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Democrats Threaten AIG Bill Of Attainder

From an elated Associated Press:

Edward Liddy, chief executive officer of American International Insurance group (AIG), seen here on December 11, 2008.

Congress threatens to tax AIG executives’ bonuses

By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – Congressional Democrats vowed Tuesday to all but strip AIG executives of their $165 million in bonuses as expressions of outrage swelled in Congress over eye-catching extra income for employees of a firm that has received billions in taxpayer bailout funds.

"Recipients of these bonuses will not be able to keep all of their money," declared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in an unusually strong threat delivered on the Senate floor.

"If you don’t return it on your own we will do it for you," said Chuck Schumer of New York.

The bonuses were paid legally, part of a program that had been disclosed in advance in filings that American International Group Inc. made with the government.

House and Senate Democrats were crafting separate bills to tax up to 100 percent of generous bonuses awarded by companies rescued by taxpayer money. Republicans said President Barack Obama’s administration should have done more to stop the bonuses.

AIG would not be the only firm named by either Democratic bill, but there was no question whose executives inspired the legislation.

"They’re not going to get the financial benefit of those bonuses," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.

In the House, Reps. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., and Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, introduced a bill that would that would tax at 100 percent bonuses above $100,000 paid by companies that have received federal bailout money.

"We will use any means necessary," said Ryan. "It boggles my mind how these executives can be so unaware of what the American people are going through." …

"One way or another, we’re going to try to figure out how to get these resources back," said Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., the panel’s chairman…

On Monday, Obama lambasted the insurance giant for "recklessness and greed" and pledged to try to block payment of the bonuses. Obama said he had directed Geithner to determine whether there was any way to retrieve or stop the bonus money

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said he has issued subpoenas for the names of AIG employees given bonuses despite their possible roles in its near-collapse. Cuomo said his office will investigate whether the bonus payments are fraudulent under state law because they were promised when the company knew it wouldn’t have the money to cover them. AIG reported this month that it lost $61.7 billion in the fourth quarter of last year, the largest corporate loss in history, and it has benefited from more than $170 billion in a federal rescue.

Do any of our Solons in Congress ever read the Constitution or understand its limits?

U.S. Constitution

Article 1 Section 9

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

Article 1 Section 10

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

In case you don’t happen to know what a Bill of Attainder is, here is a handy definition from the Tech Law Journal:

Bill of Attainder

Definition: A legislative act that singles out an individual or group for punishment without a trial.

"The Bill of Attainder Clause was intended not as a narrow, technical (and therefore soon to be outmoded) prohibition, but rather as an implementation of the separation of powers, a general safeguard against legislative exercise of the judicial function or more simply – trial by legislature."  U.S. v. Brown, 381 U.S. 437, 440 (1965).

"These clauses of the Constitution are not of the broad, general nature of the Due Process Clause, but refer to rather precise legal terms which had a meaning under English law at the time the Constitution was adopted.  A bill of attainder was a legislative act that singled out one or more persons and imposed punishment on them, without benefit of trial.  Such actions were regarded as odious by the framers of the Constitution because it was the traditional role of a court, judging an individual case, to impose punishment."  William H. Rehnquist, The Supreme Court, page 166.

"Bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligations of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation. … The sober people of America are weary of the fluctuating policy which has directed the public councils.  They have seen with regret and indignation that sudden changes and legislative interferences, in cases affecting personal rights, become jobs in the hands of enterprising and influential speculators, and snares to the more-industrious and less-informed part of the community."  James Madison, Federalist Number 44, 1788.

But never mind any of that.

Messrs Reid and Schumer are not about to let their (feigned) self righteous wrath be limited by such niceties as the Constitution.

By the way, according to Open Secrets:

Look who were the biggest recipients of AIG’s largess in 2008.

(Thanks to BillK for the heads up.)

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, March 17th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

40 Responses to “Democrats Threaten AIG Bill Of Attainder”

  1. BillK says:

    Did you know Congress now has the power to target individuals?

    This is amazing.

    From a drooling AP:

    Congress threatens to tax AIG executives’ bonuses

    By Laurie Kellman

    WASHINGTON – Congressional Democrats vowed Tuesday to all but strip AIG executives of their $165 million in bonuses as expressions of outrage swelled in Congress over eye-catching extra income for employees of a firm that has received billions in taxpayer bailout funds.

    “Recipients of these bonuses will not be able to keep all of their money,” declared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in an unusually strong threat delivered on the Senate floor.

