In the span of a mere 11 days this month, $1 billion in future federal tax payments vanished.
As congressional leaders were hastily braiding together a tax and spending bill of more than 2,000 pages, lobbyists swooped in to add 54 words that temporarily preserved a loophole sought by the hotel, restaurant and gambling industries, along with billionaire Wall Street investors, that allowed them to put real estate in trusts and avoid taxes.
They won key support from the top Senate Democrat, Harry Reid of Nevada, who responded to appeals from executives from casino companies, politically powerful players and huge employers in his state. And the lobbyists even helped draft the crucial language.
The small changes, and the enormous windfall they generated, show the power of connected corporate lobbyists to alter a huge bill that is being put together with little time for lawmakers to consider. Throughout the legislation, there were thousands of other add-ons and hard to decipher tax changes.
Some executives at companies with the most at stake are also big campaign donors. For example, the family of David Bonderman, a co-founder of TPG Capital, has donated $1.2 million since 2014 to the Senate Majority PAC, a campaign fund with close ties to Mr. Reid and other Senate Democrats. TPG Capital has large holdings in CaesarsEntertainment and helps run a Texas-based energy company, both of which stand to benefit from the last-minute change.
This illustrates a key point about the role of money in politics, and the role that lobbying plays in that influence especially under conditions of low salience, which I make in Plutocrats United.