Monday, May 23, 2011

‘Tea party’ bank BB&T flying under the radar in FSU scandal

Original Link:

People are focusing on the strange arrangement between the Koch brothers and Florida State University, which appears to hand academic control to the right wing, Ayn Rand-loving billionaires. But what about their partner in that and other university takeovers: a bank called BB&T?
Tucked into this story about the growing scandal over the Kochs’ arrangement with FSU were these telling grafs:

Koch and his brother David Koch are among America’s wealthiest people and well known for their efforts advocating fewer taxes and less government regulation.

A Southeastern regional bank, BB&T, sometimes partners with Koch in these efforts. They also are identified for working closely with the tea party movement.

And while the Kochs have in the past denied bankrolling the tea party movement, they have in recent months — particularly in the run-up to the 2010 election — become more blatant about their political activities, and have attracted commensurate attention from people opposed to their views. But BB&T, which was touted by FSU in a press release that seemed to bury the Koch lead, has so far attracted little attention, even though they appear to be just as aggressive as the Kochs in buying into university economics departments.

The FSU annoucement of the 2008 deal read in part:

FSU President T.K. Wetherell thanked Sullivan and Hillis for the generosity and foresight shown by BB&T in making the gifts.

“In these difficult economic times, it is more important than ever that public universities find new ways to partner with the private sector to develop the sorts of academic programs that our society will need in the coming decades,” he said. “We are very appreciative of the confidence that BB&T has placed in Florida State University to create programs to emphasize the moral and ethical dimensions of our free enterprise system.”

With one of the BB&T gifts, the Department of Finance in the College of Business and the Department of Economics in the College of Social Sciences will establish a joint BB&T Program of Free Enterprise. Among other things, this $1.5 million gift will allow for the creation of two professorships — one in each department — to develop and promote a free-enterprise curriculum; will enable the development of a Web site that focuses on the program’s free-enterprise principles and highlights a new Speaker Series with the inclusion of podcasts from previous speeches; and will fund the establishment of a new economics course, “Morals and Ethics in Economic Systems.”

In addition, the finance department will offer a new course, “Free Enterprise and Ethics.” Included in that course will be a lecture seriesbased on BB&T’s core values( titled “Perspectives on Free Enterprise.” Eventually this new course will become part of a new Certificate Program in Free Enterprise and Ethics.

The BB&T Program of Free Enterprise also will support four new doctoral fellowships and the undergraduate organization Students in Free Enterprise.

And that’s just one university arrangement BB&T has entered into. In recent years:

■BB&T donated $3M to fund the establishment of BB&T Program of Free Enterprise at the Florida State University.[9]
■The company donated $2M to fund research on Ayn Rand‘s work, which she called Objectivism, at the University of Texas.[10]
■The company donated $600,000 to Florida Gulf Coast University for the growth of programs at the Lutgert College of Business.
■The company donated $350,000 to fund the teaching of “The Moral Foundations of Capitalism” at the Loyola College in Maryland.[11]
■The company donated $1.5 Million dollars to the University of Georgia to “expand teaching and research into the foundations of capitalism and free market economies”. [12]
■The company donated $1 Million dollars to the University of Central Florida to create the BB&T Program for Business Ethics and fund the teaching of “The Moral Foundations of Capitalism”[13]
■The company donated $1.75 million to West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics.The funds will establish a BB&T Chair in Free Market Thought and enhance the school’s free market research and teaching programs.[14]
In fact, BB&T’s retired CEO (and continuing chairman) John Allison is a hero to the tea party movement and to Libertarians because:

In addition to running one of the nation’s largest banks, Allison and BB&T fund programs at more than 40 universities that teach the moral defense of capitalism. “Although each of these programs differs in its composition and mission,” says Clemson University’s business profile of BB&T’s charitable programs, “all are united by a commitment to teaching and research on the moral foundations of capitalism.”

Through contributions to organizations like the Ayn Rand Institute and universities across the nation, Allison has begun to build the foundations for a future electorate who not only understands the issues surrounding the defense of capitalism, but also desires to see capitalism protected and advanced.

… and for his faithful devotion to the philosophy of Ayn Rand The New York Times wrote this about Allison in 2009:

Speaking at a recent convention in Boston to a group of like-minded business people and students, Mr. Allison tells a story: A boy is playing in a sandbox, only to have his truck taken by another child. A fight ensues, and the boy’s mother tells him to stop being selfish and to share.

“You learned in that sandbox at some really deep level that it’s bad to be selfish,” says Mr. Allison, adding that the mother has taught a horrible lesson. “To say man is bad because he is selfish is to say it’s bad because he’s alive.”

If Mr. Allison’s speech sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because it’s based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand, who celebrated the virtues of reason, self-interest and laissez-faire capitalism while maintaining that altruism is a destructive force. In Ms. Rand’s world, nothing is more heroic — and sexy — than a hard-working businessman free to pursue his wealth. And nothing is worse than a pesky bureaucrat trying to restrict business and redistribute wealth.

Or, as Mr. Allison explained, “put balls and chains on good people, and bad things happen.”

Ms. Rand, who died in 1982, has all sorts of admirers on Wall Street, in corporate boardrooms and in the entertainment industry, including the hedge fund manager Clifford Asness, the former baseball great Cal Ripken Jr. and the Whole Foods chief executive, John Mackey.

But Mr. Allison, who remains BB&T’s chairman after retiring as chief executive in December, has emerged as perhaps the most vocal proponent of Ms. Rand’s ideas and of the dangers of government meddling in the markets. For a dedicated Randian like him, the government’s headlong rush to try to rescue and fix the economy is a horrifying realization of his worst fears.

Indeed, so many bad things are happening that many followers of Ms. Rand, known as objectivists, believe that the ugly scenario in her 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged” — in which the government takes over industry as the economy progressively collapses — is playing out in real life.

New regulations are being enacted by the day. The rich may be forced to pay for health care for the poor. The auto industry is a ward of the state. An activist administration occupies the White House. And, of course, the federal government has inserted itself into the nation’s banks, including BB&T, which accepted $3.1 billion in bailout money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

“Rand predicted what would happen 50 years ago,” says Mr. Allison, who notes that his bank was forced to take the money, which he labels “a rip-off.” “It’s a nightmare for anyone who supports individual rights.”

Watch Allison being interviewed by a fellow objectivist Libertarian, John Stossel last January (also on the panel, one of the Clemson University professors endowed by BB&T cash):

Allison, like Ron and Rand Paul and other Libertarians, believe property rights trump all other rights, and are sympatico with the tea party movement. Allison can be found all over Youtube explaining how in his view, the 2007 economic collapse was caused, not by big bank greed or excesses, but by government regulation.

So if you bank with BB&T, you can sleep soundly knowing you’re doing your part to advance Rand’s philosophy at a university, possibly near you.

What’s amazing his how far reaching the Libertarian grasp is becoming — not just on Wall Street or on Fox News (and Fox Business Channel) and in politics with the Paulites and the tea party (with the latter now being merged with the Christian right) – but even on the supposed left.

If she were alive today, you’ve got to figure Ayn Rand would be very much in her element.

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