    “If you don’t return it on your own we will do it for you,” said Chuck Schumer of New York…


    So now taxes can be imposed retroactively on anyone for any reason.

    Nice precedent here – one can hardly wait for Congress to decide who they think has too much money next.

    Worse is that Republicans are joining in.

    I’m sorry, I no longer have any representation in Washington. None.

    • Consilience says:

      The trip-wire may be breached if Schumer tries to pull this off. Many of the several States have pending legislation to vote on secession if the Congress acts outside the Constitution.

    • U NO HOO says:

      You took the words right out of my mind.

      Don’t forget, Clinton retroactively taxed Social Security.


      Rush had a very good analysis of this today.

      Media Madness in America, are you reading this?

    • Colonel1961 says:

      Hope they don’t retroactively increase my taxes for the last five years…

  2. MinnesotaRush says:

    “If you don’t return it on your own we will do it for you,” said Chuck Schumer of New York.”

    “They’re not going to get the financial benefit of those bonuses,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.”

    Overreach on steroids!

    These phonys (the whole batch of ’em) are doing nothing but “pandering” to the masses that buy into this charade … “The bonuses were paid legally, part of a program that had been disclosed in advance in filings that American International Group Inc. made with the government.”

    Phony, dishonest twits!

  3. BillK says:

    Oh, and to center on Ryan’s comment:

    “It boggles my mind how these executives can be so unaware of what the American people are going through.”

    Do you think the average American knows that United States Senators annually take home $169,300 in salary alone of “the taxpayers’ money?”

    • TwilightZoned says:

      Of course not. You should see the reaction I get when I mention it’s the salary that keeps on giving…into retirement, then to the spouse upon death…

  4. bousquem says:

    The democrats seem to believe the constitution is a document they can use when it fits them but otherwise can ignore it when it doesn’t work for them. What’s going to stop the idiots in congress from passing a bill saying they will tax at 100% any income over X amount (say $70,000). Of course the democrats and their masters would be exempt from that. Also focus on the other part of Ryan’s comment “We will use any means necessary”, now that is just starting to scare me. Do I think it’s right that the executives get the bonuses for running the company into the ground, no. But just creating laws to do what ever you want to a select group of inviduals as to punish them is wrong.

  5. Yarddog1 says:

    Everyone of these theiving, dishonest, self-serving, lying miscreants in congress should be forced to leave the country that they are destroying. I am fed up with the hypocrisy of these loons. If anyone thinks that these idiots make decisions based upon what is in the best interest of this country and its citizens, they are either intellectually challenged (read stupid), living in a fantasy or part of the effort to destroy us. A very dark cloud has settled and stalled upon our freedoms. True evil DOES exist and it is becoming bolder as the days pass. Unless we do something soon, our way of life is over. I am close to 60-years old and have never in my life been as concerned as I am now. Patriots arise!

    • Consilience says:

      Hear, hear!!!

    • wardmama4 says:

      Yarddog – I do believe you’d enjoy my description of them from the earlier article on this overtaking of American capitalism – vaulted Klownposse pretending to be leaders in DC –

      These retention bonuses were in the pipeline last year (I guess that was another bill/report/note that these losers didn’t read). Dodd wrote in the Generational Theft Act that bonuses prior to Feb 2009 were exempt (and I guess can’t even remember what he wrote into that mess of governmental theft)

      And yet they are running around screaming ‘Off with their Heads.’

      Wonder what those in DC will say when We The People start screaming ‘Off with their Heads.’

      I’m sick and tired of it – they act like they have no part what-so-ever with the crap that they ‘legislated’ on, every one else (don’t forget – when Reagan was in office the Klowposse then claimed that Main Street was behind Wall Street) is the bad guy, liar, crook, etc and that their hearts, minds and hands are clean.

      Hypocrit thy name is Democrat.

    • Right of the People says:

      Yarddog, What they’re really mad about is they can’t figure out a way to get their grimy little paws on any of this cash.

      I’m with you, let’s take this sucker back. Buy all the ammo you can and get ready for a wild ride.


  6. heather08 says:

    I’m not sure, technically, that it’s a bill of attainder. It may be a contract clause violation (in the same provision of the Constitution as the prohibition on bills of attainder). It also would seem to be an equal protection violation to target only one class of individuals with punitive tax rates. But it is classic liberal-think to believe that the law is whatever the popular will says it is. And sometimes, it is.

