Not a real shocker here, but it turns out that a lot of the TARP recipients are lining the pockets of our leaders through political donations:
In recent filings with the Federal Election Commission, the political action committee for Bank of America (which got $15 billion in bailout money) sent out $24,500 in the first two months of 2009, including $1,500 to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and another $15,000 to members of the House and Senate banking panels. Citigroup ($25 billion) dished out $29,620, including $2,500 to House GOP Whip Eric Cantor, who also got $10,000 from UBS which, while not a TARP recipient, got $5 billion in bailout funds as an AIG “counterparty.”
With this kind of behavior, it’s no wonder that we are seeing plans that sound good and backed by leading economists fail in Congress. The problem is that we have no real fix for this. Are we going to see lawmakers cut off their own money train? If you think that will happen then I got some ocean front property in Ohio to sell you.
This also isn’t a partisan problem, it’s a systematic one. To right this major wrong we have to look seriously at redoing our campaign finance laws. Of course with the current people in Washington, loopholes are a given. Perhaps the only real way to get something done with the status quo is for some rogue member of Congress to introduce strict legislation limiting these donations, and then going out on a massive media blitz. That would help put enough pressure on law makers from their constituents that it might work.
The better plan is to start cleaning house. We need new blood in Congress who hasn’t felt the taint of the money train, but just to run against an incumbent takes a large sum of money, so there again you are entering this vicious cycle.
What we really need is publicly funded campaigns. Take the money factor out of the whole process. It would level the playing field, allowing more people to run for higher offices and give us an infusion of new thinking. If the public outrage over the AIG bonuses could be rechanneled to this, then we might be able to push fixes for far more problems.