September 13, 2008

Joe Biden Revealed

Posted: 01:41 PM ET

To tell you the truth, when CNN assigned me to work on this documentary, I was a little surprised. Don't get me wrong – I looked forward to the challenge, but I am not at heart a political reporter. I do not live and breathe politics.

Of course, I am interested in the issues that affect all of us, but I am more interested in learning how a politician's personal life has shaped his or her political views. And as an investigative reporter, I am especially interested in holding elected officials accountable when they abuse their power.

During the past couple of weeks, Governor Sarah Palin seems to have stolen the media spotlight. Maybe for good reason – people want to know who she is and what makes her tick. That's why when I told a couple of people about my new assignment to cover Sen. Joe Biden, they seemed a little disappointed. They really thought the more exciting documentary would be that of Gov. Sarah Palin. But when I asked them what they knew about Biden, they really didn't know much, except that he's been around for a long time, and he's known for his foreign policy experience.

That brief conversation, made me realize how important it was to show people who Biden is – his ups, his downs, his successes and failures. He is a six-term senator. You probably recognize his face – that smile, but what else do you know about Joe Biden, the possible future vice-president of the United States of America?

This documentary will reveal Biden's dramatic life story. You'll hear him talk about, for example, his two life-threatening aneurysms and what he told he sons before surgery. I promise you will learn things you don't know about this scrappy, outspoken senator from Delaware. Of course, there is no way to cover everything there is to know about Joe Biden in one hour. So check out the political page that breaks down the accomplishments and histories of both vice presidential candidates.

I'd love to get your feedback on the documentary. Remember this is a forum for your opinions, ideas and debate.

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Filed under: Abbie Boudreau

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August 20, 2008

Con Man on Campus?

Posted: 06:00 PM ET

You can lose a lot of money in a Ponzi scheme. And the international scheme investigators and plaintiffs say was concocted by a graduate of the University of Miami is no exception.  Investigators say investors may have been bilked out of more than $30 million.

According to the FBI’s definition, a Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud where the bad guy promises high financial returns that are not available through traditional investments.  The scheme generally falls apart when there are not enough new investors to keep the money rolling in.  This type of fraud was named after Charles Ponzi of Boston, Mass., who offered his investors a guaranteed 50 percent return on their investment in postal coupons – of course, the scheme fell apart in the end, and the investors lost fortunes. 
Authorities say there tend to be more Ponzi schemes in a poor economy where desperate people seem to fall for pitches on easy ways to make quick cash.
But universities are filled with smart people.  They wouldn't fall for one of the oldest tricks in the book, would they?
Investigators and some of the alleged victims say that's exactly what happened:  The accused perpetrator was allegedly allowed to use a university conference room for investor meetings and UM computers to track all the money.  University employees say they chose to invest, lured by promised returns, in some cases, of 18%.

The university says it's aware of the investigation into the alleged scheme, and that "a few current or former employees" invested.

“University funds are not involved,” UM spokeswoman Margot Winick told CNN. “The university will cooperate fully with the investigation.”

When CNN found out about this alleged Ponzi, we set up an interview with a current university employee who says she lost a substantial amount of money, and who said she would tell us what she knew.
We actually drove to her Miami home to interview her on camera.  We showed up on time, knocked on her door, but there was no answer.  I called her to let her know we had arrived, and that’s when she told us that the university media relations spokesperson advised her not to talk to CNN.  I was surprised, considering it was her own money that was lost, not the university’s money.  So, why were they stopping her from sharing her story?  She told us she was concerned she could lose her job if she told us everything she knew, so, at the last minute, she understandably backed out.
It got us wondering: is there more to the story?
We're going to keep digging.  Meanwhile, tonight you'll get to see what we've learned so far.

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Filed under: Abbie Boudreau

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