  7. Roehnan says:

    I realize that it barely merits mentioning, but is anyone the least bit concerned that the “bonuses were paid legally, part of a program that had been disclosed in advance in filings that American International Group Inc. made with the government.”??

    The power-grab of these idiots is amazing.

  8. Steve says:

    An update from Roll Call:

    Frank Calls for Government Takeover of AIG

    The government should sue to get the $165 million in AIG bonuses back and would be in a better position if it owned AIG outright rather than simply as a lender and shareholder in AIG, the House Financial Services chairman says.

    Roll Call Staff, Roll Call
    March 17, 2009

    House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) called for the government to formally take control of American International Group and sue employees who received bonuses.

    Frank said it’s “time for us to take over the company.”

    Although taxpayers have an 80 percent stake in the firm, Frank said covenants added during the federal bailouts limited government influence over the its operations. It’s time to exercise that ownership stake, he said.

    “We own it,” Frank said.

    The government should sue to get the $165 million in AIG bonuses back and would be in a better position if it owned AIG outright rather than simply as a lender and shareholder in AIG, Frank said.

    He said he isn’t worried that talented derivatives traders could leave AIG without the bonuses.

    “These are the people who caused the problem,” Frank said, adding that replacing them with qualified financial workers shouldn’t be hard. “It is hardly a tough market in hiring people with financial expertise,” he said.

    Frank, who on Monday said heads should roll at the firm, said it is premature to know whether legislation would be needed to stop the bonuses, and he declined to comment on proposals to tax them at rates up to 100 percent, noting that is an issue for the Ways and Means Committee.


    • BannedbytheTaliban says:

      So that is the real motivation for all the bail outs. Not only are companies irresponsible with their own money, now they cannot be trusted with taxpayer money either. Time for the government to take over all business. It is the only way to prevent people from making large sums of money.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      And once again, Fwank’s real agenda and desires are heard loud and clear to a nation that largely neither cares nor understands.

      He said it plainly, flatly, clearly….”It’s time for us to take over the company”

      Could it be more clear than if it was a stroboscopic billboard with neon letters?

    • Colonel1961 says:

      Thanks, Barney – I’m sure your business acumen is stellar. Now, shut the hell up until you admit your mistakes in this fiasco you pitiful little miscreant…

  9. proreason says:

    The entire congress is a pack of demagogues now.

    It’s a feeding frenzy to find anybody to blame but themselves.

    Kind of reminds me of the French Revolution…..where the blood lust to reck revenge overtook everybody.

    Well my blood is up, for sure, and it’s not boiling about anything AIG did or some bonuses that don’t amount to a hill of beans vs the damage recked by Congress and The Moron.

    I want the blood-suckers at the heart of the con.

  10. Right of the People says:

    “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, having its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Declaration of Independence

    A friend sent me this, I thought it was interesting a very relevant.

    Remember when this economic crisis hit, and Congress let Bear Sterns go under, pushed a bunch of forced marriages between banks, etc.?
    Then they bailed out AIG. At the time, I thought: “That’s strange. What does an insurance company have to do with this crisis?”
    I think I just found the answer. Among other things, AIG INSURES THE PENSION TRUST OF THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS!!
    No wonder they got bailed out right away!

    It is nearing the time for us to act if we want our republic to survive.

    Take it back!


    • Consilience says:

      AIG does not insure congressional pensions. See Snopes:


      I do agree we are approaching the point where we will have to act…

    • proreason says:

      AIG got bailed out because they insure other FS companies. They became the lynchpin in the whole mess.

      Moreover, since AIG was AAA-rated, when they insured the toxic asset derivatives and credit swaps, the AAA reating was used by the other companies to prop up THEIR credit rating, and hence to lower the assets they had to hold. All with full approval of the apparently not-so-infallible government regulators, because after all, the assets were backed by mortgages, which were backed with the full faith and credit of the US government. Not officially of course, but in practice, well, apparently so. So the whole financial system became a house of cards. And the deck was dealt by Drooling Barney and his fellow scam artists.

      Which is what the internationsl crooks who are late in the 4th month of the coup d’etat wanted all along.

  11. VMAN says:

    Distract distract distract!!! Trash the constitution Trash the constitution Trash the constitution!!!! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Watch my left hand not my right. And we have a worthless sycophantic press abetting them and I include FOX in that.

