DECEMBER 04, 2009
The chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, is being investigated for bullying credit card companies into giving him political donations by threatening to impose strict security standards that would cost millions.
Even though his committee doesn’t deal with credit card issues, Thompson actually held a hearing earlier this year to announce that credit card companies faced the threat of costly new rules to supposedly protect customers from identity theft. The scandal was revealed this week in a lengthy Washington D.C. newspaper article that quoted several congressional staff members with inside knowledge of the situation.
They claim that Thompson, a nine-term congressman from Mississippi’s second district, held the hearing to strong arm Visa, MasterCard and others into giving him thousands of dollars in political contributions. The veteran lawmaker ended up getting $15,000 from the credit card industry and its lobbyists and no legislation on credit card security was ever introduced. The overtly unscrupulous incident is under a House ethics investigation.
Under Thompson’s leadership the Homeland Security Committee has suffered from instability, with an abnormally high turnover rate that includes nearly a dozen staff members resigning over objections to the panel’s questionable operations. This could very well mean that Thompson, in his second term as committee chairman, has perhaps similarly coerced other special interests for cash.
Created in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Homeland Security Committee was designed to provide congressional oversight over the Department of Homeland Security and to deal with issues such as transportation security, emergency preparedness and border and port security as well as intelligence sharing. Credit card issues are not part of the panel’s oversight duties.
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