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Did Lynn Tilton make a"Wag the Dog" mistake?

Lynn Tilton
Source: Singularity University
Lynn Tilton

In the climactic final scene of the movie "Wag the Dog," fictional Hollywood producer Stanley Motss, (played brilliantly by Dustin Hoffman), seals his fate by insisting that the world learn of all he did to help the President avoid a major scandal. We don't actually see him get bumped off, but the audience knows it's happening simply by the sad look Robert De Niro's political strategist character gives the Secret Service guard.

What the fictional Mr. Motss didn't understand was that even when you're on the same side of any given politician, it's never wise to insist on getting the credit for saving or helping that politician get ahead. There's a reason why we have terms like, "power behind the throne," and, "private guru." Once a politician's handler or adviser becomes too visible, something bad is about to happen to that person. And if that person isn't a government employee and happens to be a wealthy private citizen, watch out for serious accusations and maybe even actual criminal charges coming from all sides. It's too easy to appear way too conspicuous in the eyes of attention hungry and sometimes vindictive politicians.

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And Patriarch Partners CEO Lynn Tilton has been nothing but conspicuous for years. Since 2010, she has openly and repeatedly berated the Obama administration for not crediting her for certain changes she says she suggested it make to the TARP program. She even accused presidential speechwriters of deliberately plagiarizing her writing and inserting entire paragraphs of it into President Obama's 2010 State of the Union Address. At the same time, she's been a frequent outspoken critic of other White House policies. And she's been "out there" with a reality show, a blog, and many other public appearances.

None of the above is against the law and, being in the media business myself, I absolutely applaud Tilton for not being shy about her beliefs. I think if more businesswomen were encouraged to do this, the world would be a better place. But I also have a sinking feeling that her outspoken behavior helped make her appear to be a dangerous rival to the Obama team and a real target to regulators. And this week, Tilton was charged for allegedly defrauding her clients.

Given that, it's no surprise that one of Tilton's defenders is the equally flamboyant and very public Mark Cuban. Appearing on CNBC's Squawk Box today, Cuban said he sees lots of red flags in the Tilton case similar to the red flags he saw in the government's failed insider trading case against him in 2013. Cuban believes the SEC saw him as a "skin on the wall," because he was such a well-known celebrity. Tilton would be a similar "trophy" for the feds.

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It's one thing if a comedian, oil company executive, or a prominent Republican attacks the White House. But when it's someone like Lynn Tilton, who happens to be a part of a demographic this White House and the Democrats consider to be a key support group, that could put you under the kind of prosecutorial spotlight no one wants.

Tilton is coming back swinging and we'll hear more about that on Power Lunch during the 1pm eastern time hour.

Commentary by Jake Novak, supervising producer of "Power Lunch." Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.