AIG says it won’t spend bailout funds on lobbying, as other financial services welfare recipients acknowledge that lobbying expenses will need to be scaled back. That and Sen. Stevens does himself a disservice on the stand.
The Wall Street Journal and the Politico report that AIG, in the face of withering criticism, will suspend all lobbying activities while it is majority owned by the federal government. AIG initially refused to halt lobbying even after it had received a $120 billion bailout from the government. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Mel Martinez sent a letter to AIG demanding that they not spend taxpayer dollars on lobbying activities. Sen. Feinstein also told the Politico that she will introduce legislation that would ban all bailout recipients from using taxpayer money on lobbying expenses. Feinstein’s efforts signal of new lobbying backlash in Congress. Perhaps, instead of this targeted, temporary response Congress insisted that all lobbyists file full disclosures that list the official lobbied, the issue or bill lobbied on, and all other activities related to lobbying within 24 hours of any contact. If we are trying to get to the root of the problem in the economic crisis, we need to get to the root of the governmental crisis that prevented action from being taken earlier.
Up until yesterday, the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens had been wholly unremarkable, except for the apparently pathetic effort by the prosecution. Yesterday, however, Sen. Stevens did himself no favors by redefining words in the dictionary that are key to his trial – words like “gift.” On the stand, Stevens insisted that a $2,695 chair given to him by Alaska restauranteur Bob Persons and that he has kept at his Virginia residence for seven years was not a gift. Stevens told the jury, “He bought that chair as a gift, but I refused it as a gift. He put it there and said it was my chair. I told him I would not accept it as a gift.” The prosecutor asked Stevens where the chair is now, to which the senator replied, “In our house. We have lots of things in our house that don’t belong to us, ma’am.” This trial was probably headed towards acquital before Stevens took the stand and said this. A gift isn’t a gift if you say it isn’t a gift; and we sure do have a lot of those at our home. That is not what the defense was hoping for. Also troubling for Sen. Stevens is the apparent admission that he misused Senate staff by having them handle his and his wife’s finances.