Dow Jones News: Lobbying Contributed To Financial Crisis – IMF Report

Written by admin on April 30th, 2011

IMF report states the obvious, financial institutions lobbied against any proposed regulations which might have provided checks to the risky practices which led to the meltdown.

NASDAQ

Lobbying by financial firms contributed to lax regulations that helped cause the financial crisis, according to three researchers at the International Monetary Fund in a paper quietly released last month.

The researchers–Deniz Igan, Prachi Mishra and Thierry Tressel–argued the mortgage lenders that lobbied most aggressively in Washington for a more lax regulatory environment took more risks and exposed themselves to worse outcomes during the crisis.

The researchers also argued that these same lenders were more likely to receive money from the federal bank bailout, possibly because these firms were hit harder during the crisis and had relationships with key lawmakers.

The researchers said Citigroup Inc. (C), which nearly collapsed during the crisis and required $45 billion in government support to stay alive, lobbied intensely against a 2001 bill that aimed to put tighter restrictions on lenders.

Such lobbying was part of a trend of the financial sector’s push for more lax regulation. From 1999 through 2006, 93% of all the bills promoting tighter regulation were never signed into law, the study said. Two key pieces of legislation to promote lax lending in mortgage markets were enacted in 2000 and 2003.

A Citigroup spokesman declined to comment.

The authors said it is “extremely difficult to pin down the most likely motivation” for the financial industry’s lobbying efforts ahead of the crisis, though they said it is possible lenders were hoping for a lower probability of scrutiny by bank supervisors or a higher probability of being bailout out in the event of a financial crisis.

Kathleen Day, a spokesman at the Center for Responsible Lending, said the study appears to confirm the perception that what financial firms marketed to lawmakers as financial innovation was really the abandonment of “common-sense lending principles,” such as solid underwriting standards for home loans.

“What they were promoting as financial innovation turned out to be irresponsible risk taking,” she said

 

New York Times: Lobbyist Fires Warning Shot Over Donation Disclosure Plan

Written by admin on April 28th, 2011

The US Chamber of Commerce lays out their argument defending undisclosed donations.  Businesses are afraid that their positions are unpopular.

Mr. Josten appears in “The Best Government Money Can Buy?

New York Times

After a brief truce of sorts between the White House and business leaders, the top lobbyist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce took aim at President Obama on Tuesday over an as-yet unannounced plan to force government contractors to disclose their political giving.

The lobbyist, R. Bruce Josten, said in an interview that the powerful business bloc “is not going to tolerate” what it saw as a “backdoor attempt” by the White House to silence private-sector opponents by disclosing their political spending.

“We will fight it through all available means,” Mr. Josten said. In a reference to the White House’s battle to depose Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, he said, “To quote what they say every day on Libya, all options are on the table.”

While no final decision has been announced, the White House has acknowledged that Mr. Obama is considering issuing an executive order requiring all would-be federal contractors to disclose direct and indirect political spending of more than $5,000.

The order could, for instance, force a military contractor or an energy company seeking federal work to report money it gave to the Chamber of Commerce or another advocacy group to help finance political ads and expenditures.

After tens of millions of dollars in anonymous political spending flooded the 2010 elections following a landmark Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, Democrats tried to pass a bill known as the Disclose Act to require greater reporting of political spending, only to see it blocked by Senate Republicans. Democrats are now turning to other means, including the possible White House order and a lawsuit filed last week against the Federal Election Commission, to achieve similar ends.

But much of the renewed tension can be traced to the prospect of the White House order on political disclosures — first disclosed last week in a blog posting by Hans von Spakovsky, a conservative lawyer who worked on election law in President George W. Bush’s administration.

The Business Roundtable, another powerful business association made up of leading chief executives, also urged the White House on Tuesday not to move ahead with the draft order. It called the proposal “yet another example of regulatory over-reach” and said it would increase paperwork and drive up costs for businesses.

On Tuesday, 27 Republican senators also sent Mr. Obama a letter accusing him of playing politics through the proposal.

Mr. Josten said that the order as now drafted would also stifle free speech rights for businesses that worked with the government by subjecting them to harassment and protests if their political spending were disclosed.

