As Noah noted below, Representative Jim Clyburn has taken particular issue with certain objectionable forms of free enterprise, and he proudly notes, “I don’t take contributions from payday lender. I refuse to do that.” That’s all well and good (though payday lenders can provide a vital service to those who can’t access other forms of credit), but, of course, Clyburn’s man President Obama has been a recipient, as many have noted, of oodles of private-equity cash. Worse, Clyburn has also benefited from the support of a range of what he might consider objectionable “free-enterprise” groups.
Clyburn doesn’t meet his own standards, because he’s received plenty of campaign contributions from private-equity donors. For instance, in the 2008 election cycle, employees of the Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest PE firms, gave the congressman and his PAC $34,500, making the firm his fourth-largest donor (other substantial donors that year included JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association). Altria Group, one of the world’s largest tobacco companies, is also Clyburn’s ninth-biggest donor over the course of his career, sending him $71,000 since 1998, presumably to remind him that he should support fair regulation of a morally questionable industry. (All info from OpenSecrets.)
Furthermore, the Congressional Black Caucus, of which Clyburn was chairman from 1999 to 2001, is notorious for its less-than-reputable supporters, some of whom have donated to an affiliated charity in the name of Representative Clyburn. One particularly prominent supporter is the rent-to-own industry, essentially the moral equivalent of the payday lenders Clyburn supposedly eschews. In 2010, the New York Times had a devastating report on the CBC’s moral unscrupulousness, explaining:
The caucus has had to fend off criticism of ties to companies whose business is seen by some as detrimental to its black constituents.
These include cigarette companies, Internet poker operators, beer brewers and the rent-to-own industry, which has become a particular focus of consumer advocates for its practice of charging high monthly fees for appliances, televisions and computers.
When one derides activities like private equity as unacceptable forms of free enterprise, it’s hard to keep one’s hands clean of their filthy lucre. Representative Clyburn sure hasn’t.