There are some preliminary reports about Bill Clinton’s purported $50,000-a-month retainer — paid out to Teneo, a firm where he is chairman of the board — from his friend Jon Corzine’s now broke MF Global. It reminds of Newt Gingrich’s getting $30,000 a month for his work as a “historian” for Freddie Mac up until the eve of its crack-up. One comes away with a sort of despair that our most prominent politicians, who have already done quite well in private and public life, still cannot refrain from cashing in on their contacts for even more cash.
The symptoms are depressingly the same: the big retainer fee, the financial insolvency of the clients, the lack of financial expertise on the part of the consultant, the apparent lack of any quantifiable value in the service rendered, the euphemisms employed to disguise the lobbying efforts (Clinton was supposed to improve the “image” of CEO Corzine, rather than be an historian of the company).
One can think up all sorts of new rules and regulations to stop this sort of insider influence peddling (the various ways of making millions are endless, as the Freddie and Fannie vets attest — cf. Emanuel (Freddie), Gorelick (Fannie), Johnson (Fannie), Raines (Fannie), etc. — but there would no doubt be ways of circumventing them. In the end, the only antidote we are left with is shame, and a general public weariness with affluent and pensioned figures maximizing profit in ways made possible by their past public office.
One question remains — that of cause and effect: Are the clients usually broke because they habitually do these stupid and often unethical things, or are they already insolvent, and thus both the client and the lobbyist seek eleventh-hour cash before the dying firms expire?