Friday, October 30, 2009

In The Know: Are Politicians Failing Our Lobbyists?

Video compliments of The Onion

TARP Recipients Paid Out $114 Million for Politicking Last Year
Published by Communications on February 4, 2009

The companies that have been awarded taxpayers' money from Congress's bailout bill spent $77 million on lobbying and $37 million on federal campaign contributions, Center finds. The return on investment: 258,449 percent.

WASHINGTON--(This release has been corrected to reflect that Bank of America has received $45 billion, not $55 billion, from the TARP program. The $45 billion includes $10 billion that Merrill Lynch received before being acquired by Bank of America. An earlier version of this release incorrectly added Merrill Lynch's $10 billion to Bank of America's $45 billion. Adjustments to the figures in the original release are in bold below. In addition, the total number of TARP recipients that lobbied in 2008 is 26, rather than 25 as originally stated.) The struggling companies whose freewheeling business practices have contributed to the country's economic woes are getting a lucrative return on at least one of their investments. Beneficiaries of the $700 billion bailout package in the finance and automotive industries have spent a total of $114.2 million on lobbying in the past year and contributions toward the 2008 election, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics has found. The companies' political activities have, in part, yielded them $295.2 billion from the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), an extraordinary return of 258,449 percent.

"Even in the best economic times, you won't find an investment with a greater payoff than what these companies have been getting," said Sheila Krumholz, the Center's executive director. "Some of the companies and industries that have received payments may now consider their contributions and lobbying to be the smartest investments they've made in years."

While the Treasury Department, not Congress, doles out TARP funds to specific institutions, congressional lawmakers had to authorize that money in the first place, and lawmakers will determine in the future whether to release more funds to prop up the U.S. economy. During the bill-writing process, members of Congress were able to specify to some extent where the money should go, and they have lobbied regulators to urge them to inject funds into specific banks and financial institutions, including those in lawmakers' own districts.

"Taxpayers hope their money is being allocated entirely on the merits, but with Congress controlling how much money the Treasury gets to hand out, it will be impossible to completely exclude politics from this process," Krumholz said.


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