The question of how an amendment crept into the bailout bill exempting the very AIG bonuses that are now being criticized by the administration is currently unanswered. The administration calls it the "Dodd Amendment", but Dodd says he has nothing to do with it. Fox reports:
While the Senate was constructing the $787 billion stimulus last month, Dodd added an executive-compensation restriction to the bill. The provision, now called “the Dodd Amendment” by the Obama Administration, provides an “exception for contractually obligated bonuses agreed on before Feb. 11, 2009” -- which exempts the very AIG bonuses Dodd and others are now seeking to tax.
“Senator Dodd’s original executive compensation amendment adopted by the Senate did not include an exemption for existing contracts that provided for these types of bonuses,” wrote Dodd Spokesperson Kate Szostak in a response to FOX Business. “Because of negotiations with the Treasury Department and the bill Conferees, several modifications were made,” she said, without suggesting who made the change.
Not the Dodd Amendment but the anonymous amendment. The National Review says that in any case, Barack Obama should have read the bill exempting the AIG bonuses before he signed it.
But why is Obama so outraged and surprised? Today we learn that he signed the very bill that quite clearly made those bonuses legal — the $787 billion stimulus package he had traveled around the nation promoting. The bill includes restrictions on executive compensation, but creates an exception for bonuses contractually obligated before February 11 of this year. The provision, and the exception, were inserted into the bill by the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Chris Dodd (D, Conn.), who has received more than $100,000 from AIG employees in the last 20 years, had written and inserted the relevant provision, with the relevant loophole. How can he, the president, or anyone else who voted for the stimulus, suddenly act surprised? Don't tell us they didn't read the bill.
But Joe Wiesenthal at the Business Insider is unimpressed with the complaints against Dodd. Is that all we can lay at the doorstep of the Senator, he says? He argues we that we should already expect a low level of competence from politicians and not a much higher standard of personal integrity. So unless somebody actually saw Dodd write the "Dodd Amendment" there's no foul. In this game you've got to be caught red handed.
We don't think it's that big of a deal. Like, sure Sen. Dodd is bought and paid for by particular interests -- in Connecticut that's largely finance -- but that's the case with pretty much all of the rascals. There's no evidence that Dodd specifically inserted this provision to help AIG, though that'd be a big story if it emerges. We'll keep an eye on this, but don't expect it to amount to a whole lot.
Maybe Wiesenthal has a point about low standards. Political behavior in a crisis sometimes resembles those scenes where a number of suspects, arranged in a loose circle, are being questioned about something that has gone wrong. Unless they've previously colluded to tell a single story, fingers can flash out in all directions in an almost comical manner. "He did it, but not me". That's why it's always good to be prepared. The Dodd Amendment may not have been written by the Senator. But whoever in the administration coined the phrase which stuck it on him has been around the block.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
If AIG won't lie down, there's always Dodd.