Monday, December 15, 2008

Trail of Madoff Victims Grows, Schumer Still Unavailable for Comment

The scandal that dwarfs Enron in scope continues to explode with NY Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman and director Steven Spielberg the latest victims to be reported.
Daily News owner and real-estate mogul Mort Zuckerman is one of the investors ripped off by swindler Bernard Madoff, it was reported today.

Zuckerman, who also owns US News & World Report, has "significant exposure" through a fund that invested virtually all of its assets with Madoff, The Wall Street Journal says, quoting a person familiar with his investments.

A Zuckerman spokesman did not comment to the Journal.

The Journal further reported that powerhouse movie director Steven Spielberg's charity, Wunderkinder Foundation, also got burned, investing roughly 70 percent of its money with Madoff. A spokesman said he couldn't comment on whether Spielberg had any of his own money invested.

Among the many Jewish charities that lost money in the scam was Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel's Foundation for Humanity, according to the Journal.

And New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg's family charity also took a bath, investing most of its $14 million trust with Madoff, his lawyer told The Record of Bergen County.

Meanwhile, more European banks revealed that billions of dollars they entrusted to Madoff may have vanished - and a second Jewish charity abruptly shut down after losing its entire endowment.

Spanish banking giant Grupo Santander SA, which recently purchased Sovereign, a big US bank, said it placed $3.1 billion of its private banking customers in Madoff's care through its Optimal Strategic US Equity fund.

BNP Paribas in France said it had more than $350 million at risk. The private Swiss bank Reichmuth & Co. told its hedge-fund investors that $327 million of their money was invested with Madoff. European media also reported Union Bancaire Privée of Switzerland may've lost $1 billion.

And a spokeswoman for the Royal Bank of Scotland confirmed it had invested with Madoff, but provided no figures.

Early today, Japan's largest brokerage, Nomura Holdings, said it has lost about $306 million.
As we noted Saturday, Madoff was very generous to Democrats with his political contributions, notably to New York's senior Senator Chuckie Schumer and shady Congressman Charles Rangel.

Mysteriously there's no account of a Sunday press conference from Schumer, breaking a string of 582 consecutive Sundays when he held a press conference just to get some face time on television. The guy who would hold a presser to announce a can opening suddenly is camera shy.

On the upside, an actual news account finally has mentioned Madoff was a Democrat contributor. Well, that only took four days.
He was politically active, donating $25,000 a year to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as well as recent races by New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine. Madoff has also been an active donor — through the Ruth and Bernard Madoff Foundation — to New York philanthropies including The Doe Fund and Girls Inc.
Update: Sam Stein at the Huffington Post notes Democrats may return donations.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee received $100,000 in donations from Madoff during the past four years. Sen. Chuck Schumer, who headed the DSCC until stepping down this year, separately has received $39,000 from Madoff since 1998.

Will the committee return these funds -- taken, in part, from duped investors? Matt Miller, a spokesperson for the DSCC, replied that "it is under review."

Or take, for example, Sen. Frank Lautenberg. The New Jersey Democrat left the bulk of his family's charity -- which donated to causes like breast cancer research, the NAACP, and performing arts -- to Madoff's stewardship, his foundation's lawyer told the Associated Press. But as of now, there is no telling where the funds went and what is left. The Senator, one of the wealthiest members of the Senate, received a $7,600 donation from Madoff to his Victory Fund in 2007 -- a pittance compared to the cash his charity likely lost.

An aide to Lautenberg said that the office would be "ridding ourselves of the contributions" but had not yet determined the best method of doing so.

Other Democrats who received Madoff money include Jeff Merkley, the incoming Oregon Senator, who took in $2,300 in donations this past April; Ron Wyden, the Oregon incumbent, who received $4,000 in donations in March 2003; Dick Gephardt, the former Speaker of the House, who got a check for $2,000; and Rep. Ed Markey, who was sent two checks of $2,000 each in June 2004.

Peter Madoff, Bernard's brother, was even more lavish with his contributions, spending more than $66,000 on candidates and committees in the past decade, including to Sens. Hillary Clinton ($2,300 in 2008, $4,600 in 2007), Chuck Schumer ($6,000 in total) and Ron Wyden.
Via Instapundit.

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