Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 27, 2008
By: Hilzoy

MSNBC (h/t):

"Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain's national campaign general co-chair was being paid by a Swiss bank to lobby Congress about the U.S. mortgage crisis at the same time he was advising McCain about his economic policy, federal records show.

"Countdown with Keith Olbermann" reported Tuesday night that lobbying disclosure forms, filed by the giant Swiss bank UBS, list McCain's campaign co-chair, former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, as a lobbyist dealing specifically with legislation regarding the mortgage crisis as recently as Dec. 31, 2007.

Gramm joined the bank in 2002 and had registered as a lobbyist by 2004. UBS filed paperwork deregistering Gramm on April 18 of this year. Gramm continues to serve as a UBS vice chairman."

You can see the lobbying disclosure forms at the MSNBC link above. They are as advertised. (On all except the first, note the little "Next" button at the upper left; it takes you to subsequent pages, on some of which you will find Gramm's name.)

Gramm is bad news with or without his lobbying job. As I wrote two months ago, he was heavily involved in the Enron crash, and some of his legislation helped make the current crisis possible. To quote James Galbraith:

"Phil Gramm's career was as the most aggressive advocate of every predatory and rapacious element that the financial sector has," Galbraith said. "He's a sorcerer's apprentice of instability and disaster in the financial system."

But it just defies belief that McCain would have, as his main economic advisor and one of the people responsible for his plan to deal with the mortgage crisis, someone who was a paid lobbyist for a bank that was heavily involved in that crisis, a firm that has just advised some of its employees not to travel to the US for legal reasons, and that stands to gain or lose a lot depending on what the federal government decides to do about it. What's next: the revelation that McCain's policy on Iran is being written by a lobbyist for the makers of cruise missiles? Or that he has outsourced his health care policy to a lobbyist for the National Funeral Directors Association?

My best guess -- and it's only a guess -- is that there are certain things about himself that McCain is so sure of that he does not see how he could ever be challenged on them. He knows that he is a man of honor, so why would he need to keep people with obvious conflicts of interest away from his campaign -- even when he is taking their advice on topics that, by his own admission, he doesn't know much about? Likewise, he knows that he cares about the military, so why would he need to actually acquire a decent record on veterans' issues?

If this is at all right, it promises to be an entertaining campaign. Meanwhile, will the last lobbyist to leave the McCain campaign please turn out the lights?

Hilzoy 10:59 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

And don't anybody call these people whores. Real whores work for a living.

Posted by: thersites the foul-mouthed loser on May 27, 2008 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

But it just defies belief that McCain would have,...

Does it? Does it really?

Posted by: craigie on May 27, 2008 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

"it promises to be an entertaining campaign."

I'm waiting for the day when America expects more then entertainment from politics.

Posted by: Joey Giraud on May 27, 2008 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

But it just defies belief that McCain would have,...

Defies what belief?

Posted by: Boronx on May 27, 2008 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

Wendy Gramm was serving on the board of Enron while her husband Phil was shepherding through Congress the bills that would deregulate the kinds of financial shenanigans that Enron used to defraud.

Corruption squared. A better symbol of the modern Republican party would be hard to devise.

Posted by: joel hanes on May 28, 2008 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

It doesn't matter, unlike Hagee and Parsley, Gramm is known and "respected" by the MSM. After all he is friends with all the right people running the MSM parent companies. This story will be buried.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 28, 2008 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

I'm afraid I agree with Ron B. The MSM will keep this buried for as long as possible, and when it does eventually rise to the level of NBC or CBS they'll cover it in their usual "on one hand...on the other" manner, won't provide any background info on Gramm or his policies, and will drop it immediately after that. Your average Joe6P who only gets his news from Fox or CNN or ABC won't have a clue, and since it doesn't involve talk of assassinations, angry preachers, or prostitutes, he won't naturally care, either. It's up to Obama, the DNC, Democratic members of the House and Senate, and activists everywhere to bring as much light to the issue as possible.

Posted by: bluestatedon on May 28, 2008 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

It's up to Obama, the DNC, Democratic members of the House and Senate, and activists everywhere to bring as much light to the issue as possible.

