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Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Baltimore) sent a letter yesterday to the inspector general for the TARP program, asking what could be a relevant question about the bailout of AIG: Who is watching out for the taxpayers?

, signed by 26 other representatives,

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in the

New York Times

this morning along with a subpoena issued by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo seeking disclosure about how tens of billions of taxpayer dollars flowed through the bankrupt insurer and into the coffers of huge investment banks like Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, and France's Societe Generale and Germany's Deutsche Bank, each of which received about $12 billion.

By the clubby standards of Wall Street, Cummings is asking impertinent questions. "We would like to know if the A.I.G. counterparty payments, as made, were in the best interests of the taxpayers who provided the funding," the letter says.

It then goes on to ask whether anyone in charge tried to renegotiate the contracts to pay the banks less—what's known in the bond world as a "haircut."

This question—who gets paid, who loses?—is at the center of the bailout. And Cummings and co. are only now, six months into the mess, asking. But don't blame them. As we've seen, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve have taken pains to

, while Goldman baldly lied about its exposure to AIG.

The thing to remember is that AIG conducted itself like some kind of

, taking everybody's action and not laying off any of the bets or adjusting the odds. The money gambled was nearly all borrowed. The bailout seems designed to make the

whole, while giving taxpayers the haircuts.

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