HOW OPEN SHOULD BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS BE?
—Sunlight: “This entire negotiation process has been farcically secretive, with OMB gag orders, and disclosure by press conference and planned and unplanned leaks. Both sides went from accusing each other of dishonest manipulation at one moment, to standing proudly together to proudly validate each other’s work. And we still don’t know what they’ve agreed to. We discussed this yesterday on the blog too, but last night’s burst of productivity did nothing to calm my skepticism about the way this has been handled. House and Senate members basically turned matters entirely over to party leaders, who negotiated in secret with the President, and have yet to disclose what they’ve agreed to. If no one demands better, this is what we’re going to continue to get. On the 2012 budget, and on the debt ceiling.”
—NYRB: “But the Dodd-Frank Act has largely pushed responsibility for writing and implementing the new rules onto existing regulators, including the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. This will likely prove a damaging flaw. These regulators are by and large the same agencies that tolerated the excessively risky behavior in the first place. Even if they write effective rules they will face pressure from Wall Street lobbyists and mostly Republican legislators to soften restrictions and eliminate some of the critical ones. If the restrictions remain intact, which is likely in view of the Democratic majority in the Senate, the question remains whether the regulators will enforce them vigorously once the economy recovers and the crisis fades in memory. Several agencies have already missed the deadlines to write new rules. Some are worried that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be neutralized by Congress. Wall Street spent $2.7 billion on lobbying between 1999 and 2008 and is lobbying vigorously again.”
LOBBYING HEATS UP FOR TRADE PACTS
—The Hill: “Lobbyists for Caterpillar, Citi and GE, as well as trade groups like the American Farm Bureau Federation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will be among those throwing their weight behind efforts to pass the three deals this year. … The lobbying blitz comes after Obama this week defied his supporters in the labor movement and moved forward on the Colombia deal. Obama announced an action plan with the Colombian president Thursday to improve the country’s labor protections, but that was not enough to win union support.”
CAMPAIGN LAWYERS SAY FEC NOT BROKEN
—Roll Call: “There’s no question that there is an ideological divide at the commission, but it does not mean that the agency doesn’t function,” said Marc Elias, a lawyer for Perkins Coie who often works on behalf of Democratic clients before the FEC. … Elias, who represents the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and some Democratic Senators and Representatives, pointed to rules and advisory opinions that the FEC has issued as indicators that the FEC is continuing to make progress. “Declaring that the agency doesn’t function is not correct and is not useful to the regulated community,” he said. … There is a good reason some of the staunchest defenders of the Republican commissioners are Democrats. Since they were seated in September 2008, these three GOP commissioners have frequently halted fines and greater regulations for Democratic campaigns — often over the protests of some Democratic commissioners.”