Opinion

Money Isn’t The Problem In Politics

Politicians needs a boogeyman, someone to blame for their failures. They generally focus on people who donate money to politicians and political causes. Last cycle, the Koch brothers were favorite target of Democrats, but that didn’t work. So for this election cycle “hedge fund managers” are the target. But “money in politics” is just a symptom, not the problem.

Most Americans couldn’t tell you what a hedge fund manager does, which makes demonizing them that much easier. And since simply saying their job title evokes images of Wall Street fat cats dressed like the Monopoly Man lighting Cuban cigars with $100 bills, well, you can see why they make the perfect foil for nearly all Democrats and some Republicans.

But, as it turns out, not all hedge fund managers are created equally evil, at least in political circles.

For example, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has been attacking hedge fund managers for quite some time. Earlier this year she told a crowd in Iowa, “There’s something wrong when hedge fund managers pay lower tax rates than nurses or the truckers that I saw on I-80 as I was driving here.”

There is at least one hedge fund manager she doesn’t seem to mind — a guy named Marc Mezvinsky.

What makes Marc Mezvinsky so special? He married Hillary’s daughter Chelsea and fathered her granddaughter Charlotte. One would also have to assume Mezvinsky’s high pay helped him and Clinton’s daughter purchase their $10.5 million apartment in Manhattan.

So, you see, some hedge fund managers are more equal than others.

But it’s not just Hillary going after hedge fund managers. You’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of Democrats not trying to turn their fellow Americans against people in this profession.

Then there’s billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman. Never heard of him? It’s not surprising. He’s donated hundreds of thousands of dollars, mostly (though not exclusively) to Democrats.

He “shorting” the stock of Herbalife, the nutritional supplement company. “Shorting” a stock is betting the price will drop, and Ackman has bet at least a billion dollars of his fortune the stock price will drop. But when you’re as connected and spread around the kind of cash Ackman has, the word “bet” might not be the right choice.

Fortune reports Ackman “has hired lobbyists to alert community groups to the alleged dangers of Herbalife and has given those groups money to find victims and connect them to regulators. His agents have set up websites, taken out ads, posted notices, and set up 1-800 numbers. They have tracked down former Herbalife employees and distributors, looking for whistle-blowers. They’ve solicited nonprofits, concerned citizens, and politicians—including three congressmen and a U.S. senator—to write the FTC and at least seven state attorneys general, sometimes without the letter writers even realizing that a hedge fund manager was the master puppeteer orchestrating the campaign.”

That’s kind of like “stacking the deck,” to borrow a phrase from Hillary Clinton.

I don’t know anything about Herbalife, but I do know Ackman stands to make a lot of money if he manages to damage the company he calls a pyramid scheme enough. And he’s using the government to do it. In fact, thanks to his lobbying, the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission have launched investigations into Herbalife.

Unfortunately for Ackman, his brazenness has attracted unwanted attention too. Federal prosecutors are now asking questions about people close to his Herbalife actions were, shall we say, less than truthful. As immune from laws as some portray hedge fund managers, stock manipulation is still a serious charge.

This situation would have never come about without so money in politics, many will say. But the real lesson is this would have never come about without so much politics in money. If the government didn’t have control over so much of our economy and our lives, there would be nothing to lobby for.

The problem isn’t money in politics; it’s corrupt politicians in politics who take the money and do the bidding of the givers. Money is just money; it doesn’t become a political payoff until someone acts because they got it.

It’s amusing listening to politicians, mostly Democrats, decry money in politics when they advocate for the very type of government that makes pouring money into politics necessary. Hedge fund managers aren’t spending more on politicians than other professions. They’re simply the target du jour to keep the public distracted from the truth. You want money out of politics? Get politics out of money.