The media's double standard on the revolving door 

I'll be on NPR's "On the Media" this weekend discussing the revolving-door cashout of Meredith Baker. In the interview, which we've already taped I point out what I think is a blind spot for media coverage of the revolving door.

Like many others, I wrote about Baker's cashout to Comcast, which benefitted from her work at the FCC.

But unlike the rest of the media, I also wrote about how politicians and staffers who wrote Obamacare cashed out to the companies that benefit from Obamacare and rely on favorable decisions in the regulatory process. But the Great Health-Care Cashout is of very little interest to the same people who gnash their teeth about Baker.

Amy Friend got almost no media attention. This is what I wrote about her:

In the summer of 2008, Senate banking committee chief counsel Amy Friend helped bail out Bank of America and the rest of the mortgage industry. A couple months later, Friend helped craft the Great Wall Street Bailout. After that, she helped her boss, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., pass a sweeping financial regulation bill.

On Tuesday, Friend started her new job on K Street as managing director at Promontory Financial Group, the self-described "premier global financial services consulting firm," to work with clients on "the regulatory implementation of the Dodd-Frank," according to the firm's press release.

A small part of the double standard is partisan bias: many journalists just prefer beating up Republicans. Most of it, I think, is the fact that journalists tend to believe that those -- like Amy Friend -- who advance greater government control of the economy are hurting big business, so it may be odd, but it's not scandalous, when they cash out. This is wrong in so many ways, and, returning to the FCC, Art Brodsky at the Huffington Post has the perfect example, of former FCC commissioner Kenneth Cox:

He voted on several landmark items that opened up the Bell System-era AT&T to competition and then joined MCI, the company that benefited from those rulings while doing as much as any institution to break up the phone company monopoly. (Cox later went to the law firm that represented MCI.)

In one sense, Cox and Baker deserve the same level of scrutiny: they both got hired up by companies that benefitted from their actions as regulators.

But in another sense, Cox's actions were different in kind from Baker's. In Baker's, there was one company (GE) who wanted to sell an asset (NBC) to another company (Comcast). Baker thought the government should play only a very limited role in policing this.

Cox, on the other hand, used the force of government to affirmatively another company.
I know telecoms back then were not free-market enterprises, but the general lesson applies: Those public servants who increase government's role in the economy deserve as much -- or more -- scrutiny when they cash out.

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Timothy P. Carney

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