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Bernanke's Conferences At Luxury Resorts: Do Lobbyists Show Up?

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has been spending some time at fancy places. Last week, Bernanke spoke at a Fed conference at a luxurious resort and spa in California, then spoke at another Fed conference at another resort in Cape Cod on Friday, reports Al Kamen in the Washington Post.

LobbyBlog wanted to know: Do these conferences at nice resorts attract representatives from any of the 100-plus special interests that reported lobbying the Federal Reserve system in the past year?Spokespeople for the San Francisco and Boston Federal Reserve Banks, which hosted the two events last week, said that journalists, academics, and officials from the Fed and other central banks attended those events. The San Francisco Fed's event was invitation-only; bankers may have attended the Boston Fed's event, but the spokespeople for both regional Fed banks said lobbyists don't come to these things.

There's enough room in Washington, after all, for special interests to do all the lobbying they need.

Some economists say the Fed's expanded role during the financial crisis, which has seen the central bank making decisions about which industries get credit and which don't, makes it vulnerable to the perception that it's susceptible to influence-peddling.

At the beginning of the year, boat manufacturers and Dunkin' Donuts weren't lobbying the Fed. Now they are. (Boat builders reported lobbying about the TALF program; Dunkin' lobbied regarding "general access to capital issues.")

"It concerns me that the Fed has pushed into an area that's inherently political," said Douglas Elliott, a fellow with the Brookings Institution and a former investment banker who recently spoke at a Fed meeting in Chicago, where he said he saw people from investment firms mingling with Fed officials in the audience.

"I doubt that we've crossed over to the point where anyone would say there's actually anything wrong going on," he said. But "the more people think it makes sense to spend time with Fed officials in hopes they'll make decisions that end up favoring you, the more people think it's a problem we're going to have. We want the Fed to be pretty independent and when they're involved in these things not affecting the economy as a whole you're going to have people lobbying one thing or another."