As one example, he pointed to the Target Corporation, which was the object of boycotts and protests at its stores last year after reports said that the company gave $150,000 to a Minnesota business group that supported a Republican candidate opposed to gay marriage. “This is meant to have a chilling effect,” he said of the disclosure plan.

 

Los Angeles Times: Much corporate political spending stays hidden

Written by admin on April 23rd, 2011

Why are companies afraid to disclose their support for their interests?  Because they know that their customers’ interests and their interests are not the same.

Los Angeles Times

Despite mounting calls for greater transparency, only a few of the country’s 75 leading energy, healthcare and financial services corporations fully disclose political spending, according to a review of company records and state and federal campaign finance reports.

While complying with legal requirements to report direct donations to candidates, the vast majority of these companies — many of which are seeking legislative favors from the new Congress — do not reveal information even to their shareholders about support for politically active trade associations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Groups such as the chamber, some of which spend millions of dollars on elections, are not required to reveal their financial supporters. And companies are not required to report their donations to those groups.

The money fuels a parallel, opaque system of political giving that plays a growing role in national elections and is emerging as a 2012 campaign issue. President Obama is considering an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose political donations, and congressional Democrats have filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission demanding more disclosure.

What information is publicly available suggests that substantial corporate political spending remains in the dark, leading to an incomplete, and at times misleading, picture of companies’ efforts to influence legislation and elections, the Times review indicates.

Only 14 of the country’s 75 leading energy, healthcare and financial services companies reported payments to industry trade associations in 2009. But those 14 alone gave more than $23.5 million for lobbying and political purposes, according to company postings.

The remaining 61 companies in those industries did not disclose any payments. That same year, however, the chamber and seven other leading trade groups representing the three industries took in more than $1.3 billion, more than the state of Vermont collected in taxes. These groups, in turn, spent some $500 million on lobbying and other political activity such as television advertising, tax records show.

Company giving to trade associations for political campaigns can dwarf direct donations to candidates, according to records from corporations that voluntarily report such giving.

Political action committees operated by Prudential Financial, for example, gave $218,230 to candidates and other committees in 2010. By comparison, the company gave the chamber and other trade groups more than $2.2 million for lobbying and other political purposes. In all, the company paid these groups nearly $6.6 million in dues in 2009.

While some companies that don’t disclose may not have contributed to trade groups, others simply defend their right to keep their giving out of the public eye.

“Information about our financial support for certain causes is proprietary,” said Adam Shores, a spokesman for insurance giant Allstate.

That has prompted some investors to push companies to post annual reports where the public can view a comprehensive list of a corporation’s political spending, including what it gives to trade groups. “We understand that company voices need to be heard,” said Julie Gorte, senior vice president at mutual fund Pax World Management. “As shareholders, we think we have a right to know how the money is being spent.”

But industry leaders ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup have fought such shareholder initiatives, arguing in corporate filings that they comply with existing laws and that disclosing more is “unnecessary.”

Other companies say they present a complete picture of their political spending, while leaving off select contributions.

Goldman Sachs, for instance, says on its corporate website that it “does not make any political contributions in the United States.” And Morgan Stanley reports that its only corporate political contribution in 2010 was a $500 check to the New York Senate Republican Campaign Committee Housekeeping Conference Account.

Nowhere on their websites do the two financial powerhouses say that they gave a combined $105,264 to a political action committee run by the California Public Securities Assn.

State campaign finance reports, which show the contributions, indicate that the trade group spent $400,000 on two 2010 ballot measure campaigns.

 

Los Angeles Times: Democrats sue FEC to require disclosure of campaign donors

Written by admin on April 22nd, 2011

Will President Obama issue an Executive Order requiring Federal contractors to disclose their political contributions?

The US Chamber of Commerce is strongly against such a move.  Two other participants in “The Best Government Money Can Buy?“, Fred Wertheimer and Jan Baran are on the front lines of this battle.

Los Angeles Times

The White House and some of its allies in the Democratic Party are pushing with increasing force to unmask corporations and individuals that secretly contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to groups that influence election campaigns.

But it’s not yet clear that the efforts could have a substantial effect on the 2012 election — or that Democrats won’t exceed Republicans in attracting undisclosed donations to their own newly formed organizations.

