That's how the Washington Post describes another insider deal in Washington, the attachment of tariff suspensions on a variety of goods. The moves leave few fingerprints and cost taxpayers millions in sum
Sen. Blanche Lincoln is cited for working for a tax break this way for Wal-Mart -- on the import of dog collars. But a lucky and dogged victim upset the tax break.
Companies say suspending tariffs reduces costs here and saves consumers money. But it also hurts U.S. competitors, like Anita Dungey, who discovered the Wal-Mart break by chance. (Lincoln receives thousands in contributions from Wal-Mart, the article notes.)
Dungey, who co-owns Auburn Leathercrafters in Upstate New York, launched a one-woman campaign against four bills that would cut the 2.4 percent tariff on imported dog collars and leashes. She argued that anyone familiar with the industry would realize domestic producers would find the waivers "devastating."
She said she believes that Wal-Mart and other big importers count on U.S.-based manufacturers never learning about the obscure legislation. "A lot of people just don't have the time to devote to staying on top of it," Dungey said.
Wal-Mart officials said their only motivation is to save consumers money. While the dog-collar bills would cost taxpayers more than $9 million over the next three years, the company stressed that all importers would share the benefits.
The bills' legislative sponsor, Sen. Lincoln, said in a statement that she was pleased that the Senate process had allowed Dungey to raise objections. In response, Lincoln said, the measures have been removed from consideration.
Dungey said no one had told her the tariff suspension was dead. Had she not stumbled across the mention on a Web site and spent days on research, Dungey said, she is convinced the cut in tariffs would have passed without opposition -- and led to the end of her company.