It’s A Structural Thing

The whole thing is almost quaint in its simplicity. Tim Pawlenty resigns as chair of a presidential campaign, cashes a big paycheck from a national trade association and is suddenly anointed in the waters of bipartisanship.

That’s how the Financial Services Roundtable plainly puts it in its press release announcing Pawlenty’s hire as president and CEO: “The Financial Services Roundtable is a bipartisan organization. As a consequence, Gov. Pawlenty will step down as a national co-chair of the Romney for President campaign.” Voila! Done.FRS is a key lobbying vehicle in Washington for big banks and financial services companies. Big bucks, high stakes. One of the advantages of lobbying through a trade association is that member companies don’t necessarily have to put their names and brands at risk. It’s a way of distancing themselves a bit from the work they’re doing, in this case, to weaken financial regulations.

This move gives Pawlenty a key — and lucrative — position in the federal paragovernment that transcends party and electoral politics. It’s all perfectly legal and standard operating procedure in modern-day DC. Everyone does it!

But it’s a good time to make the point that more often than not, paeans to bipartisanship in Washington are not what you think of in the traditional definition of that word, but instead are a nod to that paragovernment. Pawlenty leaving the Romney camp says less about Romney’s electoral prospects than it does about the firm hold the paragovernment has on DC.

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