Even as Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and his pro-reform allies filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Federal Election Commission demanding donor disclosure, other Democrats were raising substantial contributions for 2012 campaign advertising. And two former White House aides have been talking of setting up their own independent group that could include a nonprofit arm to shield the identities of major donors.

The White House railed against independent campaign spending financed by secret donations in the 2008 and 2010 elections. President Obama has emphasized disclosed and limited donations of the sort he raised at events in San Francisco and Los Angeles this week.

But now there is a growing consensus that Democrats should begin their own efforts to collect large-dollar undisclosed donations, or risk defeat.

Despite that view, the White House confirmed this week that Obama is mulling whether to issue an executive order that would require federal contractors to disclose political donations, even to nonprofit groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has many defense and government contractors in its membership.

A presidential order could take effect immediately, and officials at the chamber and Republicans on Capitol Hill expressed alarm Thursday about the possibility. Obama’s move underscores his unwillingness to relinquish a major line of attack he used against Republicans last fall, even as his allies are embracing similar tactics.

Campaign finance experts observing the latest maneuvers said it was unlikely that the lawsuit and appeals would be resolved before the 2012 campaign. But Fred Wertheimer, who is leading the legal team on the congressman’s behalf, maintained that it was possible to get a decision and then ask the court to order disclosure even as appeals were pending.

Republicans and Democrats agreed that a presidential order requiring disclosure by companies doing work for the government could have an immediate effect.

At the Chamber of Commerce, spokeswoman Blair Latoff condemned the proposed order, saying it could mean “prospective contractors that fund political causes unpopular with the government or the current administration may find that they don’t get a contract award due to political discrimination.”

Similar concern was raised in a letter circulated among Republican senators Thursday.

The White House proposal and the FEC litigation are similar to sections of the Disclose Act, a legislative package drafted by Van Hollen and other Democrats that failed in the last Congress. Latoff called the moves a “desperate attempt by the White House and House Democrats to resurrect the corpse of the Disclose Act.”

A lawyer who has worked for Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce, Jan Baran of the firm Wiley Rein in Washington, acknowledged that a presidential order could hinder fundraising for the 2012 election.

 

New York Times: Foreign Money Fuels Faltering Bid to Push Online Poker

Written by admin on April 19th, 2011

The Poker Players Alliance participated in “The Best Government Money Can Buy?”.    A look today at their lobbying efforts which have recently suffered a setback.

New York Times

Former Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato, Republican of New York, has been the public face of the effort, which has included charity poker tournaments featuring members of Congress, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to a disparate assortment of lawmakers, including Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, the majority leader.

But late last week, the United States Justice Department delivered an unexpected thunderbolt to this huge lobbying campaign when it indicted top executives at PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker, accusing them of fraud and money laundering. In doing so the government has taken on a politically powerful industry that for a while seemed like it might transform gambling around the world.

As evidence of the industry’s shifting fortunes, major gambling operators like Wynn Resorts are already distancing themselves from the three Internet gambling companies, canceling planned business alliances. ESPN has removed poker-related content from its own Internet site.

This is exactly what the industry was trying to prevent when it set out to block enforcement of a law intended to ban Internet games or to get the law repealed. Interviews show that the companies named in the indictment, while foreign-based, have indirectly been paying more than half of the lobbying and operating bills for a nonprofit organization that is championing Internet gambling in the United States.

Mr. Frank, in an interview on Monday, said he had no plan to back down. “It is a bad law,” he said. “How is it possible that a United States attorney in New York does not have anything more to do than indict people for a full house? He should be indicting people for the empty houses we have around,” referring to the troubles in the mortgage industry.

Mr. Frank and Representative John Campbell, Republican of California, in March introduced yet another bill, backed by the Poker Players Alliance, a Washington-based nonprofit group. Its budget is subsidized by a Canadian trade association whose members include the companies that run Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker.

As a senator, Mr. D’Amato played a regular poker game that featured lobbyists. On Friday, he said in a statement, “Online poker is not a crime and should not be treated as such.”

