Willie Sutton was one of the most prolific, and famous, bank robbers in history. When asked why he robbed banks, Sutton is credited with the famous response, “Because that’s where the money is.” It makes perfect sense: if you’re after something, you go to where you have the best chance of getting it. The same applies to government — if you want to beat an industry, you don’t rail against them in the opinion pages of the New York Times, you don’t sue them continuously in the courts, you join the government in a capacity that gives you control over them and regulate them until they become what you need them to be in order to advance your agenda. It’s the 21st-century version of “heads I win, tails you lose,” and it’s happening right now in the Obama administration.
Changing public opinion is a long and oftentimes fruitless pursuit; passing legislation is an even more futile endeavor. If you want to ensure the outcome most beneficial to you or your cause, the most efficient way to do so is to join the ever-growing government and simply impose through regulation what you can’t win in court, the legislature or the court of public opinion.
Van Jones, the former “Green Jobs” Czar, was one such case. He’s been involved with organizations pushing for government money to be “invested” in alternative energy. Those organizations also stood to profit from that government “investment.” He was forced to resign once it was discovered that he had signed a letter accusing the Bush administration of complicity in the 9/11 attacks, but he was close.
Elizabeth Warren is another example. She became the darling of progressives for her relentless attacks on banks and credit card companies, culminating with perhaps the greatest honor a leftist can achieve: an appearance in a Michael Moore movie. While her softball interview on the evils of capitalism with the millionaire from Flint didn’t bring about the behavioral change Warren wanted, it did increase her celebrity. It increased so much that she was appointed special advisor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and charged with establishing the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with powerful control over the very industries she’d made her name attacking. What she couldn’t achieve through the front door she will now be able to impose through the back. And all without the congressional approval that being officially appointed as the director of CFPB would’ve required. It’s a pretty neat trick.
But it’s not the neatest.
The title of the most brazenly self-serving regulatory power grab goes to someone who has gotten such little fanfare, someone who has been chosen to head such an obscure agency, that there’s 99 percent certainty that you’ve never heard of him. The “winner” is the administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration in the Agriculture Department, and his name is J. Dudley Butler. How could someone you’ve never heard of heading an agency you didn’t know existed be the most egregious example of this type of abuse? It’s simple, really.
In his days as a private citizen, Butler was a trial lawyer in Mississippi who spent a good chunk of his time suing poultry processors, with some, but limited, success. Now he’s in charge of writing the rules under which he will operate when he returns to the private sector. That alone doesn’t pass the smell test. According to Beef Magazine (yes, there is such a thing), Butler, while serving as GIPSA administrator, said the following about the new regulations he was drafting:
“When you have a term like ‘unfair, unreasonable or undue prejudice,’ that’s a plaintiff lawyer’s dream. We can get in front of a jury with that. We won’t get thrown out on what we call summary judgment because that’s a jury question.”
What does it sound like he’s most interested in serving, the public good or his profession and himself when he returns to it?
This isn’t the fox guarding the hen house; this is signing the deed of the hen house over to the fox. The conflict of interest alone should’ve been enough to keep Butler from getting the job, but that’s not how this game works. Someone as high profile as Elizabeth Warren can’t fly under the public’s radar, which is why a backdoor way was found to empower her, but Butler’s office is so obscure that he could just walk in the front and set up shop.
Whether or not J. Dudley Butler is implementing rules that will help him and his friends in their legal cases is something for time to judge. But the fact that he is in a position to do so, to aid his cause and line his pockets when he returns to the private sector, is enough to call for his resignation. The incoming Republican Congress should also look into this case and root out any others. Trust in government is a delicate balance of faith in and the integrity of those honored to serve. When there is such a clear conflict of interest and opportunity for future personal gain, that balance is irreparably out of whack. That is why J. Dudley Butler, and any other bureaucrat in a position to enrich himself, has to go.
Derek Hunter is a Washington based writer and consultant. He can be stalked on Twitter @derekahunter