It should come as no surprise that the relationship between lawmakers’ sentiments and their campaign contributions is usually linear. But somehow it still shocks the system to see that trend laid out on the open page for all to see. That’s just what Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank did in a Friday sketch on a Senate Banking Committee hearing held this week to examine the $30 billion bailout of Wall Street investment giant Bear Stearns. Featured at the hearing was the Bear’s CEO, Alan Schwartz.
As Milbank tells it:
“„Fortunately for Schwartz, he had a sympathetic audience in the banking committee, whose members have received more than $20 million in campaign contributions from the securities and investment industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. "I want the witnesses to know, and others, that as a bottom-line consideration, I happen to believe that this was the right decision," Chairman Chris Dodd (D-$5,796,000) said before hearing a single word of testimony.
"You made the right decision," Sen. Evan Bayh (D-$1,582,000) told the regulators who worked out the loan guarantee.
"The actions had to be done," agreed Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-$6,162,000).
Only a minority of senators, particularly those with smaller pieces of the campaign-cash pie, dissented. "That is socialism!" railed Sen. Jim Bunning (R-$452,000). "And it must not happen again."
For political journalists, whose very task is to take esoteric topics like banking regulation and make them understandable to readers, has there ever been a more efficient method than this to do so? Would anyone doubt what motivates lawmakers after seeing clearly which industry is giving to whom?
In a few paragraphs, Milbank just defined how Washington works. Every writer in this town should take note.
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