 

CNN: Independent groups expected to rake in hundreds of millions

Written by admin on April 18th, 2011

CNN:  “Apparently, it’s a race to lower expectations.”

CNN

Analysis: Why Obama really announced today: M-o-n-e-y

Among the new Democratic groups are four SuperPACS, which are expected to be up and running by the end of this month. They are:

• House Majority PAC, which launched this week, is focused on helping Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives. It’s run by three strategists previously involved in House campaigns and is planning ads that target vulnerable Republicans during the April congressional recess.

• Majority PAC was put together by some of the Democratic Party’s most seasoned Senate campaign operatives. It will focus on ensuring that Democrats keep control of the Senate. They’ve begun raising money and choosing targets. Their goal, one operative says, is to start defining Republicans early in the cycle.

• A group dedicated to supporting Obama’s re-election bid will open later this month. Helmed by former White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, former top aide to ex-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, it aims to compete with American Crossroads — the Rove-founded group — which plans to raise $120 million this cycle.

• And a fourth group, American Bridge 21st Century, will provide opposition research and communications for Democratic races for Congress and the presidency. Founded by conservative-turned-liberal activist David Brock and chaired by former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, it has a more far-reaching goal. In a statement to CNN, Rodell Mollineau, its president, says he hopes hopes to build the group “into an enduring political research and communications powerhouse.”

Chris Harris, spokesman for American Bridge, tells CNN, “We are investing in a massive war room so we can define (GOP) candidates before they define themselves.”

Organizers say the groups — which are banned from coordinating with the campaigns — are working with one another. Sources familiar with their plans tell CNN that American Bridge aims to raise $20 million to $30 million, the Burton-Sweeney presidential effort would try to raise $120 million, and in order to be competitive, Majority PAC would need to bring in $50 million to $100 million. There are no early projections for House Majority PAC’s numbers.

Steven Law, president of the conservative outside group American Crossroads, insists that Democrats already dominate outside spending — thanks to labor unions. “For years now the unions have perfected the art of doing outside campaign ads, outside voter turnout activity,” Law said, adding, “We created American Crossroads to be a counterpoint to what the unions and other groups like Moveon.org have done very effectively for the last several elections.”

He predicts liberal groups will outspend conservatives this cycle. But Democratic fundraisers laugh that off, saying Republicans can raise far more money from deep-pocketed donors.

Apparently, it’s a race to lower expectations.

Many new Republican-aligned groups popped up last election, including the American Action Network, supported by top Republican fundraiser Fred Malek and former Sen. Norm Coleman on its board.

Other major players on the conservative side: the Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and the Club for Growth, all of which made major investments in the midterm campaign ads against Democratic candidates.

American Crossroads and affiliate Crossroads GPS is the behemoth on the scene. Co-founded by Rove, it raised $71 million and in its first year last cycle and saturated the airwaves in some hotly contested campaigns. For the coming election, it says it hopes to raise $120 million. The group tells CNN within weeks it will air ads related to the federal budget fight.

“This is one election where literally everything is at stake: the White House, the Senate majority, the House majority and even the courts for potentially a generation so everybody’s very engaged and interested. And they want to continue to play and hopefully affect the direction of the country in a positive way,” American Crossroads’ Law says.

One independent conservative group last weekend started airing a commercial in some key battleground states critical of the president. The spot, titled “Barack Obama’s Legacy of Failure,” was sponsored by the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama.

Conservative group puts out anti-Obama TV ad

A number of these groups on both sides of the aisle are affiliated with highly secretive organizations known as 501(c)(4) groups ( a reference to their designation in the tax code), which don’t have to report their donors to the Federal Election Commission.

Groups not directly affiliated with political parties accounted for $298.5 million in political spending during the 2010 midterms, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the influence of money in politics.

This time around, expect even more.

“The numbers will dwarf the roughly $300 million in outside spending we witnessed in 2010. The only question that remains is, by how much?” said Dave Levinthal, a spokesman for the center.

 

New York Times: New Groups Form to Raise Millions for Democrats

Written by admin on April 16th, 2011

The Republicans and the Democrats begin their argument over which party is more hypocritical.

