Always the Dollars

"It took months for everything to calm down, but finally my guys got out on bail and the bosses wanted me to send my brother Dominick out to Vegas. With them it was always the dollars, always the fuckin' dollars."

Nicky Santoro

href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112641/">Casino

1995

There's been a fair amount of speculation about why the Republican House
leadership studiously looked the other way when it was brought to their
attention that Mark Foley had a page problem, with most concluding it was
because the GOP was anxious to hold his Florida seat, and didn't want to
oust a popular incumbent. href="http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish/2006/10/pelosi_and_fole.html">Andrew
Sullivan:

If Hastert didn't know, he should have . . . My guess (and I do
not know for sure) is that he chose not to know, because he needed a seat in
Florida.

There's obviously something to this. If you href="http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial/20061005/1060310.asp">believe
the undead corpse of Bob Novak (who should know) House Republican campaign
chief Tom Reynolds personally persuaded Foley to run again this year after
word spread that he was thinking of callling it quits.

But saying the bosses were worried about losing Foley's seat gets the
emphasis very wrong. It wasn't the seat the machine was trying to protect,
much less Mark Foley personally, but Foley's cash horde -- and his future
income-generating potential.

Foley's district is a reasonably reliable GOP district, even in a year like
this one is shaping up to be. Certainly, it wouldn't have been hard last
year to recruit a Republican candidate who could defend it. If Foley's
replacement, Florida state rep Joe Negron, could get his own name on
the ballot, instead of having to ask the GOP faithful to cast their ballots
for a virtual child molester, I think you'd still have to rate this race as
leans Republican.

But it would have been much harder to replace the $3 million that Foley href="http://www.tbo.com/news/nationworld/MGBAJ9Y6VSE.html">collected,
but never used, for his abortive 2004 Senate campaign. Since 1993, retiring
House incumbents haven't been able to take their left-over campaign funds
with them (the golden parachute that href="http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w051114&s=baer111405">caused so
many Democratic incumbents to call it quits in 1992). But they can
donate them to "charity" or just hang on to them for a future race. If Foley
had quit, there was no guarantee he wouldn't have used his hard-earned
bribes to finance the Mark Foley Center for the Internet Instruction of
Underage Students, or horded them for a possible Senate race somewhere down
the road.

More to the point, it would have deprived the bosses of Foley's demonstrated
href="http://www.cqpolitics.com/2006/10/foley_fallout_spurs_fingerpoin.html">earning power. The man from Palm Beach was, to use the corporate
parlance, a cash cow, in the sense that he consistently raised more money
than he needed for his own races, and passed the surplus along to the party:

As head of the NRCC, Reynolds' job is to find as much money as
possible to fund as many House races as possible. Foley played a key
supporting role for Reynolds as the GOP's bridge to Hollywood - a part he
took over after the death of his friend, Rep. Sonny Bono, R-Calif.
(1995-98).

If you're Tom Reynolds, you not only want a guy like that to stick around,
you want to make sure he stays sweet -- even if it means turning a
semi-blind eye to his "overly friendly" ways with the pages. The last
thing you want is an ugly confrontation over his sex habits.

Always the dollars. Always the fuckin' dollars.

Having spent the past eight years working for a sales organization, I can
kind of understand the culture, if that's the right word. The big producers,
as we call them, are the aristocrats of our little corporate world -- fawned
over, courted, feted, invited to meet with the CEO and the Chairman. Until
the big scandals hit in 2001/02, there was an unstated but generally
understood convention that the right hand didn't look too hard at what the
left hand was doing -- as long as the left hand kept its numbers up. That
applied double or triple for the big producers, who, as a group (the top
100) account for a third or more of our gross revenues.

Given that a big producer can walk, at any moment, to one of our
competitors, and the fact that most of our executives were themselves
big producers who got promoted (the typical pattern in our industry) the
incentives for management to take a hard line with misbehavior traditionally
have been, shall we say, somewhat lacking. And we were far -- very far --
from being the slackest firm on the street.

Of course, things changed in a hurry after Eliot Spitzer and (finally) the
SEC started breathing down people's necks -- just as things changed in a
hurry for Nicky Santoro right after he said the line quoted at the top of
this post. (And if you saw the movie, you know it wasn't a change for the
better.) As far as I can tell, our guys are being watched pretty closely
now, although I haven't seen any of the big producers actually take a fall.
Maybe they were clean. I don't know. Foley, of course, wasn't.

The lesson to take away, I think, is that our Chamber of People's Deputies
isn't really that much different from a '70s mobbed up casino, and
not at all different from a brokerage firm at the height of the '90s bull
market. Money brings power and power brings the ability to get more money,
which brings the ability to get more power.

A couple of days ago I said the Foley scandal was about the power, stupid.
But that also may have put the wrong emphasis on it. It's still the economy,
stupid -- although not in quite the way Clinton and company meant it.

Always the dollars. Always the fucking dollars.

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