[Washington Babylon ]Summers and Hedge Funds | Harper's Magazine

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[Washington Babylon]

Summers and Hedge Funds

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After being named as Barack Obama’s top White House economics adviser, Lawrence Summers resigned from his post as a managing director of D.E. Shaw & Co, a leading hedge fund. “Neither the Obama transition team nor D.E. Shaw would say exactly what Summers had done in his two years of work for the $36 billion hedge fund, or how much he has been paid, Politico reports. A 2007 article in Institutional Investor’s Alpha says only that Summers was hired to work “with the senior management team to ?nd new ways to generate pro?t and manage risk.”

D.E. Shaw is a member of the Managed Funds Association, the leading lobbying organization for the hedge fund industry. The MFA was founded last year and since then has spent about $3.5 million lobbying the federal government, according to federal disclosure records. Its priorities include blocking regulation of hedge funds and financial instruments like derivatives. The MFA also opposes higher taxes on hedge funds and their managers. Incidentally, David E. Shaw, the founder of Summers’ recent employer, earned about $210 million last year.

Top lobbyists at the MFA include former Louisiana Congressman Richard Baker, previously of the House Financial Services Committee, and Roger Hollingsworth, who was hired in August. Hollingsworth was hired from the Senate Banking Committee, where he served as deputy staff director and senior policy advisor to Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd,” says his bio. (Hollingsworth is a one-man revolving door. Before going to work for Dodd, he lobbied for the Securities Industry
Association, and before that he worked for Democratic senators Jon Corzine and Charles Schumer.)

The MFA spent a few million more on lobbyists from eight outside firms it retained. The roll call of former officials working for the association include, at one firm alone, Senator Don Nickles; Rachel Jones Hensler, tax policy director for the Budget Committee under Nickles; Hazen Marshall, staff director for the Senate Budget Committee; and Brian Wild, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney. The list goes on and on.

The MFA and people affiliated with it donate lavishly to politicians as well, overwhelmingly to Democrats. Trey Beck, the managing director of D.E. Shaw who helped hire Summers and who is also a board member of the MFA, gave more than $40,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in recent years (not to mention $2,200 to Moveon.org in 2004).

“As citizens, we’re delighted that President-elect Barack Obama has selected Larry Summers to head the National Economic Council,” D.E. Shaw said in a newly released statement.

The MFA is surely delighted as well.

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