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9:12 AM

Operation Choke Point

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Operation Choke Point

Missouri Member of Congress Blaine Luetkemeyer has contacted the Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation as well as the FDIC Inspector General concerning Operation Choke Point. 

Operation Choke Point is a formerly covert Department of Justice initiative to coerce banks to deny banking services to numerous categories of business based on a perception that those types of businesses could present a higher risk of fraud and money laundering. In the financial-services sector those merchant categories include money-transfer networks, pawn shops, and payday lenders. 

Luetkemeyer's letters sent earlier this month were in response to a report of FDIC staff accessing emails and documents from the OIG, a report confirmed on June 13 by the FDIC. Congressman  Luetkemeyer stated that the breach raised "serious concerns for the independent nature in which the OIG investigation into Operation Choke Point was conducted." He further called Operation Choke Point "an unparalleled abuse of authority"

He further stated "anything that calls into question the ability of an inspector general to conduct independent investigations would only add to the environment of mistrust that has been fostered" by Operation Choke Point. 

While ferreting out fraud and money laundering in the financial system is an admirable goal, most business in these categories are legitimate and provide valuable consumer financial services. The problem with Operation Choke Point is that it paints all the businesses in these categories with the same broad brush. 

This adversely affects vulnerable consumers. Money transfer services are the only way for many consumers without bank accounts to make safe and reliable C2C or C2B payments. Explain Operation Choke Point to a serviceman who finds that the payday lender that has set up shop near his base is suddenly closed because its source of cash has been chocked off leaving him no way to buy a bus ticket home to see his girlfriend and family. Explain it to the senior citizen who can't find a pawn broker to purchase her old, now-meaningless jewelry, so she can raise some cash. Many of these companies are small, entrepreneurial businesses. We should be encouraging the creation of small, neighborhood businesses like these, not discriminating against them.


To read Luetkemeyer's letters, visit www.efta.org.
11:46 AM

Flight 93 and July 4th

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Flight 93 and July 4th 

The July 4th holiday is too often marked by automobile-dealer sales, excessive consumption of alcohol, and lawn-games like Corn Hole or Badminton. 

This 4th the family and I did something different. We visited the Memorial to the 40 victims of United Flight 93. This was 1 of 4 airplanes hijacked on September 11, 2001 by terrorists intent on crashing the aircraft into various symbols of American power. 

Two of the planes destroyed the World Trade Center in New York, a symbol of American commercial and financial power. The third took out the Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Department of Defense, the symbol of American military power. 

The fourth plane, United Flight 93, never reached its intended target, the US Capitol, an enduring symbol of American democracy, recognizable the world over as such. 

The terrorists who hijacked Flight 93 failed in their mission of death and destruction, thanks to the quick thinking and bravery of the 40 crew members and passengers aboard Flight 93, who refused to be part of the terrorists' evil plot. They forced the plane down in a rocky, but beautiful field in Western Pennsylvania, far short of the terrorists' intended target in Washington, DC. 

Viewing the Memorial that commemorates their bravery standing up to the tyranny of terrorism, I was struck by the similarity to two other national monuments in Pennsylvania, Independence Hall and Valley Forge Military Park. 

Independence Hall being where the American Founding Fathers' Continental Congress met to pledge their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in their rebellion agains what they saw as the tyranny of British King George, knowing that if their plot failed they would be ruined.

 Valley Forge, of course, was the site of Gen. George Washington's Revolutionary War Army encampment near Philadelphia during the brutally cold winter of 1777-1778. No battle was fought as Vally Forge, but hundreds of solders succumb to disease, hunger, and the cold. Vally Forge was one of the war's turning points. The forge on which a nation was formed.

The courage and resolve that the Flight 93 crew and passengers showed in the face of certain death  was similar to that shown by the Founders at Independence Hall. 

Similarly, the survivors at Vally Forge looking out of their cabins at their mates being carried away could have felt the same hopelessness that some of those aboard Flight 93 may have felt looking through the cabin windows seeing that Pennsylvania field getting closer and closer