Spread it around to everyone you know.

Posted by: pol on May 28, 2008 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

We have reached the point in our democracy where little people get scapegoated and big people laugh at the law.

Posted by: Luther on May 28, 2008 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

...will the last lobbyist to leave the McCain campaign please turn out the lights?

But McCain's campaign is like a clown car. The lobbyists just keep pouring out.

Posted by: PS on May 28, 2008 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

This makes McCain sound like Harding.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on May 28, 2008 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

I was never sold on McCain's maverick status. I never believed he was some sort of truth telling reformer that was gonna clean up washington with a lot of straight talk. I never believed those things because I am not stupid. But even so, I have to say there is something alarming about the level of incompetence and crappy politicking that he has demonstrated so far. Honestly, he is about as awful a major candidate for President as I can think of right now.

It would be nice if one of our Democratic candidates could focus more on actually putting his unbelievable buffoonery more front and center, but here we are.

Posted by: brent on May 28, 2008 at 1:12 AM | PERMALINK

At 72, wouldn't you want to be harding than softing?

Posted by: gregor on May 28, 2008 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK

Phil Gramm is largely, almost singlehandedly, responsible for making the economically devastating subprime crisis possible.

He pushed through legislation, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, at the 11th hour before Congress recessed for Christmas in 1999, in the process repealing the regulatory framework, Glass-Steagall Act, which had prevented investment banks from entering areas previously reserved for commercial banks and to do so without any government oversight.

This change allowed the creation of CDOs, SIVs and all manner of credit default swaps in an unregulated environment. The result, of course, was the subprime meltdown.

If Obama can exploit this (along with Gramm and his wife's involvement in the Enron scandal), McCain could be seriously damaged. The trick, as always, will be to get MSM to focus any attention on any of it.

For more, go here:
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0308/9246.html

Posted by: DevilDog on May 28, 2008 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

It is really funny in a sick sort of way that Senator Gramm advises McCain on economic issues. Down here in Texas, especially at Texas A&M where he taught before entering politics that Gramm was an economic idiot. The rumor/story was that the A&M co-faculty was glad to get rid of him. He was making the A&M economic department a laughing stock.

Posted by: Dgustof on May 28, 2008 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

"Man of honor" and "cares about the military" may be things that McCain thinks about himself, but that doesn't make them true.

McCain and his followers believe that his five years as a POW gives him automatic credibility and exemption from questioning on any and every subject under the sun.

He deserves pity for what he endured and respect for his military service, but that's all.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on May 28, 2008 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK
This makes McCain sound like Harding.

Tonya?

Posted by: kenga on May 28, 2008 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Having established for the record you are a hack for Obama, you'll forgive me if I take your McCain attacks with a grain of salt until I've had a chance to read all of the original reporting. Thanks.

Posted by: david on May 28, 2008 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Having established for the record you are a hack for Obama, you'll forgive me if I take your McCain attacks with a grain of salt until I've had a chance to read all of the original reporting. Thanks.

I must say that one of my favorite things about internet discourse is people with absolutely nothing substantive to say chiming in with the random assertion that they are entitled to disagree - as if anybody disputes this or even cares. In another context it might seem annoying but for some reason this particular quirk has grown on me. I find it terribly precious.

Posted by: brent on May 28, 2008 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

It's better to have lobbied and lost than never to have lobbied at all!

Or... I'm just lobbigagged over these revelations,

The lobby plop. Let's all do the lobby plop.

So long, John. Give us the truth, or face the consequences.

~"People deserve to lose their houses for taking out loans they couldn't afford. "

Only one word comes to mind. Sleaze!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on May 28, 2008 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

This is what McCain (Keating 5) means when he says he doesn't understand economics. He would be bamboozled by unscrupulous advisors and deny all knowledge.

Posted by: bakho on May 28, 2008 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

There was a segment on Cspan this week about the fact that Graham was also responsible for the oil speculators, the DARK MARKET, totally unregulated commodity traders that some are alleging engage in fake trades pushing up oil prices. He put through a law in the dead of night, attached to some other bill.

