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POLITICS

Obama and the special interests

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

President Obama in his 60 Minutes interview aired Sunday night suggested that he hasn't accomplished as much as his supporters had hoped, in part because of the "culture here in Washington, dominated by special interests." He also suggested that he's working on fixing that culture:

"reversing a culture here in Washington, dominated by special interests, it was gonna take more than a year. It was gonna take more than two years. It was gonna take more than one term. Probably takes more than one president."

But, on net, Obama is taking us in reverse on this score. He isn't reducing the dominance of special interests. He's increasing the influence of special interests.

His stimulus set off a lobbying free-for-all. His health-care, which was a big giveaway to the drug industry (which spends more on lobbying than any other), bill has made health-care lobbying a chronic condition and spurred the Great Health-Care Cashout in which the bill's authors monetize their experience writing the bill.

Dodd-Frank not only spurred a similar boom in revolving-door action it also provided the opportunity for Jon Corzine's cronyism-fueled rise and fall.

And all those measures Obama is claiming to have implemented to crack down on lobbying -- they're toothless. He's hired more than 50 lobbyists to senior positions, a handful of his top appointees are now on Wall Street, and his bundlers and donors include big-time lobbyists by any normal definition of the word.

Just as Obamacare had the backing of the drug industry, many of Obama's other top legislative & regulatory achievements pleased the biggest businesses involved, and had big business's fingerprints all over them. See tobacco regulation, toy regulation, and tax-prep regulation for three examples.

He's vastly expanded the Export-Import Bank, a corporate-welfare agency, with most of those subsidies going to benefit one company: Boeing.

Google sent its top lobbyist to a policy job in the White House where he worked with current Google lobbyists to craft policy to profit Google.

And the company that spends more on lobbying than any other -- General Electric -- could hardly be cozier with this administration.

Obama's done plenty. But he certainly hasn't decreased the influence of the special interests.

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