Are There Special TARP Appropriations for Silencing Bloggers?

The Paulson-Geithner-Summers regime has been remarkably adept at stonewalling people like Elizabeth Warren and otherwise avoiding transparency in the bailout. Now one of its main beneficiaries, Goldman Sachs, appears to be targeting mere commentators. They’ve hired a prestigious law firm to menace a writer who collects facts & commentary about the company at this site. As the Daily Telegraph reports,

Florida-based [Mike] Morgan began a blog entitled “Facts about Goldman Sachs” – the web address for which is – just a few weeks ago. . . . [M]any of the posts relate to other Wall Street firms and issues. According to Chadbourne & Parke’s letter, dated April 8, [Goldman] is rattled because the site “violates several of Goldman Sachs’ intellectual property rights” and also “implies a relationship” with the bank itself.

How could anyone think Goldman itself would be affiliating with or authorizing a site that links it to devilry? Unfortunately, the strange range of results of UDRP decisions on similarly satiric sites mean that this is not an absurd legal argument. And given the apocalyptic consequences of the former investment bank’s “financial engineering,” perhaps a reasonable person would associate it with the “mark of the beast”–or guess that hellfire was just one more profitmaking angle for its partners.

Activity like this helps us understand why the wall of silence about the exact nature of and conditions (or lack thereof) on TARP/TALF funding are so important to Treasury. Imagine if we were able to track exactly how much more executives were being paid because of these funds than if they’d have been paid absent taxpayers’ subventions. What if we could track who was benefiting politically from donations by employees at the propped up firms? What if the firms in general start using their corporate welfare to silence more critics like Mr. Morgan? At what point does this become state action? And might we start asking whether the resistance to nationalization among policy elites might be due to a need to avoid state responsibility for what is essentially state-funded action by maintaining a fig leaf of “private ownership” over the banking system?

Saddest of all, none of this raises an eyebrow at much of the mainstream media inured to the revolving door atmosphere among banks, regulators, and legislators. As Glenn Greenwald puts it,

One might think it would be a big news story for the second most-powerful member of the U.S. Senate to baldly state that the Congress is “owned” by the bankers who spawned the financial crisis and continue to dictate the government’s actions. But it won’t be. The leading members of the media work for the very corporations that benefit most from this process. Establishment journalists are integral and well-rewarded members of the same system and thus cannot and will not see it as inherently corrupt . . . . [O]nly Unserious Shrill Fringe radicals, such as the IMF’s former chief economist, use that sort of language.

I expect to see more wins for the big banks in coming months, and less accountability. One of the few hopes for progress here is for those concerned about the public interest to take advantage of the occasional divisions within Wall Street, as in the current battle between banks and hedge funds over safe harbor provisions for mortgage modifications.

PS: Here’s a commentary from Elizabeth Warren on the bailout in general:

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