Chapter 1: “D.C. Shakedown”
Three well-dressed men crowd into a darkened room. At first they are somewhat disoriented, the drapes blocking all incoming light from the windows. Slowly their eyes adjust to the glow of a small halogen lamp at the back of the room, casting shadows backwards against the drapes. The men make out the silhouettes of what appear to be flags mounted on floor-standing poles to the either side of a great wooden desk. Between the poles, behind the desk, a man sits, smoking a cigar. They cannot see his eyes, but they can feel his stare… and the accompanying waves of malevolence rolling their way.
They know where they are. They are in the Oval Office.
“Sit,” the man behind the desk says, his voice gravely and stern, the accent vintage Chicago, the tone resonant of someone widely used to having his way.
They comply without complaint, each man taking a seat on the sofa closest to the light, resigned to play along. They know the man is the president of the United States. This is his turf. They are here to settle a matter of money. They too are serious men.
From the right, out of the darkness, another man walks into view, slivers of light ricocheting off his suit as he moves. He is tall…and dangerous. The light catches his eyes and appears to dance in them, like a coven fire. His hair is slick, combed straight back. He has wide shoulders and enormous hands, the kind of hands that could crush another man’s palm at will.
“Gentlemen. My name is Steven Rattner. I’m da White House’s auto task force chief.”
He takes a seat on the sofa across from the other men, not offering his hand to any of them.
“Let’s get down ta business,” Rattner says. “I’m gonna speak for the president. We acknowledge his presence, but the directives come from me.”
“But you represent him, the president, the White House, the United States of America,” says one of the three men. He looks Rattner straight in the eye, unblinking. Rattner does not answer. “I’m Tom Lauria. I represent Perella Weinberg Partners, financial stakeholders in Chrysler. These two gentlemen are…”
Rattner holds up his hand in protest. “I don’t give a crap who dey are. We don’t have a lotta time, so let’s just get down to it, shall we?”
“Tirty cents on the dolla. Twenty-nine, actually,” Rattner says, without looking at Lauria, as if the offer were so dishonest it wasn't even worth looking across at his counterpart.
“WHAT?” shouts Lauria.
“You heard me.” Rattner now looks directly at Lauria, the light dancing in his eyes again. Lauria has the distinct impression he’s dreamed of this man before. The dream didn’t end well, he remembers. “You take tirty cents on da dolla fa what ya client invested in Chrysla. In exchange, you go along wid Chrysla’s bankruptcy and sale of assets ta Fiat.”
“You’re telling me that my client, the first lien holder in Chrysler, who just walked into this room prepared to accept only 50 percent of our investment, as indicated by the settlement letter you should now have, in order to approve your takeover of Chrysler and subsequent moves… you’re telling me, piss on it, that you’re going to force us to take 29 percent of our investment back?”
Rattner smiles the cunning, calculating smile of a veteran of the boardroom, where the only difference between a shank and a pen is the room in which the weapon holder stands.
“Yeah. Dat’s what he’s sayin,” the president answers, leaning forward so Lauria could see his face clearly. “The American people come before your client, Mr. Lauria. Chrysler workers come before your client, Mr. Lauria. Pensioners of Chrysler come before your client, Mr. Lauria. Your greed is contemptible. This offer is non-negotiable. You can take it or leave it.”
Lauria, astonished leans back into the sofa for a second, then bolts forward and stands, looking directly at the president: “You’re telling me, sir, that the Constitution no longer governs this land? The right to property, contractual property no longer exists when the government becomes the business partner? You’re telling me that the people who bought this debt -- pensioners, teachers' credit unions, personal retirees, retirement plans, college endowments -- the people whose money my client used to fund Chrysler…they have no say in this?
“Oh, I can take it one step further,” Rattner says, smirking. “You’ll take da offer, and your client will like da offer, and da people your client represents will like da offer, or your client will experience…shall we say… certain difficulties.”
Lauria laughs, his head leaning back, and claps his hands. Looking back at Rattner, tilting his head to the left, and smiling, he says: “What are you going to do, Mr. Rattner, have us “whacked”?
Rattner stops smiling. His stare at Lauria couldn’t be interpreted in any other way but as pure, unabashed hatred. “No, Mr. Lauria. We’ll make life miserable fa ya client. We will use da full power of da White House press corps to destroy your reputation. We’ll feed dem so much disinfamation aboutcha, it'll be so’s you wished you’d never even stepped foot in dis office.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Lauria says, disgusted, sitting back down in astonishment. “So you’re telling me that as of this moment, if my client takes their chances in bankruptcy court…to earn the FULL value of their investment…not the 50 percent we’re offering…you will smear my client and, presumably me, for not accepting to take ‘tirty cents on da dolla?’” Turning to the president, Lauria says: “Since when, Mr. President, did the executive and judicial branches of government become one?”
“Since today, Mr. Lauria. Since, today,” the president says, plucking the cigar from his mouth and laughing and laughing and laughing.
Note: The White House denies these threats occurred. Perella Weinberg Partners, hedge fund owners who supposedly invested $2.5 billion in Chrysler, have since denied Mr. Lauria’s allegations and are backing the government-proposed settlement. Socialists everywhere, meanwhile, are calling Perealla Weinberg Partners, and by extension, Lauria, greedy to the highest degree…because…they weren’t sacrificing enough.
My question: If this is how the United States Corporation of America (that is, the government) does business now with private companies, why should anyone ever invest in American business again?
Probably not as long as Obugger has the Fourth Estate in his pocket, too: