Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Karl Bremer & Michelle Goldberg Discuss Frank Vennes on Democracy Now!

Karl Bremer and Michelle Goldberg were on Democracy Now! talking to Amy Goodman today. Excellent show. The segment with Karl Bremer and Michelle Goldberg is HERE. Transcript HERE.

Here's the portion dealing with Frank Vennes:

AMY GOODMAN: Who is Franklin Vennes?

KARL BREMER: Frank Vennes, Jr., was one of her largest contributors in 2006. He’s a convicted money launderer. He did time in federal prison in Sandstone Prison in northern Minnesota. And upon his release, he became involved in Tom Petters. And if you are familiar with the Petters Ponzi scheme, about a $3.5 billion Ponzi scheme that operated in Minnesota, Frank Vennes steered primarily evangelical Christian groups to invest with Tom Petters. And he became implicated in the Petters scandal in 2008. But that was after Michele Bachmann had written a recommendation for pardon for Frank Vennes. Vennes and his family and his personal lawyer have given Bachmann tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. Vennes also contributed heavily to another Minnesota presidential candidate, Tim Pawlenty, and the state Republican Party. And Vennes got letters of recommendation from Tim Pawlenty, or recommendations for a pardon from Pawlenty, from Norm Coleman, former U.S. senator from Minnesota, and from Bachmann.

When Vennes was implicated in the Petters scandal in 2008, Bachmann withdrew her letter of support for a pardon, and she gave back a portion of the money that Vennes had donated to her campaign. Just in April of this year, Vennes was actually indicted in the Petters scandal, and he’s scheduled to go to trial later this year, which could make for an uncomfortable time for Michele Bachmann, because in her letter of support for a pardon, she indicated she had a very close personal relationship with Frank Vennes and was quite familiar with his personal finances. She has, of course, never returned my calls regarding Frank Vennes, and she’s really never explained fully her relationship with this convicted money launderer.

AMY GOODMAN: Michelle Goldberg, would you like—

KARL BREMER: He is under indict—

MICHELLE GOLDBERG: Well, yeah, I mean, obviously—you know, the local bloggers in Minnesota have been doing amazing work on this for years now. And it’s amazing to me—I mean, I’ve written about it a little bit in The Daily Beast. It’s amazing to me that this issue hasn’t yet broken into the mainstream media, in part because it’s not just about Michele Bachmann, it’s also about Tim Pawlenty. And one of the interesting things about Frank Vennes is that, you know, the reason that he was able to kind of insinuate himself into Republican Party politics both—was both financial and ideological, right? He claimed to have found Jesus when he was imprisoned for cocaine—for money laundering and cocaine trafficking. And then he came out, having found Jesus, and made himself a kind of stalwart of Minnesota’s evangelical community. He, you know, kind of cultivated all of these powerful allies. And it was because of these powerful allies that he was able to accomplish his fraud.

I mean, that’s what I think is important, is that when people like Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann say that he deserved to be readmitted to—readmitted to polite society, that he needed this pardon in order to kind of further his financial career, one of the results of that was to build up his credibility and his credibility with evangelicals. Now, his role in the fraud, as Karl said, was to get evangelicals to funnel their money through him, you know, evangelical charities, also some funds that deal with retirement funds for pastors and ministers. He used his kind of credibility in that community, I think credibility that Bachmann and Pawlenty helped him build, to channel many, many millions of dollars from these communities into this massive, massive Ponzi scheme. And also, one of the reasons you haven’t heard about this Ponzi scheme is that it broke about the same time as Bernie Madoff, so it was really overshadowed, but it was really quite an enormous fraud.

frank vennes,ken avidor

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Guardian Mentions Frank Vennes Connection to Michele Bachmann

Paul Harris in The Guardian has a good profile of Bachmann. Here's an excerpt:

One of those skeletons could be her relationship with Frank Vennes, a man who served time in jail for cocaine distribution and money-laundering after being convicted in 1987. After his release, and apparently after finding God while in prison, Vennes became a friend of Bachmann and a big campaign donor for her elections. However, Vennes has recently been indicted on charges stemming from a Ponzi scheme and could end up behind bars again.

Read the whole thing

frank vennes,ken avidor