Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hypocrisy or Buffoonery?

If the antics of our congressional poobahs were made into a television series it would quickly become a comedy classic. Take the reaction to the $450 million of executive bonuses paid by AIG after they had taken $173 billion of taxpayer money. Barney Frank, Chris Dodd and the gang are in high dudgeon, and Senator Dodd is threatening to levy a tax on the bonuses that would essentially confiscate them.

Set aside the dubious constitutional issues raised by threats by the state to legislatively target specific, individual, private citizens. Set aside the faux surprise of the President and congressional Democrats, many of whom knew these bonuses were coming for months if not longer. The part of this that earns our august leaders the Oscar for best comedy of the week is that it turns out that it's Chris Dodd himself who greased the skids for the bonuses in the first place.

Jim Meyer at Newsmax reports:

Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd on Monday criticized the bonuses given to executives of American International Group Inc. and suggested that the government could tax the recipients to recoup some or all of the payouts.

But it was Dodd who inserted language - known as the Dodd amendment - in the $787 billion stimulus bill that allowed all bonuses awarded before February 11, 2009, to be paid to AIG executives. That very amendment, which is now law, is now the chief hurdle to government officials who want to recover that money.

The amendment was meant to restrict executive pay for bailed-out banks, but it also included the exception for "contractually obligated bonuses agreed on or before Feb. 11, 2009."

Senator Dodd is, of course, denying that he ever did such a thing:

Dodd is telling reporters that his original language was changed in committee and he is not to blame. "When the language went to the conference and came back, there was different language," he told Fox News. "I can tell you this much, when my language left the Senate, it did not include it (the exception). When it came back, it did."

But his demurrals aren't persuasive. The bill went through so fast nobody had time to change much of anything in it:

Early Thursday evening, though, Democrats were at a loss to explain how and why the Dodd amendment was altered. Much of the stimulus bill was rushed through Congress with little opportunity to read or study exactly what was in it, despite frequent GOP requests to do exactly that.

No matter. When it comes to protecting our hard earned tax dollars few rush to the ramparts with more alacrity than Senator Dodd:

Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, thundered on Monday: "This is another outrageous example of executives - including those whose decisions were responsible for the problems that caused AIG's collapse - enriching themselves at the expense of taxpayers."

Incredibly, Dodd has now demanded a full briefing from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury on why "clauses weren't attached to the four AIG bailouts to halt bonuses," according to the New York Daily News. "Why wasn't the Fed putting conditionality [on the bailouts the] four different times they provided resources to AIG?" Dodd asked.

Well, it's because the Senator's amendment made it completely legal for AIG to do exactly what it did. Perhaps we can understand the Senator's motive for permitting those bonuses if we recall that:

Dodd is the largest single recipient of 2008 campaign donations from AIG, with $103,100, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That was more than presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain got, and nearly three times the $35,965 Sen. Hillary Clinton received.

Does this sound familiar? Senator Dodd takes the money with one hand and inserts the amendment with the other. Now the bonuses are actually awarded and Senator Dodd acts as if he's shocked and scandalized that AIG did exactly what he empowered them to do.

This certainly smells like politics as usual here in this golden age of Hope and Change.