My Latest

Friday, October 30, 2009

How Steve Shannon's friends profit from your tax dollars

I wade into Virginia politics in my column today, looking at the Democrat in the attorney general race, and why Northern Virginia developers are backing him:
And the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce is openly at war with Virginia taxpayers. The organization's agenda includes opposing a homestead deduction to property taxes (a deduction that would make it easier for families to afford life in the costly county) and opposing legislative efforts to prevent developers from offloading costs to taxpayers.
The chamber has endorsed Shannon, who regularly describes himself as "pro-business." There's more than one way to be "pro-business," though: You could favor lower taxes and less regulation as Cuccinelli does, thus creating an open and level playing field for all businesses -- even those that don't yet exist. Or you can support a system of taxes and subsidies as Shannon does, thus rewarding existing businesses, especially those who are politically well-connected.
When asked in a recent debate for details about what the AG job entailed, Shannon filibustered and evaded so badly that Cuccinelli jokingly made a court room-style objection that the witness was not answering the question -- more evidence Shannon is really running this year for the 2013 gubernatorial nomination. Well, the Post and the Northern Virginia developers are pleased that Shannon is a pro-tax increase "Aspiring Governor."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How Google, Amazon profit from net neutrality

My column today weighs into the push for net neutrality regulations:

So Obama is pushing federal regulations that would profit companies that generously funded his campaign, but when Obama's chums at the Center for American Progress wrote about it, they described McCain as a "long-time friend of" the networks while omitting Obama's coziness to Google and crew.

This one-sidedness is typical in regulatory battles: Businesses that lobby for and profit from big government are given a free pass, while those who oppose regulations as damaging to profit are assailed for their corrupting influence.

There's money on both sides. The only question is whether the flow of money will be determined by the market or by Obama's bureaucrats.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Will Congress cover for a drug-maker's billion-dollar mistake?

Did you hear about the drug-maker that missed a filing deadline by one day, and so it could lose a billion dollars. My column explains the sausage making that has resulted:
Amid President Obama's push to trim government and private-sector spending on health care, one drug maker is lobbying hard to extend the patent protection of a costly drug - an extension that could cost taxpayers and patients $1 billion.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Chamber fights Obama's regulatory robbery

My column today makes sense of some of the sound and fury these days about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

But there's another reason Obama is running low on enemies: He's already bought off many of the most powerful industries and businesses.

Look at health care, where Obama has brought the name-brand drug makers on board to his reform with promises of subsidies and pledges not to attack the industry's special favors. Look at cigarettes, where Obama signed a tobacco regulation bill with the firm backing of Philip Morris.

And of course, look at climate-change legislation, where Obama has on his side coal giants like American Electric Power, manufacturing giants like Nike, agribusiness giant Monsanto, and lobbying giant General Electric, to name a few. The Democrats have bought off these special interests by rigging the legislation so that taxpayer and ratepayer money is funneled into corporate coffers.

So why hasn't Obama won over the Chamber of Commerce on his regulatory pushes?

The problem is that the chamber is so varied. Its members are manufacturers, service businesses, high-tech companies, finance companies and everything in between, ranging in size from Exxon to Mom & Pop, and in geography from Anchorage to Miami.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Watch me on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" this morning

Here's the clip of me on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal." It was an enjoyable, and I thought interesting, conversation with me and liberal writer Taylor Marsh, a former beauty queen and actress.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tough talk at HMOs will give way to corporatism

Insurers are the "villains," we're told, and Obama promises to battle them. In my column today, I predict there will be no such battle.
So, will Democrats do anything to smash the government-created shelters that protect these companies from market forces? Will they create a government insurer to compete against private insurers? Will they significantly cut Medicare payments to private insurers?

Or, will they follow the model of Obama's first nine months in office?

Think about Obama's accomplishments so far. After assailing lobbyists, Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus bill supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and every other major business lobby in the country.

Obama added a fourth bailout for AIG, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner created new Wall Street bailouts. Obama signed a tobacco regulation written in part by Philip Morris while claiming he was battling Big Tobacco. Cash for Clunkers was corporate welfare for automakers.

