John McCain, Phil Gramm, and UBS

While UBS was helping its clients evade US taxes, its Vice-Chairman and lobbyist, Phil Gramm, was advising John McCain on banking policy.

Phil Gramm, while advising John McCain on banking and housing policy, was lobbying for … a bank.

And not just any bank: he was lobbying for UBS, which was running a tax-evasion racket out of its private banking arm, helping rich Americans stick the rest of us suckers with the tab for, e.g., the war in Iraq. UBS has now told 50 of its European employees that they should (1) lawyer up, at the company’s expense and (2) not travel to the U.S., presumably for fear of arrest.

Hilzoy has details and links, and more thoughts about how McCain’s self-image as a man of honor blinds him to the ethical rules mere mortals have to live by. Note that Gramm is no longer technically a “lobbyist” (he had himself de-listed last month) but still is a vice-chairman of UBS and a senior adviser to McCain.

All of this reminds me of a story I first heard, I think, from Tom Edsall. Back in the 1960s, the chairman of the insurance committee of the Maryland House of Delegates was also the owner of an insurance brokerage. Asked about the potential conflict of interest, he said, “No, being chairman don’t conflict with my interest at all.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: