Thursday, August 24, 2006

Barry Goldwater's son defends commemorative coin ripoffs

The Arizona Republic reports today that Barry Goldwater, Jr., son of the famed Arizona Senator and himself a former California Congressman, is a director of a company that sells "non-monetary" commemorative coins. Goldwater is a director at National Collector's Mint, Inc., and allows his name and likeness to be used to promote their coins.

Last year, the company paid over $2 million in restitution to customers who purchased its "Freedom Tower Silver Dollar," after being sued by NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. They also paid $370,000 in civil penalties. The company had claimed that it was a "government issued" silver dollar and a "U.S. territorial minting" from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The islands use U.S. currency and are not authorized to mint their own. Perhaps not by coincidence, these islands were a client of Jack Abramoff which brought out Tom Delay on junkets to play golf. Congressman George Miller (D-CA) has said this about the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands:

“Let’s remember what they paid for: a protection racket that sheltered a sweatshop industry that systematically exploited tens of thousands of impoverished foreign workers -- mostly Asian women -- who were little better than indentured servants; a sweatshop industry that earned some of the heaviest fines in U.S. history for violating labor laws; an industry repeatedly cited by the Departments of Justice, Interior and other federal agencies. They were defending a corrupt immigration system that regularly approved visas for non-existent jobs, resulting in hundreds of women being forced into the sex trade, including prostitution.

“They killed my reform bills year after year. And even when an immigration reform by Senator Frank Murkowski, a Republican, was approved by the full Senate, they blocked it repeatedly in the House. Abramoff took credit and was paid handsomely for that, too.

“This corrupt system existed because the CNMI slipped under federal labor and immigration laws. Abramoff, his lobbying colleagues, and some powerful friends in Congress are proud they prevented bipartisan reforms from being implemented.

“The outstanding investigations by the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Associated Press and others confirm the depravity of this protection racquet: the sweatshop industry, past CNMI administrations, Washington lobbyists and House Republican leaders who washed each others’ hands.

“Everyone seems to have made a lot of money, except the poor and disenfranchised women who toiled in the sweatshops and the brothels. These people have so much to be ‘proud’ of.

“And still, no congressional committee is investigating this aspect of Abramoff’s work, even though information indicates that Congress played a pivotal role in this protection scheme. This operation is beginning to look more and more like criminal activity and Congress must immediately launch a thorough investigation of this issue. The House Committee on Resources has jurisdiction over the Mariana Islands and I have already called on the Chairman, Representative Richard Pombo, to investigate this matter."

The Arizona Republic fails to comment on these other scandals related to the Mariana Islands and the Republican Party.

It does, however, go on to challenge some of the company's claims about their coins. Their new "Fifth Anniversary World Trade Center Commemorative" coin, which sells for $29.95, is advertised as "non-monetary" (wording likely chosen for its likelihood to not be understood) and claims to be made from silver from "a bank vault found under tons of debris at ground zero." The Republic points out that the company claims it can verify this claim, but would not provide any evidence to support it.

The coin is made out of 15 mg of 24-karat gold (worth 33 cents yesterday) and being 0.999 pure silver (worth 1/6 of a cent yesterday). The Republic quotes Michael Higdon of the American Bullion & Coin Co. in Flagstaff: "There's not enough silver or gold in it to make it valuable, and it never will be valuable. Ever."

The National Collector's Mint claims to have given more than $1 million of proceeds from its 9/11-related coin sales to charity (including $5 from each sale of the "Fifth Anniversary" coins), of which the Republic was able to confirm $30,000 given to Tuesday's Children, one of the charities named.

If they're giving away $5 of each sale, the materials are worth 34 cents, and the manufacturing, shipping, and overhead costs another $5 per coin, they're still pulling in $19.61 in profit per sale. If they've given away $1 million to charity, then at $5 per coin they've sold 200,000 coins, which would generate $3.9 million in profit.

Goldwater says he believes the company is complying with the law, and that "the people involved are very good people, and they're solid citizens who are out there working hard to make a living and provide a product and a service."

Seems to me a lot closer to a scam than a service.

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