“Psssst. Hey, you. Yeah, you, over there with the really fat checkbook.
“Wanna make some serious money real fast — and legal? Yeah, really — legally.
“All you gotta do is give me about $114 million. That’s all — and I’ll give you an ROI of 258,449 percent. Yep. You heard right — 258,449 percent. You’ll make $295.2 billion.
“That work for you?”
Apparently, yes. The Troubled Asset Relief Program, the now-fabled, poorly supervised “TARP,” has been quite a lucrative return on investment for companies getting the taxpayer-funded bailout bucks.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics:
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 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.
Says the center’s director, Sheila Krumholz:
Even in the best economic times, you won’t find an investment with a greater payoff than what these companies have been getting. 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.”
Now, who received the most in campaign contributions from these companies? Why, the politicians who are charged with oversight of TARP expenditures.
According to the center:
They include Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs (he received $854,200 from the companies in the 2008 election cycle, including money to his presidential campaign) and Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, chair of the Senate Finance Committee (he received $279,000). In total, members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Senate Finance Committee and House Financial Services Committee received $5.2 million from TARP recipients in the 2007-2008 election cycle.
President Obama’s campaign received at least $4.3 million in donations from employees at these companies.
The center provides a chart listing TARP recipients as of Feb. 2, campaign contributions for the 2007-2008 cycle, lobbying expenditures for 2008, the amount of TARP money received, and what the center terns “return on investment.” Some ROIs reach into millions of percent.
It’s interesting but infuriating reading, of course, and the analysis is somewhat flawed and unfair. Not all of the lobbying expenditures were directly targeted at obtaining TARP money. Many of the campaign contributions may actually have been given because of a corporate donor’s belief in a particular candidate (please, stop laughing.)
But that amount of money placed into politics by corporations that control global financial markets amounts to an enormous megaphone. Politicians can’t help but hear, let alone be deafened, by voices that loud.
The center’s analysis is instructive. It reminds us yet again of the corrosive role of Big Money in political decision making.