Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The point of this New York Times article is that Wall Street firms aren't fighting to get private accounts into the Social Security system -- no, really, they aren't. They think it's bad PR to lobby for privatization and they don't think they'll make much money from it anyway, so they're just not even bothering to fight.

Really. Not one bit.

Oh, except for this:

... while its members are reluctant to speak out publicly on the topic, the [Investment Company Institute] recently hired as its communications director F. Gregory Ahern, a former executive at State Street Corporation in Boston who was involved in that firm's aggressive lobbying effort for private accounts during the late 1990's.

Behind the scenes, the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, a business coalition advocating private accounts, has begun meeting with Congressional and White House staff members, pushing the idea that private accounts are not only good for the country but also good for business.

In November, Derrick A. Max, the alliance's executive director, met with Charles P. Blahous, a special assistant to the president who has been at the forefront in the White House on Social Security. They have a strong connection, because Mr. Blahous preceded Mr. Max at the alliance.

At the meeting were representatives from the Securities Industry Association, Charles Schwab & Company, and the United States Chamber of Commerce, all members of the alliance.

The Club for Growth, a group financed largely by conservative business leaders that supports like-minded Congressional candidates, has also been active in the drive for privately held Social Security accounts. Members include Richard Gilder of Gilder Gagnon Howe & Company, a private investment firm, and Charles H. Brunie, the founder of Oppenheimer Capital.

The club, which is run by Stephen Moore, who once served as economic adviser to the former House Republican Leader Dick Armey, recently sent out a memorandum to its backers proposing a $15 million public relations and grassroots campaign in favor of private accounts.

This increase in activity is occurring against the backdrop of a long-running campaign by the Cato Institute, a Washington policy research and lobbying organization with libertarian leanings that has received financial support from, among others, American Express and the American International Group, the large insurance company. State Street also provided funds in the past to support the institute's efforts to persuade Congress of the merits of personal accounts.

But apart from that, nothing!

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