An Arizona businessman received almost $2 billion in government subsidies to invest in a savings and loan institution through the lobbying efforts of a former aide to President Bush. The same businessman was also able to buy a bank in Oklahoma, despite his failure to meet federal standards. He did this with a personal investment of $1,000.

I am sure that the question you're asking is, how does anyone manage to get a deal like that? Strangely enough, a lot of it involves friendship -- or one man's love for another. I'm not talking about homosexual love, but rather the love someone has for a person who attended the same school, or who served in the same outfit in the armed services, or who belongs to the same country club.

It is this bonding that's responsible for billions of dollars flying out the window and ending up on the taxpayers' floor.

Let me give you an illustration: Winterbottom has always had his heart set on buying an S&L. So he calls up Duquesne, his old roommate from Dancy Tech, who happens to be a consultant in Washington with reputed connections to the Lincoln Room in the White House.

Winterbottom says, "I'd like to strike it rich by purchasing an S&L, and I thought that for old times' sake, you could help me out. I am willing to put up $14.50 of my own money so that the government regulators know I'm serious."

Duquesne replies, "I'd be happy to help you acquire an S&L. You are a good friend of mine, and the people I'll be talking to are also good friends of mine. That's the beauty of the consulting business -- you only deal with friends. Of course, if you get the bank, I hope that I can borrow a few bucks when I need them."

Winterbottom asks, "How much?"

"Eight or 9 million. I'll put up my tennis racket as collateral."

Winterbottom responds, "I don't see any problem with that kind of loan. How are you going to arrange for me to get my bank?"

"First, I'll go to the FDIC and talk to Scooter. You remember Scooter. He played halfback at Dancy the year we went there. I'll tell him that one of our boys needs an S&L in the worst way, and if he doesn't come up with a bank, he has made a mockery of our friendship."

"Will that be persuasive enough?" Winterbottom wants to know.

Duquesne assures him it will. "Scooter owes me one. I treated him and his wife to a trip to Paris on the Concorde. What's more, I'm taking him duck-shooting for Thanksgiving. When it comes to S&Ls, Scooter is like my brother."

"When do you think Scooter will give me an S&L?"

"He can't give you one. He can only recommend that you get one from Hogarth, who also happens to be a good friend of mine. Hogarth and I are in the same PTA, so he trusts me. He can't actually give you one, either, but he can make sure that no one sits on your application."

Winterbottom declares, "I didn't know that acquiring one lousy S&L involved so much work."

Duquesne says, "It's not a lot of work, but you have to touch a lot of bases. That's what consultants do. The one thing Washington hates is dealing with people it doesn't know."