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Bush included bailout loophole to allow CEO payouts

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Helping friends until the bitter end. Only this Congress - who has been much too shy about taking control during the end of one of the most failed administrations in decades - could allow this to happen. The Democrats are going to have to do much better than this because the only thing they have going now is chaos within the GOP ranks. The Democrats make it so hard to respect them as a power when they blow every imaginable opportunity that they face.

Congress wanted to guarantee that the $700 billion financial bailout would limit the eye-popping pay of Wall Street executives, so lawmakers included a mechanism for reviewing executive compensation and penalizing firms that break the rules.

But at the last minute, the Bush administration insisted on a one-sentence change to the provision, congressional aides said. The change stipulated that the penalty would apply only to firms that received bailout funds by selling troubled assets to the government in an auction, which was the way the Treasury Department had said it planned to use the money.

Now, however, the small change looks more like a giant loophole, according to lawmakers and legal experts. In a reversal, the Bush administration has not used auctions for any of the $335 billion committed so far from the rescue package, nor does it plan to use them in the future. Lawmakers and legal experts say the change has effectively repealed the only enforcement mechanism in the law dealing with lavish pay for top executives.

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