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November 17, 2012

Treasury's Arrogant, Shameful, Cynical Conduct

Too often the American people are cynical about government for good reason and the Treasury Department just gave them another really good reason.  It should be embarrassed by its conduct.  This is particularly true here where it involves the vital issues of financial reform and protecting the American people from another financial collapse and economic crisis.

The United States Treasury Department released a really important and very controversial financial reform rule after 5 PM on a Friday night, when Congress was in recess, right before the Thanksgiving Day holiday and shortly after the Presidential election.  This is a longstanding, bipartisan practice referred to as a “Friday night dump,” i.e., unload something late when few are working/watching, fewer will notice/report on it, and fewer still will see what little reporting there might be late Friday night or in the Saturday papers (which have very low readership).

This is done for one purpose and one purpose only:  to avoid media coverage, public attention, scrutiny and criticism.  

To the extent any reporters are around at that time and report on it, their deadlines are so imminent that it’s virtually impossible for them to get informed reaction or to even digest what Treasury or others have done.  That of course is the goal:  force whatever reporters are around to basically print stories that do little if any more than repeat what they put out in their last minute press release without any rebuttal opportunity or analysis. 

There’s also almost never any follow on coverage the next week because the “Friday night dump” is old news that has already been “reported” on, even if it was nothing more than a regurgitation of the agency’s press release. 

Such deliberate, pre-planned action is cynical and shameful and the people who do it should be embarrassed.  

It is beneath the dignity that the Treasury Department should have.  It should act like a public agency dealing with weighty issues of vital concern to the American people, which no one can deny financial reform is.  Treasury should also have the confidence that its decisions can withstand the light of day and scrutiny.  It should not think it needs the cover of darkness for its decisions.  Sure, not everyone is going to agree with their decisions and there will be what they consider fair and unfair criticism.  But, that comes with the territory.  However, arrogantly and shamefully manipulating the release of information to prevent scrutiny, analysis and criticism should simply never be engaged in or tolerated. 

Now, it is true that often, when confronted, an agency comes up with some laughable excuse for such despicable conduct like “we released it as soon as it was ready.”  Really?  The highly controversial FX exemption Treasury granted late Friday night was under consideration since November of 2010, two years ago.  Any excuse claimed to justify when it was released should be dismissed out of hand.  Nothing they can say will pass the laugh test. 



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