  12. Odie44 says:

    Why is Bambi asking Geitner how to handle this when it appears to be an AG – Holder issue???

  13. heather08 says:

    I don’t think that Congress can do this under the Constitution. I’m just not sure that it’s a Bill of Attainder. No one is being found guilty of anything or punished–at least not in the criminal sense. It is a civil impairment of contractual rights, which the Constitution also prohibits, and would also seem to be discriminatory without rational basis. If AIG employees can be deprived of contractually-agreed bonuses by legislation, why shouldn’t it apply to all companies who received federal funds and pay bonuses. Why single out AIG? But I will leave the specific basis on which it is unconstitutional to those who are more well-versed in Constitutional law.

    • pdsand says:

      I would imagine that something in the wording of the 16th amendment is built to specifically exempt the tax law as bill of attainder. There was originally an assumption that the federal government couldn’t make you pay any more than any other person, but the amendment that allows for the individual income tax is worded to get past that. Plus we’ve been down this road before on the issue of the graduated income tax, and I’m sure it has been settled in court that the government can make anybody pay any amount of income tax that it wants under the law and it is constitutional.

  14. pdsand says:

    I got the idea from Rush the other day, if the issue is misuse of taxpayer money, these legislators had better hope nobody ever finds out what they do with taxpayer money every day.
    Also, what’s the difference between these people getting bonuses as part of their compensation, and a janitor getting his weekly salary? You would think that if the taxpayer money cannot be used to enrich a person, why is AIG allowed to pay any salaries now that they have taxpayer money? The total of these bonuses is $165 million. What is the total of salary that AIG pays every month? Stopping which one would save the taxpayers more money?

  15. U NO HOO says:

    “a janitor getting his weekly salary?”

    Yeah, that is what I thought of, a janitor works all year and if he does a good job and doesn’t take too many days off he gets a Christmas bonus as an attaboy.

    If he lets the toilet overflow no bonus, just a gottcha.

    Seems to me the AIG bonus receivers, no matter how we feel about their bonus, are legally entitled, and politicos who are belly aching are just proving their analness.

  16. archetype says:

    I agree that congress is off the mark here but so are all of you and whoever wrote this article. None of you seem to be aware that there is a difference between punitive and civil laws. Bills of Attainder and ex post facto laws refer only to punitive (punishment as defined by Rehnquist) laws. The government can and often does enact retroactive laws (see recent laws re: sex offender registrations).

    Congress is wrong to do this, but you’re going to have to do better than this.

    • Odie44 says:

      Considering numerous blogs are bringing up the Bills of Attainder and well, the American judicial system process – it is a valid area of concern.

      At the essence is whether or not taxing a bonus is “punitive” or “punishment” in itself, being they are specifically selecting a population of people they don’t like.

      Interestingly enough – as SG posted – both Madison’s and Rehnquist’s opine is concerning the legislatives ability to punish, where clearly Rehniquist states “Such actions were regarded as odious by the framers of the Constitution because it was the traditional role of a court, judging an individual case, to impose punishment”

      Constitution law trumps punitive/civil designation – i.e. the friggin existence of the Supreme Court, Judicial branch and seperation of powers and state.

      Didn’t you hear – Roe v Wade was about “property rights” via a basterdization of Griswald v Conn… because “abortion” language is nowhere to be found in the Constitution.

  17. pagar says:

    “AIG does not insure congressional pensions”. That is correct, it takes voters who are willing to vote for these losers who are unable to make it in a civilian job to insure that these congresspersons draw pensions, However, AIG and those who funnel campaign contributions to incumbents share some part of the blame for America being embarrassed by those we currently call congresspersons. Help insure no congressional pensions, vote them out of office. Term limits are definately needed now more than ever.

  18. canary says:

    Instead of resorting to 100% communism, just deduct from next 30 billion the oOllabama regine is giving AIG, like oOllahbama said, before he choked from anger and couldn’t speak, caught on camera. Sometimes stress can make you not able to speak. It feels like a egg in your throat. Maybe an unborn chick getting revenge, from Obama enjoying the slaughter of it’s muslim chicken ancestor in Chapter 2 of Dreams from my Father.

  19. bill says:

    Well this proves two things, they don’t read the Constitution, and they don’t read the bills they vote for.

    Obammunism, what could possibly go wrong.

  20. BillK says:

    It’s getting more fun all the time.

