Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Iron Triangle (Updated)

Morgan, Cohen, and Gaul (seems as if that's a different sequence than yesterday, it's got the rhythm of FDR's "Martin, Baron, and Fish") have another article on farm programs . This one outlines the various interests that come together in creating a farm bill, with particular attention to Rep. Larry Combest (R) (Texas) and the 2002 Farm Bill. They even searched out my old boss, Bill Penn, for a comment on the changing of the rules for "actively engaged" determination in 1987. (Bill and his wife-to-be wanted to require half a year's worth of work for management; Rep. Huckaby (D) (LA) said no, managers could do it in their spare time.) Following personnel is one way to follow the interlinking of interests, what the political scientists used to call the "iron triangle" (relationships between the agency, Congress, lobbyists and clientele).

For example, another old boss of mine was an assistant to Huckaby, or maybe House Ag--Parks Shackelford. He moved from Congress to USDA in 1993. This is a good piece in Gov. Executive from 1998 on the overall background, including the problems of combining agencies. Googling his name reveals that he now has twin daughters and a son on the way. His father-in-law is chancellor of Arkansas State U, and his wife is general counsel to the American Farm Bureau. He himself is working for a Florida sugar company after serving as President of American Textile Manufacturers Institute.

It's way too difficult to Google "William Penn", for obvious reasons. He first came to ASCS as a deputy director in the area office, indicating good Republican connections (he might have been a State executive director in Michigan before), showed his talents and moved up to Asst. Deputy Administrator. Moved to the field of law and Arents Fox around the early 90's, focusing on payment limitation, then back to Michigan for a farmers organization.

The same sort of thing goes on with all administrations and both parties: the ambitious come to Washington, move among Congress, the executive, lobbyists and legal firms until they become satisfied or reach their level of incompetence. Then they're shunted to "turkey farms" to live out their days.

The Post article closes with discussion of prospects for the 2007 Farm Bill.

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