Thursday, January 28, 2010

The latest conservative cause: French banks

As Josh Marshall points out, Barack Obama clearly hit a conservative nerve with his claim in last night's State of the Union speech that as a result of a recent Supreme Court decision, foreign corporations can spend unlimited amounts on US candidate elections. A furious amount of spinning has taken place on The Corner today (Bradley Smith, Shannen Coffin), with apparent citing of chapter & verse (how many lawyers work at that place?) arguing that it's just not true.

But when you wade through the arguments and citations, the counterarguments turn out to rest on a fiction that a furrin corporation with a US subsidiary would never ever allow its furrin management to have political conversations with the US managers of its subsidiary and would never transfer money to the US subsidiary with the expressed purpose of it being a political donation. No doubt as we speak there are hundreds of envelopes stuffed full of euros and marked "bring on next US trip for November election" being discarded.

So let's be concrete and posit the following scenario. Suppose that Tim Geithner resigns as US Treasury Secretary and decides to run for Senator from New York in November. Suppose that French bank Société Générale, eternally grateful for the massive backdoor bailout via AIG that came from the New York Fed when Geithner headed it, decides to spend millions of dollars on getting Geithner elected. Note: SocGen has US subsidiaries so all the support will be easily originated from US corporations managed by US residents.

Would this be allowed in the wake of the Supreme Court decision?

Yes it would.

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