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National Political Pundit Addresses Koch Leaders

By Amanda Morad | April 8, 2014

Peter Schweizer

It turns out that Netflix's most successful original series to date, "House of Cards," isn't all that far from reality. The show portrays political corruption in the legislative and executive branches and, according to New York Times best-selling author, Peter Schweizer, it's based on some level of truth.

Regent University's College of Arts & Sciences welcomed Schweizer on Monday, March 31, to discuss the topic of his new book, "Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets," with Koch Fellows and other Regent students.

Regent's Koch Leadership Program guides qualified students through a year of concentrated study about human flourishing, political liberty, economic freedom and liberty.

Schweizer began his talk with an overview of the capital's economic system. Washington D.C. now boasts the highest per capita income in the nation, with seven of the ten wealthiest metropolitan areas surrounding it.

Case in point: the Ferrari dealer in D.C. conducts most purchases in cash, to the ire of the Miami and Beverly Hills dealerships, whose customers regularly finance their luxury purchases. The nation's capital has become a veritable "boom town."

"This goes to the heart of our system of government," Schweizer said. "We've come to be governed by a political class. There's more in common between [politicians] than different."

He compared the cronyism of Washington to WWE wrestling: "It's all an act. They don't hate each other, they're business partners."

Schweizer gave chilling examples of insider trading, land deals, "juicer" bills proposed for intimidation, regulatory manipulation, and leadership PACs, all misuse of the law for means of self-enrichment.

"We've thought for the last 30-40 years that money is destroying politics, but politics is destroying money," he said. In the past, he explained, the nation has had a "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" mentality in which fresh politicians go in with open and optimistic mindsets and are exposed to corruption from the outside. But Schweizer called for a change of attitude.

"It's not that we need to protect politicians from outside influences; we need to protect Americans from corrupt politicians," he said.

Regarding extortion methods, Schweizer explained that it's not just "The Godfather" brand of fear mongering and manipulation. By grossly inflating legislative bills from 20-30 pages to 2,000-10,000 pages, backhanded regulations slip past review easily, and then require extensive interpretation to adhere to. Schweizer named Dodd-Frank, a 10,000-page bill passed in 2010.

"Nobody knows what it means or what it says, so why would it be introduced?" he asked. A handful of political aides wrote the mammoth piece of legislation and then quit their jobs after it was passed to become advisers to financial firms on how to follow it. "They created their own incentive structure and are now making six-figure salaries," Schweizer explained.

"Big Business and Big Government are increasingly collaborators," he noted. "Rather than seeing Big Government as the enemy, many small businesses find it's their friend.... If you grease the right political wheels, government becomes a profit center for businesses. It's a pay to play game."

This game, referred to as "crony capitalism," is what's destroying American wealth and independence, Schweizer explained. "We're at a tipping point between whether we're going to have a truly free economy or a crony system that more closely resembles the third world."

In addition to "Extortion," Schweizer's 2011 book, "Throw Them All Out: How Politicians and Their Friends Get Rich off Insider Stock Tips, Land Deals, and Cronyism That Would Send the Rest of Us to Prison," delves more deeply into just how far the "disease" of corruption has spread in the federal government.

Schweizer is also the president of the Government Accountability Institute, a non-partisan research organization that focuses on government cronyism and corruption; the William J. Casey Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University; and senior editor-at-large for Breitbart News.

Learn more about the College of Arts & Sciences.


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