Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Lobbyist-Induced Bailout

Because of my point of view about the massively inappropriate nature of lobbyist influence over policy makers, I have closely observed the mind set of those who benefit from lobbyist funding. I have come to believe there are a sizable number of elected officials who use a special type of situational ethics logic to excuse their acceptance of this money.

If you have ever attended a political forum where a politician was forced to field questions about the influence of lobbyists, you may have made these same observations. The politicians usually defend the status-quo by talking about the important role the lobbyist play in "educating" policy makers. Rarely will the lawmaker talk about the involvement of the lobbyist's checkbook in funding his/her campaigns for office, and it is especially interesting to observe the lawmaker's defense of the very inappropriate practice of accepting personal gifts from the special interests.

In recent days, the US Congress has been debating taking steps that I believe will inappropriately involve the federal government in matters that should be left to the free market. This recent economic turmoil has reminded me of a recently released book (a fascinating read) by hedge fund manager David Einhorn entitled, Fooling Some of the People All of the Time.

Einhorn described how his fund has focused on in-depth research of the reports of various publicly traded companies. He explains how they discovered the various discrepancies in these reports and strategically timed valuation of assets that seemed to paint a clear picture of ongoing stock price manipulation lasting for years. When he reported these issues to the governing authorities, instead of having the claims seriously investigated, it appears that little action was taken. Einhorn quickly became a target for those wishing to defend the companies making these reports. One such company even went so far as to hire a public relations "spin doctor" who had represented the Clinton Administration in an effort to put the situation in the best light possible.

Einhorn described how these entities would also invest in the elected officials in an obvious attempt to maximize influence over the regulators.

It is my belief that these types of issues have been systematic and ongoing for years. Those who benefited off the high stock prices were more than able to invest in the highly paid lobbyists that appear to hold such a strong influence over the elected officials.

As as result, even when reform-minded legislation was presented to Congress in order to address items such as risky lending practices, there were simply no reforms.

Now it appears as if the taxpayers will be forced to take on the risk that these entities incurred over the years. I suspect this bailout is also heavily influenced by the presence of powerful lobbyists representing entities who will certainly benefit by writing the bad debt off their books.

I believe the solution to this problem is for the people to insist that their legislators divorce themselves from the practice of taking money from special interests.

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