This post, the second Snoopers Tip, will help you find Congressional committee hearings quickly and, most importantly, authoritatively from the House and Senate committee net sites themselves. Often you will discover a lot of interest there, and can then supplement the media accounts by accessing the full context of a witness's statements, etc. As today’s Snoopers Tip example, I'm going to use yesterday's (2-4-09) hearing of the House Financial Services Committee, Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises. Congressional committees, of course, have many subcommittees, and the Capital Markets Subcommittee is one of six of the Financial Services Committee, chaired by the irrepressible Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA). Yesterday's hearing has a couple of advantages: (1) it's on a topic that is constantly in the news lately, the Deca-Billion dollar Ponzi scheme of Bernard Madoff, and (2) the hearing itself was utterly bombastic. Fireworks flew, the main witness was out of a 1930's detective movie, the hapless witnesses from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were everything you'd want in stuffed suits, and you get to see a Congressman go absolutely berserk. It's a hoot. Period. Paragraph.
Media reports are flying and YouTube even has portions of Congressman Gary Ackerman's (D-NY) magnificent rant. But, our Snoopers Tips look for more than just movie clips and journalists' opinions of events. So we need to go to what we’ll always call the "primary sources." It's particularly important if you're writing a term paper, a blog entry, trying to size up a reporter's opinion, or just want to "fact check" Bill O'Reilly's latest rave-out.
Now that you've had a little house tour of the House Financial Services Committee site, perhaps you've already found the link to the Feb. 4th Madoff hearing? If not, here's how. Just go to the committee homepage again and click on the tab "Hearings & Legislation." There, you'll see a bunch of hyperlinks, all of them worth exploring, but first, let's stay on the Madman Madoff’s trail. Click on "Hearings of the 111th Congress (2009-2010)." That will take you to a listing of the hearings that have been held by the full committee and the subcommittees thus far in the 111th Congress. Now, we're closing in on the Madoff gang . . .
Click on "2/4/2009 Assessing the Madoff Ponzi Scheme and Regulatory Failures," and there we are:
And it's here where the real snooper gets some kicks! Look at what we have here!
(1) A link to the webcast of the entire hearing. The absolute "star" witness is an incredibly intense and downright memorable independent financial fraud investigator, Harry Markopolos, who told the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA), that he thinks Mike Chicklis would be a good pick to play him in the movie that is sure to follow.
-- Mr. Markopolos has been investigating Madoff since 1999, and had alerted the SEC a multitude of times about his Ponzi scheme. His testimony begins at the 12:30 mark and ends about two hours later at 2:30:00.
-- The SEC panel then arrives, at about 2:40:00, sort of like those poor French folks who arrived on carts at the guillotines in 1789 . . . Then, like the French nobility, the read their final statements, er, I mean, their prepared statements.
-- Then, from about 3:10:00 to 3:25:00 the committee goes out on recess to the playground
-- At the 3:25:00 mark the questioning begins. The SEC folks sit and blather and stonewall and stonewall and blather and sit. They finally manage to bring down the thunder and the rain in the tiny personage of Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), at the 4:00:00 mark. Give a listen! It’s going to make you actually like a Congressman!
Now, I know that no one has the time to listen to 5 hours of a committee hearing, nor are most of us unhinged enough to want to do so. But these Snoopers Tips are about knowing how to go further when needed . . . that if you HAD TO, you COULD monitor these hearings very closely. If there were a topic you were very interested in, or needed to do advanced research about, you could do so without intermediaries like CNN, Chris Matthews, or Rush Limbaugh. THAT'S what Snoopers Tips are for: doing our own government snooping/research from primary, official sources.
(2) After having a look at the webcast, go back to the main Madoff hearing page. Now notice the text "Witness List & Prepared Testimony." Have a look at the list of witnesses and if you click on the hyperlinks you'll open up .pdf's of each witnesses' prepared statement. It's a cornucopia for snoopers because these contain their official statements to the committee, and by extension, to Congress. For snoopers who need - or want - to go beyond the news reports, this is the gold mine. This is where you can pick out the things you feel are important. This is where the rubber of original research meets the road of . . . well, I've shot THAT metaphor, but I think you know what I mean. (Yes, I AM a wonk.)
So, remember that each House and Senate Committee's net site is pretty much set up like the House Financial Services Committee's. Webcasts and good links to quickly updated information. And here's two links you'll want in your "Government Snooping" bookmarks folder:
(1) All House committee net sites, and
(2) all Senate committee net sites.
So go ahead and have a look around. You'll be amazed at what has already happened in just the first month of the 111th Congress. And then have a look at the schedules of your favorite committees; you can put hearings of interest on your Google or MSN calendars. Here's one last link to further your knowledge of committee workings.
Hope this was interesting and helpful and even, thanks to Mr. Ackerman, some fun! I'll have Snoopers Tip 3 soon, probably this weekend. As always, if you have a question you'd like taken up, just drop me a line or post a comment.