Welcome to our 2014 fundraiser, the fourth in our eight-year history. Your donations are an important vote of confidence in our work. They tell us that you value Naked Capitalism as a place where we work together to expose the power dynamics that are radically reshaping our economy and society. And on a practical level, your contributions are critical to helping us steadily improve our content and your site experience.
We ask you to join us once again. You can give by using the Tip Jar to make a one-time, monthly, or quarterly donations either on-line or via check. If you send a check, please also e-mail yves_at_nakedcapitalism.com, with “Check is in the mail” in the headline and the $ amount in the body, so we can include your donation in our running tally.
If you can’t afford to give, please take what you’re learning here and share it. If you are can only afford a little, we’d still appreciate your contribution. But if you can afford more, please give more. The truth costs money, but it is far cheaper than having someone buy the right to lie to you by paying for your media.
Your donations are key to our independence. They empower us to build a platform for change to take on Big Finance and other vested interests.
Why Naked Capitalism Matters
One of the perverse effects of ZIRP and QE and the stealthier “preserve the privileged status of the financiers” programs is that by creating the illusion that the financial system is healthy, they have also thinned the ranks of informed critics.
The “nothing left to see here, move along” posture of the banks and their allies has proven effective, particularly as the ripples of the crisis keep widening out. The knock-on effects include escalating income and wealth inequality, ever-more open corruption in business and public life, high unemployment and more McJobs, economic deterioration and political fracture in Europe, and more aggressive policing and surveillance.
In other words, in the earlier days of this website, when the wheels were coming off the banking system, the connection between finance and social (in)justice was obvious. The banks got rescued and the taxpayer got the bill.
But now, the causal chains that show how financiers shifted policies and collective norms to further their interests are getting longer and longer. That makes it harder to put the pieces together, which in turn allows banksters and their co-conspirators to escape responsibility for breaking the social order.
We are working together to understand the weaknesses, contradictions, and potential leverage points in our political and economic system to stymie the pauperization of ordinary citizens. Here is where the Naked Capitalism commentariat excels, in rigorously examining data, events, and how people in authority try to use them. But perhaps most important, these debates help articulate and reinforce values about how society should be organized. As Matt Stoller wrote in 2011:
Yves and the Naked Capitalism community are relentless, day in and day out. That’s how policy-makers operate, relentlessly, day in and day out. If you’re there, as they make decisions, they will have no choice but to listen. They may not do what you want, but they will at least by forced to hear that there is an alternative. And that, my friends, is power.
It may seem unreasonable to act as if you can change the way lives are lived on a mass basis. But you aren’t willing to assign yourself that job, you can’t ask others to do it for you. And the urgency of the debates in the comments section suggests that many of you have accepted that mission, whether you recognize it or not.
What We Have Done in the Last Year
Even more so than past years, 2013 and 2014 to date were productive and exhausting. It would be customary to go into yuppie-Christmas-card-style braggadocio. Instead, we’ll give a brief recap of some of the high points, particularly our original reporting:
¶ Exposing the private equity industry’s Snowden moment, that of the accidental release by the Pennsylvania Treasury of a dozen private equity limited partnership agreement. The industry has taken extreme measures, including getting legislation or attorney general opinions in all states to keep these contracts with government bodies exempt from state Freedom of Information Act disclosures. We also did other original reporting on private equity industry chicanery, including how private equity firms fudge portfolio company financials, have provisions that supposedly protect investors like clawbacks that fail to work in practice, and extract fees from portfolio companies that investors do not know about.
¶ Being one of the first to report on the Obamacare technology train wreck, as well as still-underrecognized problems of large disparities in pricing and access, high co-pays, and narrow-network-induced sticker shock
¶ Suing CalPERS over its having twice closed a Public Records Act request asking for private equity return data it provided to three Oxford academics. Even though we lost, we obtained never-before-released detailed cash flow data on over 300 funds as a result of filing our litigation. We will be analyzing it and publishing our findings from it over the coming months. We also fomented editorials in the Sacramento Bee and the Orange County Register criticizing CalPERS’ secrecy policies. Moreover, CalPERS maintains it will give us the records (although the footdragging strategies are impressive). Rest assured that are in for the long haul here
¶ Sleuthing into international scams. Richard Smith’s focus on New Zealand has not only elicited coverage in local media and wounded reactions from regulators, but tenaciously promoted NZ Companies Act reforms, now enacted at last, which will make it just a little harder for crooks to run riot with NZ shell companies.
