Saturday, August 2, 2014

Camp Kotok 2014

Every year some of the nation's top economists, investment professionals and a number of newsies make the trek to Leen's Lodge for a few days of fishing and conversation. And the conversation can be intense. 
Leen's Lodge is a 60 year old Maine institution located in a part of Maine that you can't get to from here. Thankfully it's just around the corner from Mrs. Cedar's family home in Lincoln, sort of.

I'll leave the insider's look at what has become known as Camp Kotok to Tony D'Souza the link to his piece from back in March of this year which is here. Tony penned the detailed essay based on his visit to Grand Lake Stream, Maine last year.

The reports from Camp Kotok are somewhat slow to emerge, first everyone wants an invite to next year, second Chatham House Rules which are steadfastly honored keep a lot of what is discussed on the down low.

Photo Credit: Cedar Posts

Thankfully David Kotok brings in a few well seasoned writers and a number of investment advisors who are well suited for delivering the news from Camp Kotok.
Here's a sampling.....
Andrea Riquier:
What Top Economists, Investors See Next Year

Every summer, wealth management firm Cumberland Advisors' chief executive, David Kotok, convenes a few dozen of the most successful economists and investors in the deep woods of Maine for fishing, conversation, and thoughtful discussion. A staple of "Camp Kotok" is an annual survey that asks participants for their bets on various economic indicators a year hence. 

Andrea's full article for Investors Business Daily is here.

Spencer Jakab:

Call it the one that got away

An annual fishing trip that brings together economists and money managers in rural Maine is unique. For one thing, it’s devoid of presentations. And organizer David Kotok, chief executive of money manager Cumberland Advisors, strictly guards participants’ privacy. But he provides a window into the collective view through a betting pool on what all manner of financial indicators will be when the group reconvenes in a year.

The rest of his take away from Leen's Lodge is here

John Maudlin:
John, tip toes around the investment discussions at Camp Kotok but zeros in on the Maine Governor's race. Normally I'd pull a few excerpts and lay down a link, however John's take on the Gov buried in a report on China. Which is worth reading as well so here's the link. But let's get to Camp Kotok, I'll skip China, and jump right to it, here's John Maudlin: 

Tonight finds me in Grand Lake Stream, Maine, at Camp Kotok at Leen’s Lodge (highly recommended), where I’ve spent the first Friday of August for the last eight summers with my youngest son, Trey. This annual ritual has been a special time for me, marking the years as my youngest son has grown into a young man. And the reminder is made physical by the pictures in my phone. There are a few more tattoos and other things that make the old-fogey dad a little uncomfortable, but as we sit and catch fish I remember the 12-year-old kid who caught his first fish. He still has the same joy and facial expressions. Where did my little boy go? It’s hard for me to think back over how fast the time has flown.
Philosophical moment. Most of us of with older children experience the phenomenon of how fast our children grow up. It is both thrilling and uncomfortable. But life around us has otherwise tended to flow on smoothly, for the most part. What if the life we experience also changes rapidly in the future, which I think is the likely probability? Does the difficulty we have dealing with how quickly our children grow and change suggest that we will also find ourselves challenged in dealing with accelerating change in the world around us? Just asking…
I had the privilege here of sitting next to Paul LePage, who is the governor of Maine and running a very competitive and combative race for reelection. His problem is that the local media hates him, although he has won over a significant portion of the population with the substantial successes that he has had in the last four years. He has turned Maine around from being an economic joke and a disaster case into a state that is more than respectable. Maine’s unemployment rate has gone from being among the worst to being among the best. Taxes are significantly down. Growth is up. He’s reduced the welfare rolls from 27% to 19%.

Maine Gov Paul LePage talking to Camp Kotok guests Photo Credit: Maine Governor's Office 

He is an interesting character. I’ve been around politicians for the last 35 years, at all levels. And while I’m not significantly involved in politics today, there was a time when I was really into it. After a while, it dawns on you that there are politicians on both teams who are there for the personal benefits they can grab as opposed to the passion they bring to the table. Sadly, the first group is much larger than the second.
Paul is one of the passionate ones. Actually rather extremely so. Four years ago he was a businessman who got fed up and decided to run for governor, and in a very odd election year won as a Republican in a very deep-blue state. In the world of politics strange things happen.
Paul is rather outspoken, which is what has gotten him in trouble with the media. (Besides the fact that he is a libertarian in a state with a very liberal media.) He tells a story about Barbara Bush, who was with him at a collegiate event last year and asked if she could speak to him in private. Who tells Barbara Bush no? She leaned into his ear and said, “Governor, it is very important to get reelected. Maine needs you. Zip it!” He said “Yes ma’am” and has been a good boy ever since (at least on a relative basis).
Given his views and track record, if LePage were governing a state with a population of 10 million (Maine has 1.3 million), the media would be following him as a potential presidential candidate. As it is, he is off everyone’s radar screen. Unless you are in Maine. As I sat at the table and listened to him rattle off businesslike answers to question after question posed by members of the media (for the purposes of this dinner I got to sit with Bloomberg and a few of the other big dogs – go figure), I saw a man who translated his personal philosophy into practical solutions.
Sometimes his solutions were nuanced, but he decided to simply override his Democratic legislature, which wanted to postpone what he felt was a needed nursing home subsidy until after the election cycle – a delay that would have meant even more much-needed nursing homes in Maine would be closing down. He mandated the expenditure in a somewhat Obama-like fashion (or at least that’s what it sounds like to me, but then I’m just a country boy from Texas).
Governor LePage is an original. I’m not sure how he would play on a national stage, but he fits right into my image of Maine over the last 30 years. And I would make him an honorary Texan in about two heartbeats.
That’s all the news from Maine, where the world is a perfect sunset, the fish are all biting (we caught 36 today), and all the children are forever young. Have a great week and enjoy the wild ride into the Age of Transformation.
Your sometimes wishing things would slow down analyst,
John Mauldin


Anonymous said...

Thanks Cedar for pointing out something I've only heard about in the financial press. You've made it main stream.

Anonymous said...

John has a great take on Paul LePage, but polls show there's not a snowball's chance in hell he'll be re-elected, since Maine is determined to elect the Nation's first openly gay governor. What a sad addition to the history books.

Anonymous said...

I've been north of there in Danforth there is a camp as well can't recall the name, but it was on a lake that bordered Canada.

Anonymous said...

Interesting links. Besides the media types who was there?

Anonymous said...

I'd love to had been there. Love Maine.