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Inside the Beltway

Washington politics and government with a New Mexico flavor

Was Rep. Steve Pearce Unaware That Bernie Madoff is in Jail?

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A video clip circulating on the Internet suggests that Rep. Steve Pearce, a New Mexico Republican who sits on the House Financial Services Committee, was unaware that one of the biggest Wall Street crooks in history, Bernie Madoff, is in prison. But a longer version of the video suggests maybe Pearce wasn’t as clueless as the abbreviated clip makes him seem.

Conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart posted the clip from a House Financial Services Committee hearing in December and it seems to be picking up some steam today. Several people have emailed it to me. In the video, Pearce wonders aloud about the fate of Bernie Madoff, the Ponzi scheme architect who bilked his clients out of billions and is now serving a 150-year prison sentence.

“I’m still wondering about the big fish. Are we still doing anything on Madoff?” Pearce said. “Is he, are we investigating him? Are we putting him in jail? Is he gone?”

That sure sounds like Pearce was confused about one of America’s most brazen Wall Street criminals.

But during his follow-up questioning – after a Securities Exchange Commission official reminds him that Madoff is in jail – Pearce suggests that wasn’t really his question. He seems to wonder if the government or Congress was negligent in investigating Madoff’s crimes.

“My question, though, was inside the agency a lot of people are looking the other way,” Pearce said. “I know we got Mr. Madoff. Have we done anything inside the agency…we’ve asked this question before. What has happened internally because he was exisiting for a long time. I know we got him — what about us?”

Many people would argue that the entire Congress and the White House, with their heavy reliance on Wall Street campaign cash,  has for years looked the other way when it comes to Wall Street crimes.

Pearce spokeswoman Jamie Dickerman sent me this statement in response to my question about her boss’s knowledge – or lack of – about Madoff’s legal fate.

“Congressman Pearce was fully aware that Madoff is in jail,” Dickerman said. “However, the video clip in which Congressman Pearce asked  about Madoff was taken out of context. The video is from a committee hearing in which questions are often asked in order to get the answer on the record. The purpose of Rep. Pearce’s question was not to discover Madoff’s fate; it was a question of whether or not the same oversight committee who took years to stop Madoff should be trusted to perform additional oversight. To fully understand the intent behind the questions asked, one must watch the video in its entirety instead of relying on a clip. The full video is available on Congressman Pearce’s YouTube channel.”


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