■ By Bob Franken / Columnist A couple of generations ago, there was a story about a well-connected Washington figure who encountered a corporate type who was having trouble with government regulatory officials. “Oh,” said the insider. “I can help you with that.” Quickly, the bad situation went away. The delighted executive insisted that he be charged for the favor, and very soon thereafter, received a bill for $10,000 (remember, this was way back when). The businessman was taken aback: “That’s outrageous,” he complained. “I need you to itemize the fees.” It wasn’t long before he received another voucher: “Phone call: 10 cents. Knowing who to call: $9,999.90.” Other than inflation,
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