New York Times

“Outside groups have spent tens of millions of dollars on outright lies and misinformation about the benefits millions of Americans are already getting,” said Eddie Vale, who left his job at the A.F.L.-C.I.O. to become the spokesman for the new groups. “But they no longer have the playing field to themselves, and we’re going on offense.”

Both efforts will join three other groups — one, called the Majority PAC, will seek to defend Democratic senators against attacks and single out Republican senators for defeat.Two former White House officials — Bill Burton, who was a deputy press secretary, and Sean Sweeney, who worked for Rahm Emanuel, then the White House chief of staff — are putting the finishing touches on another group that will focus on financing ads on behalf of Mr. Obama. And American Bridge, a third group, will focus on the presidential campaign and other key races.

Together, the emerging list of Democratic groups suggests that party leaders have decided to join the somewhat unseemly search for unlimited sums of money from just about wherever they can find them.

During the last election cycle, Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders condemned the conservative groups for their refusal, in some cases, to disclose their donors. Now, some of the Democratic-leaning groups will accept the charge of hypocrisy and go after that kind of money themselves.

Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for Mr. Rove’s group, Crossroads, said in a statement this month that Mr. Burton’s plans amounted to “stunning hypocrisy” since the White House attacked Crossroads for nondisclosure while Mr. Burton worked there.

“The Democrats have never had any integrity whatsoever on the nondisclosure issue,” Mr. Collegio said. “Burton has simply jumped into the hypocrite bin with Robert Gibbs, David Axelrod, Bob Bauer, Brad Woodhouse, and other prominent W.H. and D.N.C. operatives who either ran, worked for or publicly supported nondisclosing groups before they were against them.”

Mr. Burton responded that “today is not the day Democrats are going to start taking cues from Karl Rove’s cronies on issues of integrity.” He declined to comment about the group he is forming with Mr. Sweeney.

A Democratic strategist familiar with Mr. Burton’s effort said that the name of the organization and the legal structure had yet to be determined. One possibility would be to form two related organizations — much like Crossroads does — one that has to disclose its donors and one that does not.

 

Washington Post: Lobbyists will make NFL players’ case to Congress

Written by admin on April 14th, 2011

This olderWashington Post story illustrates the firepower being brought to bear in the current NFL lockout.

Washington Post

The union that represents pro football players has hired a coterie of new lobbyists and public-relations officials in recent months to help make its case to Congress that the NFL owners are acting unfairly in labor talks. The NFL Players Association and its backers say lawmakers can step in because of a congressional antitrust exemption that allows the league to negotiate lucrative broadcast rights.

The lobbying efforts include visits scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday by more than 30 players and their families, who will meet with lawmakers and legislative staffers. The players plan to emphasize the potential economic impact that an NFL shutdown could have on local communities, according to union officials.

“The most important thing that can happen for us on Capitol Hill is to just level the playing field,” Domonique Foxworth, a Baltimore Ravens cornerback and a member of the NFLPA’s Executive Committee, said in a recent conference call with reporters, noting that the NFL “has been lobbying on Capitol Hill for a number of years now.”

“It’s important that they see our faces too and realize another team is also playing in the game,” Foxworth added.

But the NFL, which has its own sizable lobbying operation in Washington, says Congress should stay out of what amounts to a private-sector business negotiation.

“This deal will be reached at the negotiating table, not in the halls of Congress,” said chief NFL lobbyist Jeff Miller, a former counsel to Sen. Herbert Kohl (D-Wis.). “We don’t think a third-party intervention, whether it’s for Congress or anyone else, helps you get a deal here.”

The NFL’s lobbying expenditures are expected to exceed $1.5 million in 2010, including payments to Democratic-leaning firms Elmendorf Strategies and Glover Park Group, according to records and officials. The league’s political-action committee also showered more than $600,000 in contributions to members of both parties in the 2010 cycle, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign finances.

The players association does not have a PAC and only spends about a third as much on lobbying as the league. But the union has been attempting to close the gap in recent months, hiring Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock to join its main lobbying firm, Patton Boggs. The players association has also enlisted the help of Singer Bonjean Strategies, a bipartisan public-relations firm with close ties to Congress.

