The Times' Quintuple Standard
In an editorial, the New York Times faults Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney for meeting, with no reporters allowed, with Sheldon Adelson, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands. The Times refers to "the issues swirling about Mr. Adelson's business practices," as well as a fine imposed by Chinese regulators on the company for violating foreign exchange rules. The editorial faults Mr. Ryan and Mr. Romney for "allowing Mr. Adelson to have such an outsize role in their race," as if it is within their control how Mr. Adelson or his wife choose to spend their money.
Let's compare how the Times editorialists treat the Ryan-Romney-Adelson relationship— example number one—with how they have treated some other relationships between businessmen and politicians.
Example number two: Robert Wolf of UBS. Mr. Wolf, chairman and CEO of UBS Americas, reportedly raised at least $500,000 for Mr. Obama in 2008 and will do so again this cycle. He plays golf and basketball with the president, also with no reporters allowed, has been a guest at White House state dinners, and, as the Wall Street Journal put it, "frequently attended White House meetings about the worsening financial crisis and contributed to discussions of the administration's subsequent plans for recovery."
Here is UBS's record, according to a recent Times column that did not mention the Wolf-Obama connection (Wolf recently announced he was leaving UBS):
There's been not a peep out of the Times editorial page faulting the president for meeting with Mr. Wolf.
Example number three: Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE. Not only has Mr. Immelt been a frequent White House guest, Mr. Obama appointed him to head a presidential council on jobs and competitiveness. Yet GE has been charged with civil fraud by the SEC twice, and also settled a case involving the same Foreign Corrupt Practices Act under which the Times reporters and the Obama administration are now apparently trying to ensnare Mr. Adelson. Again, not a peep from the Times editorial page suggesting that it is in any way inappropriate for President Obama to meet with Mr. Immelt, let alone to appoint him to chair a presidential advisory group.
Example number four: George Soros. Jonathan Tobin mentioned this one in a post at Commentary this morning, writing, "The only real difference between the two is that Soros backs left-wing politicians and causes while Adelson has dedicated his financial resources to supporting Israel and conservatives." Well, one other difference is that Mr. Soros's conviction on an insider trading charge was in France, a free country, and involved having to repay $2.9 million, while Mr. Adelson's company's fine was less ($1.6 million, according to the Times), and was in China, an unfree country. When Barack Obama meets with Mr. Soros, there's not a complaint about it from the Times editorial writers.
Example number five: Goldman Sachs. This one shows how the Times not only holds Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan to a different standard than Mr. Obama; it holds itself to the Obama standard, not to the Romney-Ryan standard. Goldman Sachs has been under all kinds of regulatory scrutiny. Goldman paid $550 million to settle one SEC case and $60 million to settle with the Massachusetts state attorney general. Yet when the Times decided to sell its stake in the Red Sox, the Times hired Goldman Sachs to find a buyer. And the Times is full of advertising from Goldman, UBS, and GE.
It's interesting to wonder why the Times applies different standards to these cases. Is it because Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are Republicans while Mr. Obama is a Democrat? Or is it because Mr. Adelson is pro-Israel while Mr. Immelt and Mr. Wolf are not as outspoken or as philanthropic on Israel?
And remember, aside from the China-imposed penalty, all the issues relating to Las Vegas Sands are just "issues swirling," (because the Times keeps writing about them) not anything the company has settled or been convicted of or admitted. The Times, which has campaigned for due process including trials for the accused terrorists at Guantanamo, now wants to make Mr. Adelson into a pariah on the basis of merely swirling investigations rather than any due process. They should be cheering the guy on for running a successful business that pays taxes and creates jobs, not vilifying him. As for his decision to spend money on politics, one could praise him for spending the money to benefit the country rather than on personal consumption, like on owning another fancy apartment or house full of art and furniture in some place that he only lives in for a week or two a year.
But for me the larger point relates not only to the bias of the Times, which is an old story, but to the nature of modern regulation. America now has so many laws and regulations that it's essentially impossible to know what they all are, let alone to obey them all. So even a business led by an honest and well intentioned executive, if it reaches any size at all, is almost destined to run afoul of the regulations at some point. The effect is to either tar all large businesses as lawbreakers, or to blur the line between the ones that are doing their best to follow the law and those who are genuine bad actors. This system of rules creates lots of fees for lawyers and jobs in "compliance departments" for former regulators, but the utility of it for consumers, investors, or fair competition in business is questionable.
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