Obama has talked about battling special interests, but he's backed away from every proposal that would actually harm well-connected corporations. Card Check? Tabled. A climate bill without corporate giveaways? That was nice in theory, but we're not going to see it. Medicare negotiating down drug prices? Tossed out in a deal with the drug lobby.

Obama's mode of operation has been to rattle sabers at corporate America and then give them what they want.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pro-Obamacare Republicans in the pay of the health industry

Those pro-ObamaCare Republicans Obama lauds for their bipartianship -- turns out they're all in the pay of the health-care industry. My column reports:
Thompson, the former Republican governor of Wisconsin, served four years as President George W. Bush's HHS chief. Now Thompson is a health care consultant at the lobbying firm Akin Gump, whose clients include insurer Aetna, many drug makers, device makers and hospitals....
Sullivan was George H.W. Bush's HHS secretary in the 1990s. In 2008, Sullivan made $220,000 as a director for four health care companies, including the biotech firm Biosante Pharmaceuticals, where he was chairman of the board, according to Forbes. His total 2008 compensation from these companies (with options and other non-cash compensation) was more than $1 million. He has recently served as a director at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Cigna....
Frist is a partner in a private investment firm that bets on health care companies -- and on regulation. The firm's Web site reads: "With deep expertise in the healthcare reimbursement and regulatory environments, the Cressey & Company team has invested in almost every for-profit niche of healthcare."...
And Dole, as this column discussed last Friday, is a health care lobbyist for the downtown firm Alston & Bird, which represents drug makers and insurers.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Dole, a health-sector lobbyist, gets the statesman treatment

Former Sen. Bob Dole is being paid by health-care companies to support ObamaCare--and for this he is winning praise. My column tells the story:

Dole made news in Kansas City Wednesday by calling on his party to back Democratic health-care reform bills currently before Congress, calling health-care reform, "one of the most important measures members of Congress will vote on in their lifetimes."

The New York Times, the Associated Press, Salon, the Chicago Tribune, and the Kansas City Star reported Dole's comments, but all omitted a seemingly relevant fact: Dole is a registered lobbyist with clients who stand to profit from the current Senate reform bill.

Dole is a lobbyist at the downtown firm Alston & Bird, where his clients include the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. The Association pays Alston & Bird $30,000 per month to lobby Congress and the administration on "issues in health reform relating to home health & hospice," according to Alston Bird's second-quarter 2009 lobbying report.

In September, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., amended his reform bill to expand Medicaid funding for home health-care and to include hospice care--care for the dying--under Medicaid, as well. This accelerates the flow of taxpayer money to Dole's clients. Now Dole is rallying the public behind this "important measure," and winning praise for his "bipartisanship."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The revolving door spins out a new John Warner

Former Sen. John Warner is lobbying on behalf of foreign and U.S. companies to loosen national-security export controls he once backed. My column tells the story:

"When hard decisions must be made, national security must always be the paramount consideration," Sen. Warner said in 2001. He assailed the companies that were lobbying for looser export controls at the time: "I am afraid there are those, including people in the corporate boardrooms across this country, who sometimes are not mindful about what serves as the foundation of our economic strength and their ability to project beyond our shores."

But now Warner's priorities have shifted. "I remember the Strom Thurmond Act -- that's fine," he told me. "I stand by whatever I said. I don't remember what I said, but I'll be delighted to read it in your column tomorrow. But I know this is an industry that needs help, and I'm privileged to be in a position to try and help them."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Nike's green lobbying: Corporate responsibility or regulatory robbery?

Nike, as an act of protest, relinquished its spot on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's board of directors. Nike supports federal laws restricting greenhouse-gas emissions while the Chamber opposes them. My column explores the angles:
Nike won't bear most of the costs of a cap-and-trade scheme in the U.S. because Nike doesn't make stuff in the U.S. Cap-and-trade adds to manufacturing costs by attaching a price to emissions, which makes energy more expensive. But "a vast majority" of Nike goods are made overseas, a company spokesman told me in an email.

While Nike outsources its manufacturing to factories in Vietnam and other poor countries where greenhouse gasses are unregulated, some of its competition makes their shoes here in the U.S., where Nike is lobbying to increase costs.