MFA Courts Republican Congressman For Top Job

Jan 7 2008 | 8:27am ET

A top Republican on Capitol Hill is poised to become the chief lobbyist for hedge funds as head of the Managed Funds Association.

Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.) disclosed Friday that he is in talks to become the next president and CEO of the MFA. The lobbying group is reportedly prepared to offer Baker the nearly $1 million-per-year job, though it is still unclear if he will accept the position. The MFA acknowledged that it plans to “begin negotiations with Congressman Richard Baker as a candidate for the president/CEO position.”

Baker would replace John Gaine, who has led the MFA for more than a decade. Gaine will remain with the organization.

Baker, first elected to Congress from the Baton Rouge area in 1986, is the former chairman of the House subcommittee on capital markets, insurance and government-sponsored entities, a role in which he was noted for his efforts to reform mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Hedge funds have not been a focus of Baker in Congress, though he introduced an unsuccessful bill seeking increased disclosure for hedge funds in 1999.

The MFA’s courting of the Republican Baker comes as the hedge fund industry has avoided a flurry of potentially damaging legislation pushed by the newly-Democratic-controlled Congress. Still, hedge fund executives have overwhelmingly supported Democrats in recent election cycles, helping fund the party’s successful effort to retake both the House and Senate in 2006. Hedge fund executives are among the prominent fundraisers for presidential candidates in both parties.

Should Baker resign from Congress to take the MFA post, he would be the 20th House Republican since the 2006 election to announce his exit or retirement. The departures are complicating Republicans’ efforts to retake Congress this November, making that already remote possibility an even greater reach.

Baker has said if he does not leave the House to take the MFA job, he’ll seek reelection in the fall.

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