¶ Digging into regulation-gutting trade deals, such as the TransPacific Partnership, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and the Trade in Services Agreement. Leveraging the work of Public Citizen, we explained how secret, self-dealing “investor” panels were trumping national regulation, and how these pending trade deals would greatly increase their power. With the help of Japan-based reader Clive, we were first to report that the TPP was in serious trouble in Japan. Last week, the Japanese effectively shut down negotiations
¶ Reporting on abuses by private equity single family home landlords; we anticipate increasing our coverage on this beat
And even though they don’t quite rise to the level of accomplishments, we had our regular supply of well-warranted invective, such as the necessity of again bashing of Andrew Ross Sorkin, in Andrew Ross Sorkin, Timothy Geithner, and the Three Card Monte Model of Propaganda and going after the Vichy Left in Yes Virginia, Obama and the Democrats Are Mussolini-Style Corporatists, Just Like the Republicans. We’ve also sharpened our focus on corruption generally, as reflected in our Skunk Party Manifesto.
We have also introduced new features:
¶Interviews, starting with Tim Wu and Zephyr Teachout, which we intend to provide on a regular basis
¶ Lambert’s color-coded speech analyses
¶ Our new 2 PM Water Cooler
¶ Bringing aboard new writers: Mathew Rose with commentary from Germany, Ignacio Portes from Argentina, and John Helmer from Russia
And we were very busy on the technology front:
¶ Launched a site redesign after considerable reader input
¶ Improved formatting of the mobile version of the site (we’ve had one go-round and will show readers more improvements later this week. Please have a look and provide input!)
¶ Upgraded the comments section, including adding a preview feature, allowing readers to more easily insert links, make bold, and include other formatting, and implementing the ability to edit comments up to three minutes after the comment is posted. Please see our post today showcasing the latest improvements
¶ Restored the site podcast
¶ Improved site loading speed
We also got some new features which matter a great deal to the site admins even if they aren’t quite as exciting to readers, such as being able to change the number of posts that appear in the “Recent Items” section.
In terms of where your 2013 donations went versus all those results, the short version is we spent a lot more on technology than anticipated (including developing a related website to publish the dozen formerly super-secret private equity limited partnership agreements) and funding the suit against CalPERS, which were not in our original budget at all. That meant we had to cut spending on travel, on our intern Jessica, and on my vacations (even though I left town, I had to keep working part-time).
How This Fundraiser Works
We’d like to get broad-based participation from the NC community. So even if you can only make a small contribution, we’d still appreciate that, because we also have readers who can make much bigger donations. Our target is 1000 donors over the next week.
We will also identify specific things that your donations will help fund and will tell you when we’ve hit each of these monetary goals.
The first goal is funding for more improvements in the user experience of the site. Even with all our investments last year, there is lots more to do.
We want to do more work to improve the readability of the text proper and make other improvements to site layout, particularly on cell phones and tablets (and this is not trivial; there are both subtle layout issues as well as the difficulty of creating a good experience across a huge range of platforms). We also have some important site elements we need to rewire for them to work better. And our new code jockey Tony has some ideas he’d like to implement to speed loading time.
The result is that our “nut” for technology is certain to be much higher than usual this year. So our first target is $12,700. Once we’ve hit that, we’ll let you know what our next item is.
How to Give
As we described earlier, there are multiple channels for donating, and you will see them all if you click on our Tip Jar. If you decide to give by check, please also send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the headline “Check is in the mail” (and just the $ en route in the message) so we can count your contribution in the total number of donations.
Thanks again for your interest and generous support!