Should Government-Owned Companies Have Lobbyists?

If there's anything that seems objectively obvious, it's that firms that the U.S. government owns should not be able to hire lobbyists to persuade Washington policymakers to shape laws to benefit themselves. That's exactly the suggestion that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) will make tomorrow as an amendment in the financial regulation bill's conference committee. But will it pass?

Here's House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Issa's logic, according to his spokesman Kurt Bardella:

Any company that has borrowed taxpayer dollars should not be allowed to hire a lobbyist until the taxpayers have been repaid in full. Talk about a revolving door situation - there is no justification for allowing a company subsidized by taxpayer dollars to hire a lobbyist so they can try to influence the very government that owns the company.

This would affect firms including GM and AIG. Currently, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have to abide by similar rules. Think about the lunacy in these firms hiring lobbyists. That would be like if GEICO hired consultants to try to persuade Berkshire Hathaway shareholders to vote for a rule that would benefit it more than the holding company's other subsidiaries.

Issa's proposal is about as common-sense as you can get. It will be interesting to see if Democrats are willing to crack down on lobbyists or choose to make this a partisan issue. We should know tomorrow, as that's when the amendment is slated to come up for vote.

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.

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