Carney on global warming rent seeking

In his latest Examiner column, Tim Carney looks at hedge fund manager Julian Robertson’s lobbying for cap-and-trade legislation and bet on a U.S. economic downturn.

When the media notice a large corporation standing to suffer from an intrusion of government or benefit from a deregulation or tax cut, we are immediately warned about conflicts of interest. Amazingly, when the media notice the Green Beltway Bandits lined up behind carbon caps, they see this as further proof that the time has come for government action.

As a case in point, unless you spend time going through federal lobbying records, you probably haven’t heard of Robertson’s big push for cap-and-trade laws. Robertson has hired top lobbying firm Akin Gump to advance such restrictions on Capitol Hill, in the public and in policy arenas. Akin Gump even runs a global warming blog now called “Climate Intel.”

Akin Gump lobbyists doing Robertson’s bidding on Capitol Hill include former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and former Reps. Bill Paxon, R-N.Y., and Vic Fazio, D-Calif. What’s Robertson’s angle? Environmental publication Greenwire described Robertson as a “former hedge fund tycoon and now a philanthropist.” Robertson indeed closed down his most famous fund, Tiger Management, earlier this decade, but is still a big investor. Getting richer — not merely philanthropy — motivates these investments.

Relevant to his cap-and-trade position are his investments in China‘s leading biofuels maker Gushan and in a company that deals with nuclear waste disposal. Given the right global warming legislation, both of these investments will benefit.

A bigger Robertson bet, presenting a more insidious angle, is his short position on 10-year Treasury bonds paired with a long position on two-year Treasuries. Basically, if the U.S. economy is fundamentally unsound, Robertson gets rich. “I’ve made a big bet on it,” Robertson told Fortune. “I really think I’m going to make 20 or 30 times on my money.”

Tim’s column aside, where’s the outrage?