These words probably conjure up an image of a Mafia goon with an oft-broken nose, replete in an Italian suit. We’ve all seen Protection Racket schemes on TV, movies and/or in real life: bad guys doing bad things to good people.
It’s all part of the basic Mafia shakedown. As a safeguard, the Sicilian Mob’s code of silence (“omerta“) was employed to protect the Capos and Bosses from the criminal activities of those below them in their organizations. No one was to speak of any illicit activities, whether or not they had anything to do with them. In that way, the heads of “The Family” could maintain an air of plausible deniability, since nothing could ever be traced back to them.
Over the years, both the Italian and United States governments worked tirelessly to combat the mob. With the creation of RICO statutes in the States, some highly risky infiltration and undercover work like the type made famous by Donnie Brasco, and aided by the Maxi Trial in Italy, huge numbers of the mob on both sides of the Atlantic were convicted.
Today, the Mafia still exists, but it’s a shell of its former self: nowhere as big, powerful or violent as it once was.
Shockingly, our current Administration has apparently decided that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and as such seems to be employing many of the same general tactics that the Mob used for so long and with such brutal success.
How else can you describe the targeting of Conservatives by the IRS, where we have former agency Commissioners keeping evidence of immoral and illicit activities from Congress? Or attempts to “chill” the freedom of the press by our own Department of Justice tracking reporters and grabbing their phone records? Or with a supposed Civil Servant invoking her Fifth Amendment rights to avoid having to tell the truth about what she knows?
And of all the current scandals, the one which has (so far) eluded much of the Media’s attention has been the shakedown conducted by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
The links between a nonprofit promoting President Obama’s healthcare law and the White House have created an “air of expectation” that insurers will contribute to the group, according to an insurance industry official.
Current and former administration officials have taken on leadership and fundraising roles for Enroll America, a nonprofit aiming to make sure people sign up for new coverage options. As the ties grow deeper, the organization has come to feel like “just an arm of the administration,” said one official who works closely with insurers.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has already come under fire from congressional Republicans because she has raised money for the organization.
They say it puts inappropriate pressure on insurers, who will need the department’s approval to sell their products through a federally run insurance exchange in more than half the country.
“Companies and organizations should never be pressured for money because it sends the message that contributions are necessary to secure favorable regulatory decisions — creating a ‘pay to play’ environment — or to avoid regulatory reprisals,” Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee said in a recent letter to Sebelius.
What is the difference between this, and Joey Two Toes stopping by your establishment to “suggest” you consider doing business with a particular vendor friend of his? The inference is identical: do it, or else.
In Sebelius’ case, I doubt anyone was thinking they’d be firebombed or beaten in the streets if they didn’t “volunteer” to contribute. But for a Fortune 100 CEO, the implied/perceived threat of not being able to conduct business (or outright failure) may have been arguably the same.
You can always hire extra security if you’re threatened by a thug, or even call law enforcement. But whom do you hire to protect you from the law itself?
The proceedings on Capital Hill with the IRS hearings are vital, as Congress is trying to wrest control away from a governmental cancer which has been allowed to spread, unchecked. The Associated Press and Fox News intimidation cases , as well as the IRS scandal and even Benghazi, are all of the same vein, and send the same message: “omerta” should be adhered to, if everyone knows what’s good for them.
My advice: if you are watching these stories, don’t let yourself to become fatigued by the “ick” factor. And if you aren’t watching, start. Now. Our attention to EACH of these unconscionable attacks on our nation’s soul means that WE are on the front lines of the country’s defense.
Additionally, we need to spread the word to educate our neighbors and friends. The country is only now just beginning to realize the depth of these scandals, and fewer still see the common thread running through them.
Neither inattention, apathy or disgust can be reasons for us to look away, praying for a solution to drop from the skies.
That didn’t happen with the Mafia, and it won’t happen here, either.