By Joe Boyles
A relatively new term is floating around political circles – crony capitalism. That is an unholy alliance between business and government. If the cliché “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” brings anything to mind, then you know the essence of crony capitalism. It is rampant in places like Washington where a lot of money floats around. I’m sure this disease afflicts Tallahassee also, but the big payoff is in our nation’s capital.
Some of this activity is illegal, but most is legal although ethically questionable. Remember a few years a go when Al Gore’s answer to a question concerning campaign contributions was that “there was no controlling legal authority?” That’s how politicians look at nefarious activities – if they’re advised that something isn’t against the law, then they have at it no matter how much it stinks. They live in a world where “conflict of interest” abounds.
A classic example of crony capitalism is the government sponsored enterprises – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These two GSEs were a great place for government executives to be appointed and make a boatload of money. Franklin Raines and Jamie Gorelick left the Clinton Administration and made millions in a few short years from Fannie Mae. Of course, these organizations were at the very heart of the sub prime mortgage crisis and subsequent economic armegeddon that we still suffer from.
Twenty years ago, Fannie Mae’s CEO Jim Johnson began to line up politicians that would run interference for the organization when times got tough. Although Johnson was a committed Democrat, he lined up enough Republican “friends” to make his support bi-partisan. And how were these politicians rewarded for their cozy relationship – sweetheart loans, campaign contributions, and economic boosts to home constituencies.
It seems like everyday there is another revelation about crony capitalism. Close to home, Congresswoman Corrine Brown (FL-3) earmarked $22 million in funds for the clients of a lobbying firm where her daughter works. Just a coincidence?
Energy giant General Electric becomes a big supporter of green energy. It turns out that they are manufacturing a lot of machinery, especially wind turbines, which would profit greatly from green energy initiatives by the Obama Administration.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) becomes a big supporter of Obamacare and helps the Affordable Health Care Act to pass. It turns out that a rule in the legislation will allow an AARP insurance product to generate outlandish profits. Just a coincidence?
We’re aware of the bankruptcy of solar energy manufacturer Solyndra that received $535 million in federal loan guarantees that the taxpayer is now on the hook for. But what about the relationship between Solyndra and the Obama Administration, complete with campaign contributions to aid the president. Quid pro quo?
What about the congressman who earmarks a lot of money toward a landscaping technical training program? If his family owns a large sod farm, is that a conflict of interest? Just another coincidence?
Now we discover that Congress is immune to insider stock trading. What Martha Stewart went to prison for is fair game to our lawmakers. Just how many laws do they pass with an exemption clause for themselves? There ought to be a law against such, but these are the people who write the laws. Sort of like the fox guarding the henhouse. It seems like most of these guys come out of “public service” much richer than when they began. Just another coincidence?
When it comes to money and Washington, I don’t think there are any coincidences. I think that everything is calculated. I don’t know how to stop it. But I know the right thing to do when we discover it is to throw the bums out.