How the Top 1 Percent Capture Our Regulators... and the American Dream

[Commentary] In describing the intense lobbying efforts by Comcast last year to close its merger with NBC Universal, legal scholar Susan Crawford put it this way to the New York Times: "It's about as subtle as a wet fish in the face." That makes last week's announcement by Federal Communications Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker the proverbial Mack truck.

Baker is resigning to take a top lobbying position at ...NBC Universal in Washington, just months after she voted to approve the deal. As the Times noted last week, "Only one F.C.C. commissioner, Michael J. Copps, who voted against the Comcast-NBC merger, expressed surprise at her departure." And herein lies the scandal. No one is surprised. James Fallows in the Atlantic attacked this issue late last year, after Budget Director Peter Orzsag, who helped shape the stimulus plan, announced he would be taking an executive job with Citigroup, a beneficiary of taxpayer bailout dollars. There's been no allegation of personal corruption against Orzsag or Baker, who came out swinging in a statement Friday. She insisted she went above and beyond in following all the ethics rules while getting the NBC Universal job and will adhere to formal lobbying restrictions after taking the job. But Janine argues that there is a dizzying array of informal, unregistered lobbying that flies under any existing disclosure rules.


How the Top 1 Percent Capture Our Regulators... and the American Dream