Friday, February 23, 2007

Dodd Goes Fishing; Catches Bundles

What a difference a day makes. The day after Democrats took over the US Senate, the prospects of U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd improved considerably.

In the six weeks after Connecticut’s US senator and presidential hopeful assumed chairmanship of the powerful banking committee, Dodd “collected more than $1 million in contributions from individuals and political-action committees associated with the banks, securities firms, insurance companies, and housing developers overseen by the panel,” the Journal Inquirer reported.

More than a third of the money was shipped to Dodd in “bundles.”

They included:
* $98,800 from 70 executives and employees at Citigroup.
* $71,400 from 34 at American International Group.
* $57,450 from 34 at Merrill Lynch.
* $50,000 from 27 at Credit Suisse.
* $38,100 from 36 at Morgan Stanley.
* $27,500 from 39 at KPMG.
* $34,650 from 28 at Bear Stearns.
* $24,200 from 14 at J.P. Morgan

According to the report, Dodd, “a leading proponent of deregulation in the securities industry who personally brokered the bill that led to the repeal of a New Deal-era law intended to keep commercial banking separate from investment banking… long has been favored with campaign contributions from financiers.”

And here two important questions assault us: 1) What are the campaign contribution purchasing; and 2) Is Dodd receiving money from donors because they appreciated his efforts on their behalf, or are their contributions an advance payment that will purchase the senator’s continuing attentions?

Dodd, of course, would and has argued that the contributions are simply an expression of appreciation for legislation that benefits the financial sector; the benefits, however, he would and has argued, were in no sense a quid pro quo. In other words, Dodd did not craft legislation benefiting the financial sector because he had received campaign contributions; rather, he received the contributions because -- having consulted his conscience, his wife, his children and his God – he simply “did the right thing.”

So then, the answer to question 1), according to Dodd, is: “The bundles purchase nothing. I am a man of conscience and moral probity.” The answer to question 2) is: See above.

Those who assume, wrongly, that Dodd’s soul can be sold for a puny $1 million have got the chicken before the egg, the cart before the horse. He did not write the legislation benefiting the financial sector because he was given money; he was given money because he “did the right thing,” without reference to contributions. Why should it surprise journalists that finance people would be willing to show their appreciation for Dodd’s moral courage in “doing the right thing” by contributing to his campaign? Are finance people not moral Christians? If you prick them, do they not bleed… etc., etc.…?

To Bloomberg news reporters, Dodd put the matter this way: "They've worked with me. I've worked with them. We've been in agreement in various issues; we've been in disagreement on various issues over the years."

According to the Journal Inquirer report, Dodd boasted to the Washington Post “that he will not hesitate to shake Wall Street's money tree, even though he is chairman of the committee that watches over its committees. But Dodd also said that accepting millions of dollars from industries that his committee oversees would not affect policy decisions, the Post added.”

Dodd’s chief presidential campaign spokesman, Beneva Schulte, is having a heck of a time understanding what all the fuss is about.

"As his past record indicates, parties with interests before the Senate Banking Committee expect Senator Dodd to be a thoughtful and independent chairman who listens to all sides of an issue and enacts public policy that is in the best interest of the American people," Schulte said. “As far as fundraising, he is going to do what he had always done and follow the letter of the law when it comes to members of congress and contributions.”

Some journalists probably have a tough time mastering these nuances because, like the American people, they know that money is primarily a means of exchange used to purchase, among other things, souls.

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