SPEAKING OF PERVERSE INCENTIVES: Does big money from the finance sector to members of a key House oversight committee create incentives for members such as Tom Cotton?

  • SPEAKING OF PERVERSE INCENTIVES: Does big money from the finance sector to members of a key House oversight committee create incentives for members such as Tom Cotton?

The New York Times gave lead front page treatment today to an article on how appointments to the House Financial Services Committee have produced windfalls in campaign contributions to freshman members.

These include Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, a Club for Growth acolyte who nominally represents Arkansas’s 4th District. He was mentioned in passing in the version of the article carried in this morning’s Democrat-Gazette, but got higher profile treatment in the print edition of the New York Times, complete with a photograph and bold-face listing in a graphic showing the top beneficiaries of financial sector money.

A graphic that accompanied the story showed that Cotton ranked 17th among the 435 House members in contributions from the financial sector, with $111,500 in contributions. Cotton’s money accounted for 10 percent of all his contributions.dollars given by the industry to House members.

Political action committees — set up by lobbying firms, unions, corporations and other groups trying to push their agenda in Congress — have donated more money to Financial Services Committee members in the first six months of this year than to members of any other committee. The $9.4 million total is nearly $2 million more than the total for the Armed Services Committee, the only House panel with more members.

With so many lawmakers clamoring to be on the Financial Services Committee, it has grown to 61 members from 44 since 1980, forcing the installation of four tiered rows of seats in the Rayburn House Office Building — with the first row of lawmakers on the floor, just in front of the tables used for witnesses.

The committee’s chairman, Representative Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, remains the top recipient of donations from industry PACs this year, taking in $282,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit group that tracks the influence of money in politics. But three Republican freshmen — Mr. Barr and Representatives Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ann Wagner of Missouri — have raised more money from industry PACs than many longtime committee members like Representative Spencer Bachus, an Alabama Republican who served as the panel’s chairman until the end of last year.

The Times article notes that Cotton is running for U.S. Senate. That makes him an even richer target for PAC money. Cotton has been aiming for Senate at least since he first paid a return visit to Arkansas from his D.C. consulting job to consider opposing Blanche Lincoln in 2010. Judging by his political writing in Harvard student days, he’s had his eyes on a political prize for much longer.

I can’t help but be reminded of Cotton’s writing about how welfare programs such as food stamps with all their free money create “perverse incentives” for mothers to become welfare dependent. Do you suppose the money that flows from appointment to key oversight committees might create “perverse incentives” to be dependent on and subservient to the sources of the money? Being a man, Cotton undoubtedly would say he has what it takes to resist negative impulses. Unlike women, whose primary motivation in life is finding and holding on to a man (or so Tom Cotton has written).