Welcome to the buckraking phase of the Obama era. If the campaign was about hope, and the early presidency was about change, increasingly the administration has settled into a kind of normalcy in which it accommodates itself to Washington far more than Washington accommodates itself to Obama. That’s not necessarily a bad thing when the result is a bipartisan schmooze-fest at the Jefferson Hotel. But when it comes to the D.C. custom of trading a White House security clearance for a private-sector sinecure, there’s a lot to be said for not going native so easily.
Within Obamaworld, there are a few unwritten rules about how to parlay one’s experience into a handsome payday. There is, for example, a loose taboo against joining a K Street lobbying shop and explicitly trading on administration connections. And while joining a consulting firm is acceptable, those who do are reluctant to work for clients reviled by liberals: gun makers, tobacco companies, Big Oil, union busters. Above all, there is a simple prohibition against excessive tackiness.
Avoiding tackiness is a big virtue. Hope and change! Forward!
Washington’s `revolving door’ – the movement from government service into the lobbying industry- is regarded as a major concern for policy-making. We study how ex-government staffers benefit from the personal connections acquired during their public service. Lobbyists with experience in the office of a US Senator suffer a 24% drop in generated revenue when that Senator leaves office. The effect is immediate, discontinuous around the exit period and long-lasting. Consistent with the notion that lobbyists sell access to powerful politicians, the drop in revenue is increasing in the seniority of and committee assignments power held by the exiting politician.
“Revolving Door Lobbyists,” by Jordi Blanes i Vidal, Mirko Draca, and Christian Fons-Rosen, CEP Discussion Paper No 993, August 2010 (61-page PDF)
An investigation by Sen. Carl Levin and a grilling of Apple CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations were ostensibly about Apple’s low tax bill. But nobody accused Apple of breaking the law. The company moved money around to minimize the tax it owed and then paid the amount the law required. Apple didn’t write the tax law or even lobby very hard to shape it.
And that’s just the problem. The grilling of Apple is best understood as a shakedown by politicians upset with Apple for not playing the Washington game that yields contributions, power, and personal wealth for congressmen and their aides.
Apple doesn’t have a political action committee to fund incumbents’ re-elections. Apple doesn’t hire many congressional staff or any former congressmen as lobbyists. Apple mostly minds its own business — and how does that help the political class?
The Beltway Shakedown is an old game. Microsoft may be its most famous victim. In the 1990s, while the Federal Trade Commission investigated the software giant for supposed antitrust violations, the Senate Judiciary Committee, run by Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, held hearings to beat up CEO Bill Gate
How does Apple respond?
Apple CEO Tim Cook announced at a tech conference yesterday [May 28, 2013] that it was hiring President Obama’s EPA director, Lisa Jackson, as a VP for environmental initiatives.
The Beltway Shakedown is a bipartisan game. That’s one reason we need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT).
Unfortunately, it seems that the future Aldous Huxley predicted in 1932, in Brave New World, is arriving early. Mockery, truculence, and minimalist living are best, then enjoy the decline. However, we do need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT), learn what Members of Congress pay in taxes, and prosecute politicians and staff and their “family and friends” who profit from insider trading.