Apparently Congress is hoping to get a Justice Dept investigation. Quite a few in Congress are clued into this oil speculation mess, but we're suffering from the fact that Congress apparently can't do in depth investigation or enforcement on its own.

Posted by: Jan in Stone Mtn on May 28, 2008 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

McCain needed Phil Gramm to advise him that the right thing to do about subprime problems was to spit on people having trouble making their loan payments? He woulda done that anyway.

But he probably needed Gramm to give him a plan that would bail out UBS in particular while appearing to help everyone else on Wall Street.

Posted by: pUL on May 28, 2008 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

McCain and his followers believe that his five years as a POW gives him automatic credibility and exemption from questioning on any and every subject under the sun.

Hell then, in torturing hundreds at Guantanamo over the last five year, the U.S. has created hundreds of moral paragons like McCain, whose judgement is beyond question. I'm sure those ever consistent moralists on the right agree.

Posted by: snicker-snack on May 28, 2008 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

"But it just defies belief that McCain would have, as his main economic advisor and one of the people responsible for his plan to deal with the mortgage crisis..."

Defies belief in what way? Have you not been paying attention for the last seven years? Have you not noticed the top to bottom merging of government and corporate interest, the most complete and destructive such merging since the Harding/Coolidge administrations, when the Wall Street Journal crowed "Never before, here or anywhere else...has a government been so completely fused with business."
[http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/01/AR2006120101509.html]

The eds at the ol' WSJ would've been tickled to see how their natural offspring, our current batch of corporate statists, er, I mean Rethuglicans, have outdone even the nation destroying criminal neglect, venality, and criminality of their pre-crash mentors. So the question remains: in what way is McCain't NOT a functional cog in the modern gutting of this nation? It would "defy belief" if McCain't were NOT joined at the lips with every scumbucket like Gramm. Please try a little harder to step out of the "I'm shocked, shocked I tell you!" mode of centrist feigned ignorance.


Posted by: Conrad's Ghost on May 28, 2008 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

snicker-snack:

Hell then, in torturing hundreds at Guantanamo over the last five year, the U.S. has created hundreds of moral paragons like McCain, whose judgement is beyond question. I'm sure those ever consistent moralists on the right agree.

LOL! Hamdan for president!

Posted by: Yellow Dog on May 28, 2008 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

snicker-snack:

Hell then, in torturing hundreds at Guantanamo over the last five year, the U.S. has created hundreds of moral paragons like McCain, whose judgement is beyond question. I'm sure those ever consistent moralists on the right agree.

LOL! Hamdan for president!

Posted by: Yellow Dog on May 28, 2008 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Bloomberg News is touting the fact that Carly Fiorina is joining McCain's team as someone with an economic backround who might also help attract women voters. The understated part of the blurb was that she would be a good fundraiser. As far as I know, she was booted out of HP for doing a bad job. I've also had the impression that Wall St. hated her - but part of me thought that it was simple misogyny. Who knows what the truth is anymore?

Posted by: mo on May 28, 2008 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Phil Gramm is a lot like John Edwards.

Posted by: Brojo on May 28, 2008 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Say frakking what?

Phil Gramm is a lot like John Edwards.
Posted by: Brojo

Well, I'll stipulate to them both being bipedal hominids.

Also file under 'Pigs Seen Aloft', Thomas Friedman says something which seems to relate to the real, rather than imagined, world:

"This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks."
Posted by: MsNThrope on May 28, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

In 2006 Edwards 'consulted' for a hedge fund that owned two subprime mortgage lenders, earning around $500,000, which is similar to Gramm, "who was a paid lobbyist for a bank that was heavily involved in that [subprime] crisis."

Edwards did not vote for the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, though.


Posted by: Brojo on May 28, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Plus Phil is married to Wendy "Enron Board of Directors Member" Gramm.

It a TwoFer.

Posted by: ItinerantPedant on May 28, 2008 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Just what about it "defies belief"? Sounds like more of the same that we've been dealing with for the past seven years.

Posted by: Houston on May 28, 2008 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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