    From the AP:

    Livid Democrats demand AIG return bailout bonuses

    By Laurie Kellman

    WASHINGTON – Talking tougher by the hour, livid Democrats confronted beleaguered insurance giant AIG with an ultimatum Tuesday: Give back $165 million in post-bailout bonuses or watch Congress tax it away with emergency legislation. Republicans declared the Democrats were hardly blameless, accusing them of standing by while the bonus deal was cemented and suggesting that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner could and should have done more. While the White House expressed confidence in Geithner, it was clearly placing the responsibility for how the matter was handled on his shoulders.

    Geithner sent a letter late Tuesday to congressional leaders informing them that he was working with the Justice Department to determine whether any of the AIG payments could be recovered. He cited a provision in the recent economic stimulus law that gave him authority to review compensation to the highest-paid employees of companies that already have received federal assistance.

    Fresh details, meanwhile, pushed outrage over AIG ever higher: New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo reported that 73 company employees received bonus checks of $1 million or more last Friday. This at a company that was failing so spectacularly that the government felt the need to prop it up with a $170 billion bailout.

    The financial bailout program remains politically unpopular and has been a drag on Barack Obama’s new presidency, even though the plan began under his predecessor, George W. Bush. The White House is well aware of the nation’s bailout fatigue — anger that hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars have gone to prop up financial institutions that made poor decisions, while many others who have done no wrong pay the price.

    White House officials, for the first time, on Tuesday night said Geithner told the White House about the bonus payments last Thursday, and senior aides informed the president later that day. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal details of the timeline involving AIG.

    The administration wouldn’t be pleased to hear what Maria Panza-Villa, of Hillsboro, Ore., had to say. “Wasn’t Obama supposed to fix this?” asked the mother of two who said she has lost three jobs since November as one employer after another went under. …


    We’ve gone from simple class envy to mob rule.

    Imagine what will happen for whomever else the publc suddenly decides is undeserving of what they feel is “too much” money.

  21. sheehanjihad says:

    I firmly believe that the Democrats are faking this indignation, to appease the growing ranks of angry voters. They knew about it long ago, and didnt figure it would make any difference. So they blather on about the “outrage” of it all, when they are the ones who caused this entire financial collapse to happen. They want votes, they want to keep their seats. They could give a damn about bonus’s…..but they have to pretend to for photo ops and sound bites.

    • proreason says:

      Point 1 – exactly correct
      Point 2 – exactly correct
      Point 3 – exactly correct
      Point 4 – exactly correct
      Point 5 – exactly correct

      They are liars, hypocrits, conmen, criminals, sneaks, weaklings, greedy bastards and cowards.

      Other than that, I like em just fine.

  22. BillK says:

    Now Dodd is claiming that “someone” – not him – put the bonus exception into the Dodd Amendment:


  23. canary says:

    The government can not sue AIG, unless they violated a contract, which to my understanding, there was no stipulation that said AIG couldn’t give bonus’s. No stipulation that certain individuals would have to be fired (which I don’t think the govt could put in the stipulations). Now if the government could harrass these people, and go on a witch hunt. If they found some fraud, then the government would not be able to sue, but would have to use the DOJ charge with criminal act. So, I think all this b.s. Frank and them are saying, may just be a smokescreen, to make the public believe they are doing something. It would be illegal to tax the bonuses, but I think the government thinks people are stupid, after all they elected Obama.
    And prehaps it will be old news soon, and all for show, since the government is fixing to give them more bailout money. And the govt could do some behind closed doors pressure and threats (find a some t’s not crossed ) , even though the old b.s. is to create jobs. heh heh.
    But, to threaten to own the country is communism. This might be a test to see if they can slowly take over the country, which frankly I think that’s what the new regine is doing. They want the public angry, and test the public’s ignorance, and gain sympathy for Obama, and take the spot light off themselves.
    Would Grassly ever get away with telling Frank, or Obama to apologize or commit suicide. Did he tell Tim Geithner of Maxine Waters to do this? This is how Hitler got so much power.
    I mean with muslim nuts committing suicide, why does he mention Japan. Japan surely appreciates this statement.
    OH!!!! I get it. The government wants to rid the term “terrorist” so that know one considers the terror they can put in people and businesses. I mean people jumped off buildings after Walstreet, and Grassly get’s away. He should resign. It’s extremely politically incorrect, and a barbaric terrorist statement he made.

    These politicans know that they might have a problem getting a job with the economy the way it is.
    The government wants fear in this country. They want to make people submissive and lay down.

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