December 08, 2005

Who is Jackson T. Stephens?

Two things in particular interest me in the story of Mr. Wilkes. The first is that William E. Franke, known to us as the manager of the Swiftboat Vets is also into the document conversion soft-ware business (Justice Department, Ohio Dept of Transportation, Ohio Secretary of State) as the founder of an outfit in St. Louis, known as Gannon Technologies.

Since the fellow's name is Franke, one might suspect that the reason he named his outfits "Gannon" is because he wants to appear connected to the Gannon who was a big-wig in the CIA until he retired.

Being a suspicious person, I'm beginning to think that all this document conversion is part of a big scam to manipulate the innards of the government acquisition process.

The second thing that's interesting is that Brent Wilkes is connected to one Jackson T. Stephens, one of Poppy's old friends and one of Georgie's biggest contributors, as well as one of Clinton's main supporters in 1992. Makes one think that perhaps Bill was a sponsored candidate, who was meant to lose, and Ross spoiled the game, or perhaps Poppy decided that he really preferred to rule from the shadows as he'd been doing for a couple of decades.
Just for a lark, I decided to have a look at Georgie's biggest contributors yesterday, as a preliminary to launching a "shame on you" campaign targeting those people who should have know better than to sell the American public that turkey.

First name I came up with was one Jackson T. Stephens.

And before I knew it a bunch of interesting connections popped up, including some developed by our friend at the Mad Cow Morning News. There may be truth or it may all be fiction, but it is sort of amusing. Here's my preliminary list:

Club for Growth
Beverly Enterprises
Boone, Boone & Boone
Worthen Bank Group
Michtar Riady
Brent Wilkes
World Finance Corp (sells furniture in addition to making loans)
Kyle Dustin Foggo
MZM, Inc (sells furniture) reminds me of the Israelis who were driving around the South Carolina back country with a van full of furniture, information that seemed relevant to the fellow tracking Mohammed Atta
William DeWitt
Robert Bass
Mercer Reynolds

tells us that:
Stephens is the chairman of Stephens Inc., the nation's largest investment bank off Wall Street. Its home office is located in little ol' Little Rock, Arkansas. He and his brother, Witt, built the Stephens Inc. empire out of a bible, belt buckle and bond business. In 1994, Stephens Inc. was listed as one of the biggest institutional shareholders in 30 large multinationals including the Arkansas based firms Tyson Food (# 10), Wal-Mart (# 113) and Alltel (# 12). Interestingly, it was Stephens who staked Sam Walton when he started Wal-Mart in 1970, and financed Tyson's takeover of Holly Farms in 1988. (Stephens, Tyson and Walton (1917-1992), all billionaires from Arkansas.) Stephens sold a 275 phone exchange to Alltel when they broke into the phone market, and guaranteed in 1990 that Alltel would get Systematics by refusing to sell his 10% stake in Systematics to anyone but Alltel. In many ways Arkansas is the house that Jack built. Unfortunately, for the folks in East Liverpool, Ohio, and the Tri-State area (WV, PA, OH) who were saddled with Von Roll's hazardous waste incinerator, Arkansas was never big enough for Stephens.
This is where things get complex. Jackson Stephens, as noted above has been partners with an Indonesian Tycoon, Mochtar Riady*. His son, James Riady was a co-president of Worthen Bank (Federal News Service, July 17' 1997). In 1994, Stephens' family interests owned approximately 55% of Worthen bank's outstanding stocks (Worthen proxy, March 29, 1994). Worthern provided the Clinton campaign with a $2 million dollar financing deal that basically saved the Democratic National Party from a cash shortage in the early 1992 Presidential campaign (The Spectator, October 1992). The Riadys own a company called The Lippo Group*.

WTI has links, too, with the Rose Law Firm, where Hillary Clinton worked on many Stephens projects involving municipal and state bond work. Stephens made an effort to secure bond financing for WTI through the Ohio Water Development Authority in 1987. Documents obtained by TAS, including a December 14 application for $139 million in state bond financing, listed Stephens as the proposed lead managing underwriter. While Charles A. Waterman of Brickler and Eckler served as counsel for Stephens on a number of WTI projects, the Rose Firm was retained during the 1980s to do bond work for Stephens as well. The Yamada report on Sussman's conflict-of-interest mentioned Hillary's work for the Stephenses, and noted that it was Hillary who recommended the compromised Sussman for his EPA job overseeing WTI.

When Lafarge obtained a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge for sand and gravel in a section of the Ohio River directly facing WTI, the circle of conflicts-of-interest was finally closed. Since at least April 1991, while Hillary was a board member of the parent company, Standard Lafarge has been permitted to dredge the Ohio River for sand and gravel to make cement. While the dredging clearly benefits Lafarge's cement-making operation, the consequent deepening of the Ohio River will allow waterway access to the WTI incinerator. Since the original permit allowed for a port structure, and since WTI has run into opposition due to its use of roadways to haul hazardous waste, opening the Ohio River to WTI would solve a number of its problems.

