My Latest

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lobbying can be sordid, but it's not a crime

Kevin Ring is only the second associate of jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff to go to trial. My column today takes his side (sort of):
Ring, no doubt, played a crooked game, and he was paid well for playing it ruthlessly. He showered lawmakers and their staffs with concert and basketball tickets and other gifts, then got what he wanted from those same public officials. The government argues this makes Ring a "corruptor." The government's presumption is that Congress was not already corrupt, or at least not waiting to have its palm greased, before Ring came calling.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Paul Kirk, senator from Pharma

Ted Kennedy's replacement was chosen this week, and in my column, I argue he is a fitting man to carry ObamaCare to passage:

If a health-care overhaul clears the U.S. Senate this year, the key vote may be a former drug industry lobbyist who has helped raise millions of dollars from drug companies and insurers.

Paul Kirk, chosen by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to fill the seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy until a special election in January, will be the 60th Democratic senator, and he looks like a reliable vote for President Barack Obama's push to overhaul the health-care sector.

Kirk could deliver the 60th vote on health care--crucial to break a potential Republican filibuster--which would be fitting for a "reform" effort that will enrich the drug industry and could provide a boon for private insurers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How a power giant profits from greenhouse regs

Big Coal is lining up behind the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. My column makes sense of it all:

"Without this bill, without a strict regime for controlling carbon emissions, Big Oil and Big Coal win," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif. "And the environment, endangered species, our kids, our grandkids, you, and I will be the losers."

Got that? It's Big Coal against the children.

A[merican] E[lectric] P[ower], however, qualifies as Big Coal. One of the biggest electricity producers in the country, AEP generates more than two-thirds of its electricity by burning coal. Many years, the company is the Western Hemisphere's largest consumer of coal.

So how come AEP is on the same side as Woolsey, Reps. Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, not to mention "our kids" and the "endangered species"?

Friday, September 18, 2009

ACORN and wealthy developers vs. hipsters and firemen

I went to Brooklyn for today's column.
Wealthy and well-connected developer Bruce Ratner wants to bulldoze an old neighborhood in Brooklyn and turn it into high-rise apartment buildings and a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets. Many locals, including the hipsters who live in Park Slope and the firemen who work at FDNY Squad No. 1, don't want this steel hulk named Atlantic Yards casting a shadow over their neighborhood and filling their streets with traffic....
To understand what's happening on Atlantic Avenue, you need to shed Left-vs.-Right and white-vs.-black modes of thinking, as well as simple anti-corporatism. Without eminent domain, Ratner would never be able to get all the land.
The real dividing line is people with access to government power -- Ratner, ACORN and the politicians -- against people without such access. You can guess who's going to win.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tire tariffs show another cost of cap and trade: Free trade

Obama's tire tariffs, I argue in my column today, show how cap-and-trade is the enemy of free trade:
And cap and trade makes a trade war a political necessity, because the policy otherwise will ship U.S. jobs overseas. A trade war may cost jobs, but in a way less traceable to specific policies. In this way -- when U.S. politicians claim China is subsidizing its exports by not taxing emissions -- carbon caps could become a net short-term winner for manufacturing companies.
Cap-and-trade legislation may not stop the oceans' rise, as Obama has suggested. On the contrary, it may cause a rising tide of prices that lifts the fortunes of the well-connected companies, leaving American taxpayers and consumers drowning.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

David Shuster and me

Here's my performance on MSNBC:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Carney on Tauzin

Today's Washington Examiner contains a profile on Billy Tauzin, written by yours truly.

The main item is headlined "Billy Tauzin: K Street's Drug Kingpin." The package includes a "biofile" titled "From the Bayou to K Street by Way of Congress." There's also a sidebar, "Revolving door or God's gift?"

Friday, September 11, 2009

Obama offers the insurers their Holy Grail

Champagne corks must have been popping at UnitedHealth's corporate headquarters following President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress. My column explains:
Obama didn't give specifics Wednesday night, but a mandate needs an enforcement mechanism. The mechanism on the table currently is Sen. Max Baucus's proposal to fine every family without the minimum-required health insurance $3,800.
It's an odd way to "cover everyone." It's like delivering on the old political promise of "a chicken in every pot" by fining everyone who doesn't buy a chicken.
The individual mandate has been the Holy Grail for the insurance companies. What business wouldn't love similar treatment? Maybe Apple can get a provision stating (to use Obama's phrasing) "individuals will be required to carry basic music players." Perhaps Smith & Wesson can get its own individual mandate.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama shadow boxes with 'enemies' of health plan

Obama says he's battling the special interests in his health-care fight. My column today asks if any business is really fighting back.
Emmanuel Goldstein was the enemy of the state in George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four," and the target of the "Two Minutes Hate," in which the citizens of Oceania -- at the cue of Big Brother -- would rage at those undermining the state and the party.
Within the novel, it's never clear if Goldstein is real or a fabricated whipping boy for party officials and angry citizens.
Unlike Big Brother, President Obama hasn't even deigned to give us a name for the enemy of "reform." He uses only ominous, vague epithets: "Opponents of health insurance reform," "well-financed forces" and "those who are profiting from the status quo."

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mattel exempted from toy safety law it helped write

Toymaker Mattel has been given an exemption from a federal toy-safety regulation it helped create. My column tells the story and draws some lessons.
When regulation turns into a boon for the biggest businesses in an industry being regulated--which is often--commentators decry the "capture" of the regulatory body. Indeed, Mattel is much more likely to get the ear of toy-safety bureaucrats than is the independent artisan. But these regulations are often "captured" before they are even passed into law.

Remember, Mattel lobbied for this bill, and the Toy Industry Association said "we were early proponents of adopting mandatory laws to require toy testing." Hasbro, the second-biggest toy-maker behind Mattel, hired lobbyists for the first time in its history in order to back the CPSIA.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How a congressman brings business to K Street

Congress is pushing a bill to get the federal government in the business of promoting travel to the U.S. My column tells the twisted back-story of this legislation:
In 2005 Rep. Bill Delahunt, a Democrat who represents Cape Cod, addressed the Washington Summit of the Travel Business Roundtable, and urged it to lobby more. Fed News reported, "The Congressman called on the industry to wage a more aggressive, bipartisan campaign."
It's not every day that a lawmaker issues a clarion call for more lobbying, so the industry obliged with enthusiasm. The Travel Business Roundtable registered as a lobbying organization in 2006, changed its name to the Discover America Partnership, and hired Steven Schwadron, Delahunt's longtime chief of staff, as its K Street lobbyist. Nobody can say Delahunt doesn't take care of his employees.
Delahunt this year sponsored HR 2935, the Travel Promotion Act