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DC’s Top Cronies Named and Shamed

By: Belén Marty - @belenmarty - Apr 28, 2015, 7:33 pm

EspañolUS President Barack Obama, the Federal Reserve, and Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson were among those nominated on Monday to pass through to the final stage of a prestigious prize: the Crony Awards, organized by The Atlas Society.

Inspired by the novel Atlas Shrugged by objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand, the Washington, DC-based organization launched a public vote to find the individuals, corporations, politicians, and government agencies that are most guilty of handing out or receiving political influence for economic gain.

“Unfortunately today we live in a mixed economy full of examples of special interests merging with the power of the state. We have developed the Atlas Shrugged Cronyism Contest to allow everyone to participate in identifying and educating about the destructive nature of crony capitalism,” the competition’s website explains.

The organization received 274 nominations, but preselected 132 across the four categories: individual, politician, corporation, and government agency.

“The Atlas Shrugged Crony Awards are intended to spotlight the clearest and most egregious cases of these “political” entrepreneurs,” the vote’s organizers explain.

El empresario Sheldon Adelson es uno de los principales donantes del Partido Republicano. (Crony Awards)
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is one of the principal donors to the Republican Party. (Crony Awards)

The winners of the primary elections became known on Monday 27. In the political category are Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), President Barack Obama, and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), while government agencies are represented by the Internal Revenue Service, the Export-Import Bank, and the Fannie Mae National Mortgage association.

The most voted-for individuals were George Soros, Warren Buffet, and Sheldon Anderson, and the selected corporations were the Federal Reserve, the AARP, and the AFL-CIO.

The shortlist has now been opened up to a general election, from April 22 to June 8. The winners will be announced at the Atlas Society Conference dinner on June 20.

Among the most striking benefits that the above companies have received are regulations which limit their competition, government subsidies, monopoly licences, barriers to entry to new competitors, minimum wages and other price controls, and financial bailouts.

The candidates who have made it thus far are all profitably linked with politics. In this line, the Atlas Society questions how Senator Reid has become so wealthy, with his description on the website detailing how he sponsored an $18-million earmark for a bridge that would connect Bullhead City with Laughlin, Nevada, greatly increasing the value of his land, among other dubious activities.

Obama is meanwhile dubbed the “crony-in-chief” for receiving donations from General Motors and Solyndra, and allowing hospitals to re-price services to make to help make more money.

The Fed is similarly slammed for trying “to manipulate and shape the economy, to help one industry or sector at the expense of others and Americans in general.” The American Federation of Labor is criticized in turn for taking money “by force from workers and providing little benefit” in return.

Las Vegas casino empresario Sheldon Adelson is noted for his staunch opposition to online gambling websites which would eat into his profits. In particular, his dislike has been shown by hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of donations to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the strongest Congressional opponents of online betting.

The organizers of the competition explain draw a distinction between those companies that seek to create goods or services through free competition, and those whose unhealthy links with politicians and bureaucrats are essential to their business plan.

Cronyism Defined

Stephen Hicks, professor of Philosophy at the University of Rockford, and a member of the team behind the competition, defined the essence of crony capitalism.

“There’s a distinction between people who earn their money in a free market, by offering good service, high quality, and low prices, or something that’s innovative, versus those who get money through the political process,” he told the PanAm Post.

Many of these businessmen involved in political dealings receive state subsidies from all taxpayers, or benefit from tax exemptions themselves.

“A crony capitalist is someone who knows the right people. It’s a businessman who knows the right politicians, and the politicians are able to use their influence to benefit the businessman,” Hicks explained.

The academic drew an additional distinction between those public-private organizations that exercise a degree of state-sanctioned cronyism, and those firms that begin in the private sector but realize they can playing the political game to skew the playing field in their favor.

Translated by Laurie Blair.

Belén Marty Belén Marty

Belén Marty is the Libertarian Latina, a journalist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has lived in Guatemala, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States and is a former candidate for local office with Argentina's Libertarian Party. Follow @BelenMarty.