My Latest

Friday, February 26, 2010

Obamanomics: Business rows; Government steers

My column today explores how Obama is simultaneously "pro-business" and anti-market:

If not for high taxes and targeted tax credits, capital would flow toward whatever technologies or business investors thought most promising -- this is how markets help society. Thanks to the web of taxes and credits, though, capital instead flows wherever politicians and bureaucrats have decided is best.

Obama, to be fair, offsets some of the distortion inherent in subsidies and tax credits, because he is trying to create so many -- not just wind, but solar, natural gas, nuclear, and biomass. While this avoids the error of putting all of our energy eggs in one basket, it still is less efficient than the free market.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

With reform dead, health care debate becomes pure politics

What are Obama's latest health-care proposals about? My column delves into that question:

Question: When should you start suspecting President Obama isn't serious about a health care proposal?

Answer: When he doesn't have the pharmaceutical industry on his side.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Under Obamanomics, industry realizes that not everybody wins

The corporate lobby for cap-and-trade is collapsing -- which is what you should expect. My column explains:

Alternating with his disingenuous populist anti-big-business rhetoric, Obama has also offered the opposite: Hope & Change, the-wolf-will-live-with-the-lamb talk of cooperation between business and government.

This cooperation talk is not new. During and after World War I, business giants sought to perpetuate the War Industries Board. WIB member and historian Grosvenor Clarkson described the "contempt" industry leaders had for "the huge hit-and-miss confusion of peacetime industry, with its perpetual cycle of surfeit and dearth" -- replacing competition with government-guaranteed profit....

Big government, unlike the free market, doesn't create wealth -- it redistributes it. In a free market, a rising tide can lift all boats. Under Obamanomics, businesses can rise only by pulling someone under -- usually taxpayers, competitors, consumers or workers.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Village with 292 population hires a Washington lobbyist

[Originally posted at Beltway Confidential.]

Bald Head Island in North Carolina is accessible only by ferry, and no cars are allowed on the island -- people drive golf carts. Weekend at Bernie's was mostly filmed there. The Census Bureau says that the Village of Bald Head has a population of 292.

That means Bald Head might be the smallest municipality to hire a federal lobbyist.

The K Street firm Akerman Senterfitt registered Monday as the lobbyist for the Village. Thomas Donnelly Jr. and Richard Spees Jr. will represent these 292 folks (and presumably plenty of summer vacationers) on "Maintenance of beach and shipping channel sand affected by erosion," as well as endangered species issues, according to the lobbying registration.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Obama's cronies thrive at intersection of K and Wall

Is Obama battling "Wall Street lobbyists"? Hardly, as I point out in my column:

Amid President Obama's saber rattling at Wall Street's "army of lobbyists," and his lieutenants' vilification of these hired guns, it's easy to forget that the administration is talking about actual people, who have faces, and names -- names like Gephardt, Breaux and Podesta.

Similarly to his imaginary war against health care "special interests" last year, the president portrays his push for financial regulation as a battle against intransigent Wall Street lobbyists. And as with health care "reform," we can expect that any financial "reform" to pass both chambers will have the stamp of approval of the industry's biggest players -- in part because the big guys' lobbyists are the president's friends, donors and former employees.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dan Coats, lobbyist for fat cats, plots Senate return

My latest column at the Washington Examiner explores the lobbying record of Republican Senate candidate Dan Coats:
Democrats have been quick to attack Coats as a lobbyist who has done the bidding of the fattest fat cats. But, ironically, the policies Coats advanced on behalf of his corporate clients are the same bailouts, regulations, and overspending that President Obama has championed in the name of "change." And Coats' biggest clients -- Google and the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America -- have been intimate Obama allies.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Government Motors Adds Another Lobbyist

[Originally posted at Beltway Confidential]

When bailed-out automaker General Motors went bankrupt, the company laid off most of its K Street lobbyists. When it came out of bankruptcy, although the majority owner was still the taxpayer, Government Motors lobbied back up, hiring top-shelf revolving-door veterans.

This week, GM discloses that it has hired -- on your dime -- another lobbyist, Lee Godown at Public Strategies, Inc. Godown reports he will lobby on "issues relating to restructuring; funding for technology, science and energy initiatives; taxation relating to employee benefits, alternative minimum tax and alternative simplified credit; and border trade, competitiveness and market access."

Godown was chief of staff to Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., from 2000 until he cashed out in 2007.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Another Obama administration official cashes out to K Street Read more at the Washington Examiner

[Originally posted at Beltway Confidential]

Obama has made a big deal about not hiring lobbyists, and so we've made a big deal about shooting down his overblown rhetoric on this score (for instance, here's our spreadsheet of more than 40 ex-lobbyists in the administration). But the real problem, when it comes to potential impropriety and undue influence, is when government officials cash out to industry or K Street -- there's the risk that they were serving their future employers in their government job, and there's the unfair access it gives their private employer and clients.

Today, I learned of another Obama administration official to cash out to K Street: Grant Leslie of the Agriculture Department is now at Glover Park Group, (which has also just poached a Banking Committee staffer, as I blogged earlier). Here's the Glover Park Group's write-up on her Democratic bonafides:

[Grant] a leading Washington strategist, most recently a Senior Advisor to Secretary Tom Vilsack at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has joined the firm as a Vice President in its Government Affairs practice.

While at the Department of Agriculture, Grant focused on energy, climate, and rural development issues while also overseeing the political nomination process for the Agency. She was an integral part of the Obama transition team, serving as the team leader for Secretary Vilsack’s confirmation in the Senate.

Prior to her engagement at the Department of Agriculture and Obama transition team, she worked in Senator Ken Salazar’s office for four years, most recently as his Legislative Director. Specifically, she was in charge of developing and overseeing the Senator’s entire legislative agenda as well as his Senate floor activities and also oversaw and coordinated the Senator’s actions on the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Energy and Natural Resources; and Finance.

Grant also served on the staff of former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD). As part of Senator Daschle’s legislative team, she focused on range of issues, including agriculture, rural development, trade and transportation.

Ken Salazar is now secretary of the Interior, and Daschle, famously, is a close confidant of the President. Vilsack, her old boss at Ag, was himself recently a K Street lobbyist.

Presuming Leslie, as a "Senior Advisor" to the Secretary, counts as an "appointee," she is prohibited by Obama's executive order from lobbying any senior executive branch officials.

The other Obama alumnus I've noticed on K Street is Oscar Ramirez who went from the Labor Department to the Podesta Group.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Obama makes a mockery of his own lobbyist ban

My column today, as heard on the Laura Ingraham show:

More than 40 former lobbyists work in senior positions in the Obama administration, including three Cabinet secretaries and the CIA director. Yet in his State of the Union address, Obama claimed, "We've excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs."
Did Obama speak falsely?
Well, it depends on what the definition of "excluded lobbyists" is.
I asked the White House if he chose his words poorly, but the media affairs office defended the president's statement: "As the President said," a spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail, "we have turned away lobbyists for many, many positions."
So, the country may have heard, "we haven't hired lobbyists to policymaking jobs," but the White House tells us Obama meant, "we only hired some of the lobbyists who applied for policymaking jobs." In other words, they've excluded some lobbyists.
And this was in the context of reducing the "deficit of trust."