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Monday, November 02, 2015

The Billionaires' It Boy

by digby

I wrote about the billionaires' new "it boy" for Salon this morning.  I recap his seduction of the vastly wealthy used car salesman Norman Braman and the insanely rich Sheldon Adelson (who is rumored to be about to endorse him this week.) And then there are the various Koch auditions where he's reportedly given an awesome performance each time. But last week he landed the big one:

But bagging the “vulture” fund kingpen Singer, one of the biggest old bulls of the billionaire herd was a real coup. Singer is the man Fortune magazine described as “a passionate defender of the 1%” who is “determined to put a candidate who shares his views back in the White House.” They were talking about Mitt Romney, the candidate he backed in 2012, but it’s fair to assume that he hasn’t changed his mind. Unlike most of the billionaire mega-donors, Singer is very systematic about his advocacy. He chooses the candidate he believes will be most beneficial to him personally. Obviously, he thinks Marco can deliver the goods.
This article from Hedgeclippers.org, via Down with Tyranny, spells out Singers methodical approach to buying the government for his own benefit:
Perhaps not surprisingly, recipients of Paul Singer’s cash have gone to bat for him on various legislative issues. Recently, twelve members of Congress signed a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, urging him to side with Singer’s hedge fund in their battle to extract profits from Argentina. The signatories of that letter received a combined $200,000 from Singer and his connected PACs.
Singer’s “debt vulture” model, which his bought-and-paid-for politicians dutifully defended, was described by The Guardian this way:
“Vulture funds operate by buying up a country’s debt when it is in a state of chaos. When the country has stabilized, vulture funds return to demand millions of dollars in interest repayments and fees on the original debt. … It has been 16 years since most of the world began writing off the debts of the world’s poorest countries, but the vulture funds, a club of between 26 and 35 speculators, have ignored the debt concerts by pop stars such as Bono and pleas from the likes of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to give the countries a break and a chance to get back on their feet… [A]ccording to the World Bank, the top 26 vultures have managed to collect $1bn from the world’s poorest countries and still have a further $1.3bn to collect. … The World Bank has described vulture funds as “a threat to debt relief efforts” and the former, Bush-era US treasury secretary Henry Paulson said: “I deplore what the vulture funds are doing” in testimony before the House of Representatives’ financial committee in 2007.”
The Hedgeclippers.org dossier is a devastating rundown of Singer’s greatest hits. These debt vultures are the worst of the worst. They swoop in when poor countries are crawling out of debt and start picking at their bones, undermining the already fragile financial markets and chasing off any legitimate investors. Singer’s explanation for his predatory business model?
“Every country has poverty, including the USA. Our disputes have always been with sovereigns who can pay but refuse.” He dismisses his critics as “debtors who attempt to curry populist favor by paying just what they feel like paying” and “ideologically driven people and groups who do not realize that capital goes where it is welcome.”
All the developed democracies have issued condemnations of this business, with Britain even passing laws against in 2010. But it is so rich and influential in America that our politicians are either paralyzed with fear or overwhelmed with admiration. Indeed, Republican politicians have been falling all over themselves to get a little taste of the poor nation carrion that Singer calls his fortune. Marco Rubio is the big winner in the “who will share Paul Singer’s poor people road kill contest.” (Apparently Jeb Bush and company are very disappointed.)
The media does not seem to be too upset by any of this, neither the unseemly spectacle of presidential aspirants’ open supplication for the anointment by billionaires or the disgusting predatory businesses of the billionaires themselves. The bagging of Singer was presented as sign of Rubio’s ascent into frontrunner status sealing his reputation for seriousness rather than what it really was: a sign to the 1 percent that he has absolutely no scruples when it comes to allying himself with their most repulsive representatives. When it comes to the Republican donor primary, genuflecting to execrable capitalist predation isn’t even worth noting anymore.