WSJ: Hedge Fund Lobbying Soars

The Journal this morning continues its good watchdog reporting on the lobbying efforts by the business-as-usual crowd.

It looks at how much money hedge funds are spending to lobby Washington these days. Unsurprisingly, the total was up six times last year from 2006. Can’t imagine why.

I like this sassy lede:

Many hedge funds were relieved last week when the Obama administration’s financial-overhaul plan included no big surprises or threats to the lucrative, secretive industry.

It isn’t clear exactly why hedge funds escaped their worst fears. But one factor might have helped: The hedge-fund industry has been spending a lot more time and money in Washington during the past few years.

The story notes the revolving door and gets a screw-you quote from an ex-congressman:

The hedge-fund industry is making no secret of its higher profile. Heavy political hitters now working for the industry include Richard Baker, the former Republican representative from Louisiana hired last year as president and chief executive of the Managed Funds Association, the main hedge-fund trade group. MFA recently recruited a former staff member of Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) to help advance its agenda on details of how regulation would work.

“You name a senior member of the [House] financial-services committee or the [Senate] banking committee, and I or a member of my staff have been in that office within the past six months,” Mr. Baker says.

The Journal has a scooplet here about the industry threatening the Obama administration, which, of course, took that under advisement:

In meetings with representatives of the Federal Reserve, hedge-fund representatives said they would be less likely to participate in government programs to buy bank assets if they were subjected to extensive disclosure requirements as part of the regulatory changes, a person familiar with the discussions says.

This is what they got:

The White House’s overhaul includes subjecting all hedge funds to registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission for the first time. Many hedge funds already are registered, following earlier efforts by the SEC and lawmakers.

Tougher rules feared by hedge funds aren’t in the proposal, such as requiring documentation of all trades or provisions that would force hedge funds to lower fees charged to investors. Such fees often have included a 2% management fee and a 20% cut of the fund’s profits.

And the most surefire way to know the proposal is weak:

The (Managed Fund Association) called the Obama plan “intelligent” and said it supports the principles of the president’s proposals.

I’m sure they do.

Good for the Journal for continuing to shine a light on the lobbying efforts of the financial industry.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.