Politics & Policy

Cox in The Crosshairs

All free-marketers must rally behind this SEC nominee.

Chris Cox is a good and honest man. Let’s be just as honest as we describe the fight ahead for him. To put it as bluntly as possible, the liberal media are out to put the kibosh on Cox and his free-enterprise economic philosophy. It’s up to us to rally around him.

Already, the slings and arrows of outrageous leftism are being hurled at the nine-term California congressman, whom President George W. Bush named Thursday as his choice to become the next chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The New York Times was the first to strike, and with its typical swiftness. The morning after Bush’s announcement, the Times’s headline read, “Bush S.E.C. Pick Is Seen as Friend to Corporations.” In the third paragraph, the mean, formerly “Great Gray Lady” of American newsprint described Cox as “a devoted student of Ayn Rand, the high priestess of unfettered capitalism.” The implication here is that Cox — who earned two graduate degrees from Harvard before joining the legal staff in Ronald Reagan’s White House — is some sort of cultish loony.

In fact, he is nothing of the sort. As he said on the day Bush appointed him, “The rule of law that the S.E.C. enforces has given America the most dynamic and vibrant capital markets in the world.” That’s the real Cox, a man who balances the law and business practicality — not the devil-deregulator depicted by the Times.

How could Cox rise through the ranks of the House to become the first chairman of the Homeland Security Committee if he is the man the Times says he is? If he were some sort of fringe figure, how could he be known — as he is — as the master of bipartisan legislative coalition-building in Congress? Cox’s Securities Litigation Reform Act was the only piece of legislation to be enacted over a presidential veto during the entire eight years of the Clinton presidency, meaning Cox was able to round up plenty of Democratic votes not once but twice. That’s hardly the handiwork of some sort of cult-follower.

But his success also created for him some very powerful enemies. That piece of legislation, which aimed to reduce the enormous “tort tax” paid by American business, incurred the unforgiving wrath of Trial Lawyer, Inc., the $100 billion-a-year parasitic enterprise that funds and guides much of the Democratic party. It should come as little surprise therefore that the unofficial chairman of the board of the trial lawyer industry, William Lerach, is Cox’s sworn enemy. And equally unsurprisingly, the same Times story that held up Cox as some sort of free-market kook gave Lerach free rein to vent his anti-Cox venom. “I would expect that Cox will use his authority for an across-the-board assault on investor protection,” said Lerach, which is how trial-lawyers talk about getting rich by shaking down business.

But the Times, which long ago embraced the Lerach-ian lawyers’-eye view of the world, in which court-ordered Naderism is the key to a great society, is not going to let up. An editorial warned Cox against “backsliding to the bad old days of regulatory laissez-faire,” while a column on Cox was menacingly and misleadingly headlined, “What’s Good For Business, If No One Else.”

The Washington Post echoed the Times in a story headlined “Cox Would Make SEC Corporate America’s Sponsor.” Again, Cox appears with the scarlet letter stamped on his forehead, derided as “more ideologue than pragmatist and an unabashed partisan to boot.”

Others, further to the left, are also blasting away. “Meet Chris Cox, the man who helped produce the Enron scandal,” Alternet.org said by way of introduction. Fortunately for them, there’s no punishment for pernicious overstatement. But they were not alone. The liberal-activist Center for American Progress ran its own piece about “Chris Cox’s Extreme Agenda.”

Other anti-growth, anti-free-enterprise Democrats (and worse) will soon join in. Their goal is to block this pro-free-enterprise/anti-predatory tort lawyer from being confirmed by the Senate for the SEC post — so the stakes are high.

If Cox wins confirmation, business can look forward to a serious re-examination of onerous job- and profit-killing rules and regulations, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which treats all businesses as if they were criminal enterprises, forcing them to spend unnecessary billions on lawyer-enriching compliance.

Will the Liberal-Trial Lawyer-Politico Complex succeed in blocking Cox? The folks who have rallied around other pro-market stalwarts, such as George W. Bush and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, have guaranteed the political survival if not the success of the free-market agenda. And, happily, in the case of Cox, important pro-market voices including National Review, Investor’s Business Daily, and the Wall Street Journal have editorialized their consent to the nomination. More voices need to be heard — and right away.

So let’s be clear: A uniquely able proponent of free-markets is now in the crosshairs of the anti-capitalists. For the sake of future jobs, growth, and freedom, he must be confirmed to the SEC.

Mallory Factor is the chairman of the Free Enterprise Fund.

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