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Christopher Cox: A Blast from the Past

chriscox.thumbnail.jpgAs Christy’s piece reminds me, Chris Cox stinks every bit as much today as a Bush-appointed money watchdog at the SEC as he did a decade ago as a self-appointed weapons-technology watchdog in Congress.  

Cox is the fine gentleman who, as the Republican representative from Newport Beach in California’s Orange County, gave us the Cox Report, which was part of the "Chinagate" prong of the hydra-headed and bogus Vast Right Wing Conspiracy attacks on the Clintons in the 1990s.  The whole point of Chinagate was to accuse Bill Clinton of giving away key defense-related technology to the Chinese, which is why it was so ironic that the Cox Report was itself accused of revealing classified nuclear-weapons information. (And three weeks after its release, Chris Cox voted for releasing important computer technology to China.)

When he wasn’t harassing the Clintons or Wen Ho Lee, Cox spent the 1990s dreaming up ways to make life easier for his buddies on Wall Street, usually at the expense of investors.  (In other words, he did then pretty much what he’s done since becoming head of the SEC, whose budget he’s slashed.)  His crowning legislative achievement, enacted over President Clinton’s veto, was the 1995 Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, which — under the guise of stopping frivolous lawsuits — made it much harder to successfully sue securities firms, thus removing an important restraint on their conduct.   Bernard Madoff might not have got away with his Ponzi scheme for so long if this act wasn’t around.  And FDL commenter bigbrother reminded us that Cox was involved with a pretty sleazy investment fraudster — and had inveighed against regulations that would have reined in that fraudster — even before he became a congressmember.   Amazingly, he held his anti-regulation stance even after being a witness to what happens when regulation is absent:  The 1994 bankruptcy of Orange County.   With guys like Cox on the case, it’s no wonder our financial system is a mess.

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