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November 13, 2012

Campaign to Fix the Debt Backscratches Politico for Publicity

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Politico doesn't mention that companies funding Campaign to Fix the Debt stand to gain hundreds of billions of dollars

This Campaign to Fix the Debt organization bankrolled by a bunch of corporate interests has become the newest entry into the Washington favor factory, and it certainly knows how to spread the money around. This anecdoteabout the organization and Mike Allen’s rumor-laundering morning dish “Playbook” is very illustrative.

Politico chief White House correspondent Mike Allen wrote an article Thursday on The Campaign to Fix the Debt, a new initiative launched that day by Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.). Allen concluded his news story with a quote instructing readers that they could “learn more at” and promoted the piece in his must-read morning Playbook under the heading, “COMING ATTRACTIONS.”

By Monday, The Campaign to Fix the Debt was sponsoring Playbook, with the email version of the morning newsletter describing Playbook as being “presented” by the new initiative.

For the record, I don’t think that Playbook is a must-read, I’ve never read it, and I’ve retained all the brain cells that would have been expended from reading it. And this quid pro quo points to the reasons why. So Mike Allen writes a beat sweetener on this corporate-funded campaign, and days later they just so happen to fund his newsletter. It’s also fun that Huffington Post looked at the anonymous quote provided to Allen’s “news” story and found it identical to the actual ad copy in Playbook.

Here’s something you won’t read in Politico, incidentally, at least not while the Campaign to Fix the Debt Debt butters their bread: the companies funding the campaign stand to gain hundreds of billions of dollars if their policy goals get met.

The 63 Fix the Debt companies that are publicly held stand to gain as much as $134 billion in windfalls if Congress approves one of their main proposals — a “territorial tax system.” Under this system, companies would not have to pay U.S. federal income taxes on foreign earnings when they bring the profits back to the United States.

The CEOs backing Fix the Debt personally received a combined total of $41 million in savings last year thanks to the Bush-era tax cuts. The top CEO beneficiary of the Bush tax cuts in 2011, Leon Black of Apollo Global Management, saved $9.9 million on the Bush tax cuts. The private equity fund leader reaped $215 million in taxable income last year just from vested stock.

Of the 63 Fix the Debt CEOs at publicly held firms, 24 received more in compensation last year than their corporations paid in federal corporate income taxes. All but six of these firms reported U.S. profits last year.

Corporate tax breaks are prominent in the Campaign to Fix the Debt, and all of them would benefit its member companies in a giant way. That’s fine, that’s what lobbyists do. But of course, the Campaign to Fix the Debt is sold in places like Politico as an urgent priority to unburden the legacy of debt from our children and grandchildren. This is only true if you’re the child or grandchild of one of the corporate CEOs bankrolling the campaign.

Washington in this era reminds me of The Sweet Smell of Success.

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