And that reminded me of an intresting story:

May 14, 2003

Alexander-Harbour's Two-Party System
Firms agree to disagree about politics, but find success in an unorthodox alliance.

The office along the Georgetown waterfront shared by the Harbour Group and the Alexander Strategy Group might be the only one in Washington with a foosball table and two Segway Human Transporters. But these aren't the only signals that this is not your typical D.C. lobbying outpost.

An even more telling sign is what lobbyists from both firms call "the demilitarized zone"- a six-foot-wide intersection of hallways dividing the territories of the all-GOP Alexander Strategy Group and the die-hard Democratic Harbour Group.

But when a big group of the 30 people who work for the two firms gather in the shared conference room for a Chinese take-out lunch, the camaraderie is strong and party labels blur.

At least until Karl Gallant, an Alexander Strategy partner, pipes up. Suggesting a decidedly Republican addition to the office's "toy" collection, Gallant cracks, "I want to put in a firing range."

Friendly rivalry is, in essence, the business model Harbour and Alexander have adopted. They moved in together in November, but each firm retains its own strongly partisan identity. They have their own compensation and partnership structures, and their own retirement and health care plans.

The Alexander Strategy Group is independent and owned by founder Edwin Buckham and the eight other partners. The Harbour Group is owned by Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman-the 300-lawyer firm headquartered on the third floor of the same waterfront building. Founder Joel Johnson and two other Harbour partners have equity shares in the company.

Partners in both lobby shops believe they are on to a good thing. And they project the two firms will bring in a combined $10 million for this year.

The alliance, Johnson says, grew out of a "working relationship," when both firms represented the U.S.-Malaysia Exchange Association on trade issues and matters related to cooperation, including the war on terror.

And more recent doings of Alexander Strategy Group. Interesting perhaps in connection with the reports that the captives in the CIA prisons in Europe have been relocated to North Africa.

Not a Client to Bring Home to Mom
Eritrea "signed Alexander Strategy Group, a firm with strong Republican ties, to a contract worth more than $300K a year to improve its ties with the United States." According to Amnesty International ?torture, arbitrary detention, 'disappearances' and ill-treatment of political prisoners, are common in the Horn of Africa nation. Human Rights Watch reports "The Eritrean government has lobbied the United States to use Eritrea's Red Sea ports as military bases in the war against terrorism." The contract "forbids the [Alexander Strategy Group] from discussing its work without the consent of Eritrea." The Alexander Strategy Group's other clients include the Nuclear Energy Institute , Blackwater USA and PhRMA. Source: O?Dwyer's PR Daily (reg. req'd), August 10, 2004

What are we to conclude from the Wilkes/Cunningham connection? Obviously, the culture of corruption in Washington is not new and Ohio has been a major venue for some time.

When I was in college in western PA in the early '60s, Ohio already had a reputation for being ruled by the mob.

The connection between organized crime and garbage (waste) has a long history. Now it looks like document conversion has provided another route into the public till. And the unifying characteristic is that the promised services are never delivered. In the case of hazardous waste that means that instead of being treated and disposed of, so as not to be a hazard to living things any longer, the stuff is just dumped into land, water or air, whence it is taken up by living organisms who then die prematurely, if they're lucky. If they're unlucky they live long miserable and painful lives coping with chronic disease, birth defects and mental disabilities.

Though Jackson T. Stephens no longer owns WTI, on the banks of the Ohio River, his legacy survives:

Ohio River towns cope with pollution
Worries about jobs and hazards collide

Ohio River communities built around promises of economic opportunity and secluded riverside homes have fewer than 6 percent of Ohio's residents.

Yet the factory-dotted land near the river produces one-fourth of the state's toxic waste and 68 percent of its air pollutants, according to a newspaper analysis.

Finally, it might be noted that the lifting of water standards in the Ohio River is being considered by the EPA, supposedly to accommodate "aging" waste-water treatment plants. I say "supposedly" because there's no reason for plants to be aging. Not only is it possible to upgrade them so the water that comes out meets drinking water standards, but the decades of financing these utilities with user fees should have provided sufficient capital for up-grading. Of course, if the feds had continued to provide grants for wastewater, instead of harzardous waste generators, the "problems" could have been addressed long ago.

But garbage and waste are not glamorous issues, so the bureaucracy and the politicians tend to shun them and the mobsters move in. They're the scavengers of the system and, just as in nature, scavengers tend to be conduits of disease (corruption). If you're not a good housekeeper, your house and everything in it will be consumed by rot and vermine--nature's scavengers.

Posted by Hannah at December 8, 2005 08:39 AM