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  • Writer's pictureJeff Matthews

What Else is He Hiding?

Bob Ney is a Congressman, described in today’s New York Times as “until recently…an obscure, sometimes eccentric, lawmaker from Ohio.”

He also—judging by the color headshot of the Congressman in the paper just below the fold—wears a wig.

I point this out not to make fun of the Congressman in question, who has enough troubles as it is, being identified as “Representative No. 1” in court documents filed as part of the Jack Abramoff bribery scandal.

Indeed, the Congressman, whose contribution to toppling Saddam and supporting American troops around the world was—I am not making this up—enforcing use of the term “Freedom Fries” in place of “French Fries” at the House cafeteria, may be a very decent guy. Or, he might be as bad as they come. I don’t have any idea.

But why would a Congressman—a guy who gets photographed every day of his life, shaking hands at breakfast, speachifying at lunch, walking across the wind-whipped steps of the Capital building to some immediately forgettable news conference about, well, calling them “Freedom Fries” instead of “French Fries”—wear a toupee?

Especially a toupee that, in the old expression of comedian Robert Klein, looks pretty much like a giant piece of lettuce, even in the not-exactly-high-resolution photo on the front page of the New York Times?

Perhaps it’s the self-deluding nature of politicians in general and Congresspeople in particular, who think—like that ex-Vietnam Vet from California who resigned last year—they can take bribes in return for votes, and nobody will ever find out.

And maybe they’re right.

Perhaps the average American voter does not share the common feeling among friends of mine on Wall Street that you “Never trust a CEO who wears a toupee.”

This may sound heartless, trite, or absurdly simplistic, but, at the core of the matter is Warren Buffett’s old dictum that “a CEO who misleads others in public may eventually mislead himself in private.”

For example, I always suspected Tyco CFO Mark Swartz of wearing an unusually good rug of very curly fake hair. I thought that the first time I saw him face to face at the ballroom of the Plaza Hotel when he and Dennis announced the breakup plan that led to their downfall, and I thought it every time I saw his picture in the papers heading into or out of the court room over the next couple of years.

Sure enough, when Swartz showed up for his sentencing in September, the curls were no longer visible, having been replaced by a baseball cap. Now, I may still be wrong about him wearing a rug, but after his conviction, one of the jurors who voted to convict said many of the jurors had concluded Mark Swartz was “an extremely good liar”—quote/unquote.

I could be wrong about Congressman Ney, both rug-wise and what-else-is-he-hiding-wise. Only his wife, and his hairdresser, knows for sure.

Jeff Matthews I Am Not Making This Up

© 2005 Jeff Matthews

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Matthews. Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews’ recommendations.

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