Lobbyists Swarm the Treasury for Piece of Bailout Pie
By MARK LANDLER and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
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The Treasury Department is under siege by an army of hired guns for banks, savings and loan associations and insurers — as well as for improbable candidates like a Hispanic business group representing plumbing and home-heating specialists. That last group wants the Treasury to hire its members as contractors to take care of houses that the government may end up owning through buying distressed mortgages.
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Then there is the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which is asking whether boat financing companies might be eligible for aid to ensure that dealers have access to credit to stock their showrooms with boats — costs have gone up as the credit markets have calcified. Using much the same rationale, the National Automobile Dealers Association is pleading that car dealers get consideration, too.
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Under the terms of the $250 billion capital purchase program announced last month, cash infusions are available to “qualifying U.S. banks, savings associations, and certain bank and savings and loan holding companies, engaged only in financial activities.”
That definition has grown to include private banks and insurers like Allstate and MetLife, which own savings and loans. It may also encompass industrial lenders like GE Capital and GMAC, the financing arm of General Motors, provided they win approval to reclassify themselves as a bank or savings and loan holding company.
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Some lobbyists, Mr. Mason said, had called him even though they did not have any clients looking to get into the program or worried about its restrictions. They were merely seeking intelligence on which industries would be deemed eligible for assistance. He suspects they were representing hedge funds that wanted to trade on that information.
I think calling this the opening of a major can of worms is an understatement.
[Edited 2008-11-12 08:49:00]