How do you think the Swamp feeds itself?

Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, was signed up to a $600,000 consulting contract with AT&T. Well, yes, how do you think The Swamp feeds itself?

Yes, I know, Trump was – and is of course – going to drain said Swamp. But what is going on here is entirely normal business. Nope, it ain’t that anyone’s passing money through to The Donald. Nor even that anyone is specifically doing anything, informing anyone, asking for favours nor skewing legislation nor oversight. This is just how the system works and it has done for many decades.

Why, yes, I have had minor experience of it, since you ask. Rather more experience in places very much worse too.

The governing machine – I hesitate to say government, because it’s nowhere near controlled enough to be called that – charges a tax to America. It does so by insisting that all major decisions must be passed through said machine. No actual fees are charged for work by the machine nor to get things through it. But it’s amazing how much doesn’t get done if a reasonable skim of the economy isn’t passed through the hands of those in the know.

Who is in the know changes a bit from administration to administration. That’s why so many are willing to aid in the early stages of a campaign. A little bit of help here and with a lot of luck then one might be in a position to be collecting a portion of that skim after the election.

AT&T paid Cohen $600,000 for strategic advice on its $85 billion merger with Time Warner, which Trump has opposed since it was first announced, as well as policy issues like net neutrality and tax reform. Documents obtained by POLITICO show Cohen had a year-long contract starting just days after Trump’s inauguration.

There’s a new kid in town, a new tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania. That brings with it a penumbra of all the people who have had any sort of contact with him or her over the years and decades. The job of someone in each and every large company or trade association is to work out which of these noobs is worth cultivating. Who should get some little retainer to make sure that there’s a voice within the inner circle?

No, no, nothing so uncouth as actual corruption. These are not payments for passing a law, or not passing one. They’re retainers.

In other words: AT&T gave over half-a-million dollars to Cohen’s company — which had, on occasion, made payments to porn stars on the president’s behalf — because the telecom company believed that doing so would increase the odds of the president approving their $85 billion merger, and signing a corporate tax cut bill that was maximally deferential to its interests. On Friday, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson called his company’s decision to hire Cohen a “big mistake” — that was, nonetheless, “done according to the law and entirely legitimate” — and then announced that one of the executives who worked on the deal with Cohen, Bob Quinn, would be retiring.

No, that’s not how it works. You want to pay to get a bill passed? Then you pay registered lobbyists who go to Capitol Hill and try to grind it through the sausage maker. Another part of the skim collected by The Swamp of course – why do you think so many administration officials, elected politicians, retire into lobbying?

AT&T Inc.’s top Washington executive and policy chief is being forced out of the company after his office paid $600,000 to Trump attorney Michael Cohen last year

One of the grand sins is to get found out of course, found out being a little too blatant in the playing of the game.

So, to really explain here. Government is complicated, complex. In order that it looks kindly upon you – in order that the bureaucracy does that is, the regulatory machine – it is necessary to have some friends in and or around it. The best friends here are the ones bought. Prices are pretty low, the cost of an upper level but non-C suite executive sort of amount. Without having these friends, or at worst not-enemies, you’ll never get anything done that requires government permissions. And your own enemies might well, if you don’t have those sorts of friends, be able to get something done against you.

So, every administration is surrounded by a penumbra of people who get paid these sorts of sums just for, well, just for being in that penumbra really. And that is how the system works and that is the tax that The Swamp is charging to America. Every major regulatory agency has a minor such shadow, Congress does, this is just the way the system currently works.

The solution to getting rid of it is to have fewer people administering fewer methods of interference in the activities of a free nation. Until that’s done all that will change is whose team is collecting the checks.

Why do you think lobbying firms exist at all?

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2 COMMENTS

  1. And to tie up a loose end, Congressional “earmarking” — the practice of adding, during the writing of general rules, specific grants of loot to designated vendors — is nothing other than the Legislative Branch trying to get a share of the vigorish. Reformers occasionally promise to end the practice, until they see that it is too much like leaving money on the table.

    Quinn did nothing that AT&T disapproves of. But AT&T realizes that the Robert Mueller Department of New Problem Creation, in sifting through Trump’s and now Cohen’s entire life, is going to find out about this influence-buying, and AT&T needs good PR that avoids the Last-Minute Rush. Quinn will get hefty compensation for being the sacrificial animal.