a bell?
Male voice (still in loud and annoyed voice): Is this a good time to talk. (Note even though the form was of a question, his tone was that this was not a question but a demand)
Me: I’m in a grocery store.
Male voice (even more annoyed): Oh, you’re busy. Well, I’M busy too.
Me: If you’ve like to continue this discussion, you can find my e-mail address on my website.
Kramer was no doubt responding to this post, which had published that Friday morning. It mentioned his role in pushing New Jersey pension funds into risky investments in 2006 and 2007, which among other things, led to $115 million in Lehman-related losses. A key section:
Oh, and who is Orin Kramer? He’s the epitome of the problem Taibbi focuses on in his piece, the politically connected hedgie. His firm, Boston Provident, manages hedge funds. He was under consideration to be the #2 at Treasury under Jack Lew. Here’s what we wrote when his name was mooted:
And as for the real reason for Kramer being on the short list, it’s undoubtedly due to his being a monster bundler for Obama. I’m clearly behind the times; I thought fundraising payoffs were limited to ambassadorships and heading organizations like the Export-Import Bank. Now I infer you can buy yourself a seat at the table. In 2008, the New York Observer called him “King of the New York Obamasaurs“. In 2012, WNYC listed Kramer as one of only two New York bundlers who had raised more than $500,000 for Obama for 2008 and 2012. And this was as of February 2012!
Now I don’t like getting angry calls or comments any more than any of you do. But the reason I get them is that this blog has a savvy and influential audience. You matter not only in terms of numbers, but many of you are influencers in your personal networks and in social media. You see and some of you participate in the sometimes heated debates we have in the comments section in our collective effort to find out where the truth lies and what we can do to hold people in power more accountable. And the fact that NC has an engaged and discerning readership is why we’ve been able to attracted talented and like-minded writers. The fact that people like Graeber and Kramer get defensive and try to shut me down isn’t because of me. It’s because of you, of the size and sophistication of this audience. And I know you have my back.
Contrast these reaction with some others who’ve gotten heat on this blog. When we said we were dubious of the idea of Elizabeth Warren running for Senate, and though she had better ways to deploy her talents and high profile than by hitching her star to the Democratic party machinery, she called to have an off the record conversation about her thinking. I still was not persuaded by some of her arguments, but the fact that she treated a skeptic’s views seriously is a sign of deliberate decision-making and genuine commitment to trying to do the right thing. We also roughed up Neil Barofsky on one of his SIGTARP reports, contending that he pulled his punches. We’ve since established a friendly working relationship; he even endorsed our fundraiser last year.
What Graeber and Kramer seem unwilling to look at is that belief in their own good motivations doesn’t give them a free pass. Savanarola, who executed people he deemed to be heretics, was also convinced of his good intentions. What matters is how your intention is reflected in your actions – walking the talk. And it’s sad but revealing to see that when some of these actions look questionable, rather than taking questions and criticism as useful, the recipients go on the attack rather than examine their behavior. So I hope you’ll support the site in various ways, including financially for who are able to do so, to help us stand firm when we get pushback.