 

New York Times: Lobbyists Won Key Concessions in Budget Deal

Written by admin on April 14th, 2011

An example of the last minute horse-trading that led to the current budget agreement.  A lobby wins a battle at the eleventh hour.

New York Times

Even delivered in shorthand, the call’s meaning was clear to Mr. Wyden: a health care plan he had succeeded in getting passed months earlier despite furious lobbying by big business and labor had been pulled out of the blue and killed as part of the broader budget deal struck between the White House and Congress. What was most perplexing was that it had little to do with budgets or government shutdowns.

“I was flabbergasted, just flabbergasted,” Mr. Wyden, of Oregon, said Tuesday in an interview, describing the demise of a plan that would have allowed some 300,000 workers to pick their own insurance coverage through employer-financed vouchers.

With $38 billion in cuts on the line in a $3.5 trillion budget, the clash over federal spending played out in numbers so big that most standard calculators had trouble tracking all the zeros. But in the end, a handful of relatively small-bore line items affecting particular industries attracted some of the most aggressive lobbying behind the scenes, as business interests, health care providers and others fought to hold on to, or kill, proposals that affected their bottom line.

Much public attention focused on the social issues that appeared in the spending bill in the final weeks as social conservatives tried to use it to advance their causes, particularly the unsuccessful effort by abortion opponents to cut the financing of Planned Parenthood. In the end, the budget agreement reached late Friday night banned the District of Columbia from using its own money to provide abortions for low-income women in the city — a measure with a bigger social impact than fiscal.

But there was also intense but ultimately unsuccessful lobbying by General Electric and other military contractors to revive financing for an alternate engine for a costly jet fighter project. Proponents of tougher regulations for the politically influential and beleaguered commercial college industry succeeded, for now, in beating back an effort to block restrictions on how the schools get federal aid.

 

Politico: How Microsoft learned ABCs of D.C.

Written by admin on April 6th, 2011

Michael Kinsley declares politicians’ view of lobbying is the equivalent of a protection racket.

Politico

For many years before the lawsuit, Microsoft had virtually no Washington “presence.” It had a large office in the suburbs, mainly concerned with selling software to the government. Bill Gates resisted the notion that a software company needed to hire a lot of lobbyists and lawyers. He didn’t want anything special from the government, except the freedom to build and sell software. If the government would leave him alone, he would leave the government alone.

At first, this was regarded (at least in Washington, D.C.) as naive. Grown-up companies hire lobbyists. What’s this guy’s problem? Then it was regarded as foolish. This was not a game. There were big issues at stake. Next it came to be seen as arrogant: Who the hell does Microsoft think it is? Does it think it’s too good to do what every other company of its size in the world is doing?

Ultimately, there even was a feeling that, in refusing to play the Washington game, Microsoft was being downright unpatriotic. Look, buddy, there is an American way of doing things, and that American way includes hiring lobbyists, paying lawyers vast sums by the hour, throwing lavish parties for politicians, aides, journalists and so on. So get with the program.

Warren Buffett famously said that the thing is to learn from other people’s mistakes, not your own. Google learned from Microsoft. It did not dis Washington. It has had a Washington lobbying operation almost from the very beginning of the company, way back in 2003. In 2008, Google opened a glamorous new D.C. office, described by Google’s senior manager of global communications and public affairs as “a showcase of the company and what it means.” The very fact that Google has a senior manager of global communications and public affairs suggests that Google might not be quite the noncorporate corporation it sees itself as.

And if Google can hold on just a bit longer, the pointing finger inevitably will move again, this time to Facebook. But Facebook will be prepared. Even before its stock goes public, it is making noises about hiring President Barack Obama’s former press secretary, Robert Gibbs, and has already hired Marne Levine, former chief of staff of the National Economic Council. And not because of their code-writing skills.

As the Microsoft example suggests, the Washington culture of influence peddling is not entirely, or even primarily, the fault of the corporations that hire the lobbyists and pay the bills. It’s a vast protection racket, practiced by politicians and political operatives of both parties. Nice little software company you’ve got here. Too bad if we have to regulate it or if Big Government programs force us to raise its taxes. Your archrival just wrote a big check to the Washington Bureaucrats Benevolent Society. Are you sure you wouldn’t like to do the same?