Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bailed-out banks spend millions on anti-consumer lobbying

See War Room story here.

From taxpayers' pockets to K Street

After months of political squabbling and popular anger over executive compensation and bonuses paid out by companies getting bailout money, you'd think the fires would slowly die. (That, or struggling banks and corporations would learn a few lessons about PR.) But a new story could fan the flames, deserved or not: The Washington Post reports that major recipients of bailout money spent $10 million lobbying the government in the first quarter of 2009, and some of that money went to the fight against executive pay caps and more stringent financial regulations.

The Post's Dan Eggen says companies that collectively accepted $150 billion in TARP funds have spent about $22 million on lobbying since the government began its handouts last fall. Topping the list of offenders for the first three months of 2009, though, were General Motors, which spent roughly $2.8 million, along with Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase, each of which spent about $1.3 million.

This sort of news, as the Post rightly points out, is sure to leave a bad taste in people's mouths. As William Patterson, executive director of CtW Investment Group, which is linked to a grouping of labor unions, told the paper: "Taxpayers are subsidizing a legislative agenda that is inimical to their interests and offensive to what the whole TARP program is about. It's business as usual with taxpayers picking up the bill."

Patterson is at least partly on point. In the last three months of 2008, for instance, collapsing automakers Chrysler and GM spent millions lobbying the House and Senate on issues ranging from vehicles emissions and safety regulations to climate change. It's hard to feel, in these cases, that corporate interests are in line with the public good. . . .

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