Opinion

Democrat donor William Ackman conspires to destroy Herbalife to win billion-dollar bet

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Barack Obama,Ashe Schow,Ed Markey,Linda Sanchez

If the billionaire Koch brothers are trying to “buy our democracy,” as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., put it, what is Democrat donor William Ackman buying?

The billionaire hedge fund manager has conspired with members of Congress and outside groups to destroy Herbalife, a nutrition products company, according to the New York Times.

Why?

To win a billion-dollar bet he made that the company would collapse.

And he’s using the federal government to help win that bet.

Despite what you may believe about the seediness of Washington, this is actually unprecedented.

“Mr. Ackman’s campaign to take this fight ‘to the end of the earth,’ using every weapon in the arsenal that Washington offers in an attempt to bring ruin to one company, is a novel one, fusing the financial markets with the political system,” the Times said.

Ackman claims he is trying to take down the company to protect Hispanics, who are apparently Herbalife’s main distributors, but Ackman’s staff says the real goal is to win that bet.

The situation has led to a prominent Democrat-on-Democrat lobbying effort.

Ackman read from a letter he said was written by Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., to the Federal Trade Commission calling for an investigation into Herbalife. The thing is, the FTC hadn't received the letter yet, and Sanchez didn't post the letter on her website until a month later -- but backdated it for good measure.

Another letter, supposedly written by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., also appeared on Ackman's anti-Herbalife website before the senator's press release. Markey's letter to the FTC and Securities and Exchange Commission caused Herbalife's stock to drop by 14 percent.

Ackman also enlisted lobbying firms to help crush Herbalife — including one run by former Rep. Toby Moffett, D-Conn. The other firm is run by a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, Robert Walker.

But wait, there's more! Ackman also hired lobbying firms run by former top aides for President Obama and President Clinton, as well as Jim Papa, who worked on legislative affairs for Obama.

Also contracted: Lobbyist Larry Rasky, a former aide to Markey during his time in the House of Representatives, and lobbyist Malcolm Grace, a former aide to Sanchez. How convenient that both members of Congress would go on to assist Ackman.

The Times claims Ackman also recruited “four members of Congress, a New York State senator, a City Council member in Boston, the majority leader of the Nevada Senate and other elected officials in California” to join his efforts.

Herbalife followed suit, hiring a lobbying group founded by former Clinton administration aides and the Podesta Group, run by Tony Podesta, whose brother, John Podesta, was Clinton's chief of staff and is now a senior counselor in the Obama White House.

Ackman has given far more to Democrats than to Republicans over the past two decades, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Oh, and even if Ackman loses his bet, he’s still going to “personally pursue the Herbalife matter to the end of the earth,” because he’s totally not doing it for the money, remember?

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