NPR’s Planet Money takes on Money in Politics

On Planet Money’s December 20 podcast, Jack Abramoff, who’s been out of prison for a year and a half, tells the story of how his outfit was paid over $100,000 a month by Tyco International to defeat a tax provision that would have cost the company about $4 billion.

Abramoff’s main legislative target was Sen. Charles Grassley. The initial effort “included contributions, access to suites at sporting events where Grassley could host fundraisers, and private planes to fly him to other fundraisers.”

Soon, however, his firm hit its federal maximum in contributions to Grassley’s campaign. So then Abramoff tapped his other clients to raise more money for Grassley, on the understanding that Tyco would return the favors when the need arose. So much for the effectiveness of campaign contribution limits!

In addition to the Abramoff interview, the podcast discusses a paper which compares amounts invested in lobbying with the value received in the form of tax benefits etc. In one well documented case, the rate of return on lobbying expenditures was 22,000%.

Also announced in the podcast is that Planet Money is embarking on a series dealing with money in politics, including an hour-long show on This American Life. Stay tuned!

About Hamilton Richards

He retired in 2006 as a Senior Lecturer in Computer Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. These days he volunteers technical support for Citizens' Climate Lobby (Austin chapter), Common Ground for Texans, (, Integrity Texas (, Austin Rowing Club, and several friends.
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