Monday, November 17, 2008

Conservative senator: Paulson may have given bailout money to friends

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By Muriel Kane

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) is making waves by criticizing Treasury Secretary Paulson’s handling of the bailout and saying that Congress should take back whatever is left of the $700 billion "blank check" it issued to the Bush administration in October.

In a letter posted on his website, Inhofe told his Senate colleagues that he intends to push for immediate legislation that would require Congressional authorization for any further payouts.

The ultra-conservative Oklahoma Republican told the Tulsa World, "It is just outrageous that the American people don’t know that Congress doesn’t know how much money [Paulson] has given away to anyone. ... It could be to his friends. It could be to anybody else. We don’t know. There is no way of knowing. ... He was able to get this authority from Congress predicated on what he was going to do, and then he didn’t do it."

Paulson is a former CEO of the giant investment banking firm Goldman Sachs, which is assumed to be a primary beneficiary of the bailout plan. ThinkProgress warned in September, "The conflict of interest provides all the more reason for the bailout legislation in Congress to have more stringent oversight that the administration opposes."

Inhofe notes that he himself was also skeptical about the bailout from the start. "I have learned a long time ago," he said, "when they come up and say this has to be done and has to be done immediately, there is no other way of doing it, you have to sit back and take a deep breath and nine times out of 10 they are not telling the truth. And this is one of those nine times."

The Bible-citing, anti-gay Inhofe has been known primarily as an over-the-top global warming denier and supporter of so-called "enhanced interrogation," and his opposition to the Bush administration on the bailout brings him some strange bedfellows. On Monday, blogger Atrios quoted Inhofe’s comments about Paulson under the heading, "That’s crazy talk. Only insane liberal bloggers say stuff like this."

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