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Jack Blum Honored As Fraud-Busting Investigator

Posted by Will Rice (will) on Nov 07 2011 at 4:33 PM
FALL 2011 >>

By Mary von Euler

Not even the nation’s fiscal crisis could keep Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) from attending the ADA banquet to present the organization’s Winn Newman Lifetime Achievement Award to attorney Jack Blum.  It was immediately clear from Kerry’s riveting remarks why the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate would take time out from his duties on the Congressional deficit “super committee” to honor Blum, his former fraud-busting committee investigator and ADA’s current counsel.

Dubbing him “the ultimate prophet with honor,” Kerry detailed how Blum, working for Kerry’s narcotics and terrorism subcommittee in the 1980s and ‘90s, was the first to “surface” Osama bin Laden’s name, when it showed up on the same bank account with international drug smugglers.  Blum investigated mortgage abuses decades before they helped bring on the Great Recession, Kerry reported, and worked to make the tax system fairer, including by shutting down tax havens costing the Government “$100 million a year.”

“Jack and I come from a generation that was born in idealism,” Kerry explained. But even after “we learned from Vietnam that sometimes the government does lie to you,” Blum did not walk away from the process like so many of their contemporaries. Instead, “deciding there was too much worth fighting for,” Blum “doubled down on the truth.”

Kerry recounted how Blum “risked his own safety” to crack the BCCI global financial scandal of the early 1990s, which led to a tightening of international banking laws.  On a lighter note, Kerry recalled the “raised eyebrows” among his more genteel committee colleagues caused by Blum’s “parade of [witnesses] in handcuffs, leg irons, and bags over their heads [to insure anonymity].”

Upon receiving the Newman award—named for a labor attorney who successfully fought for gender equality in the workplace—from his former boss, Blum joked to the banquet audience that a friend suggested he was undeserving: “‘You’ve been working on this stuff for 40 years, and things have just been getting worse.  Maybe you should retire.’”

Blum’s reponse: “No way.”

Stressing that, contrary to the prevailing attitude in some political circles, “facts do matter,” Blum noted that Bank of America had recently announced the layoff of 30,000 employees after posting a $7 billion profit and receiving a tax refund. “What are you smoking if you believe that more tax breaks will actually lead to more jobs?” he demanded to raucous laughter and applause.

Dismissing as “insane” the idea that workers should shoulder more financial burdens to improve the federal balance sheet, Blum said: “The business of government is to take care of its citizens. It is not a corporation.”

“We are not here to compete with the Chinese to see who can work for the least money,” Blum concluded.

Mary von Euler is Secretary of ADA.