In many a congressman’s heart there is a dream, a dream to one day use the contacts and friendships you’ve created on Capitol Hill and turn them into a million-dollar career as a lobbyist exploiting the system for earmarks and personal wealth. These congressmen fall asleep pondering when they will visit the pearly revolving door and how much better life will be when spin through it. For those with the dream there is nothing worse than ripping it away from them. Fear of facing constituents that want to turn your head into an ornament on Col. Kurtz’ front yard doesn’t faze you. Nor does the fear of an imminent indictment in a wide-ranging public corruption case involving the very people you wish to be. No, for one dreamer (and he’s not the only one), Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), what drove him to forgo reelection was the fear of losing his chance to cash out.Continue reading
Jeffrey Birnbaum’s column in today’s Washington Post is a must-read for anyone who wants to see the level to which serious money has invaded the world of Washington lobbying. It’s also a reminder of the enduring importance of the revolving door that shuttles people back and forth between Capitol Hill and K Street, ground zero for Washington’s lobbyist community.
Normally the windfall for Hill staffers comes when they move from the Capitol to K Street. In this case, the windfall – amounting to nearly $2 million – was a severance package given to an ex-lobbyist moving in the opposite direction.Continue reading
- Roll Call reports that the lobbying reform bill is "stuck in limbo" thanks to the inclusion of 527 reform in the House reform package. Does anybody think that this bill is going anywhere? No. It doesn't matter much since the reforms that are included in the bills fall far short of what is needed to fix the problems in Congress. It does demonstrate that even after such high-profile guilty pleas and investigations that the leaders in Congress refuse to fix the inherent problems in the system that led to those abuses and guilty pleas.
- Glenn Reynolds provides a Pork Busters update at Instapundit. He provides links to a Heritage Foundation report on reforming the budget process, the new-fangled Pork Busters site, and to a group that has the name Sunlight in its name.
- If Homeland Security is supposed to be so important (and personally I think not getting blown up and emergency disaster assitance are pretty important things) then please explain why everyone wants to cash out of the Department. The New York Times wants to know too:
"If homeland security is the central concern of the Bush administration, one wonders how it managed to create a department in which so many of the top brass were so eager to quit the crusade so soon and cash in so efficiently. But the worst effect of this kind of take-the-money-and-run mentality is on the people left behind. How many of them, having watched others land lucrative jobs as lobbyists, will temper their own judgments about what systems to buy and what consultants to use with an eye on their own private-sector prospects?"
- The San Bernardino Sun keeps reporting on the lobbying and earmarking scandal surrounding their local congressman [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.). San Bernardino County released 3,500 pages of documents related to their contacts with Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White, the lobbying firm in question in the scandal. The documents reveal that San Bernardino used the lobbying firm to develop "strategies to get federal funding," work on "problems with endangered species," and "arranging meetings with senator and Congressmen". The key question is why on earth did a county represented by Lewis need to hire a lobbying firm to make contact with their representative. This should be completely unnecessary and it looks rather peculiar.
- And finally a noted conservative opponent of earmarking, [sw: Mike Pence] (R-Ind.), defended his own earmarks to CongressDaily. Pence, who has been a vocal opponent of earmarking and pork-barrel funding, was forced to defend two earmarks that he placed into the recently passed Transportation-Treasury appropriations bill. Pence's spokesman stated that the congressman, "stands by his earmark requests." Pence also stated that he supports earmark reform but does not wish to do away with the process entirely. Of course, his defense of his own earmarks sounds much like the defense given by so many others who have been criticized.
- The print media in Illinois continues to run with [sw: Dennis Hastert]'s land deal, a story that Bill Allison started here at Sunlight. The Chicago Tribune ran a big article over the weekend that included denials of wrongdoing by Hastert and his partners that centered around the incorrect distance of 5.5 miles from the proposed freeway to the land (maps show that the distance is between 2.5 and 3 miles, a distance that Hastert's partner Dallas Ingemunson confirms). The key point in the Trib article comes towards the end where we learn that Hastert has purchased 126 acres in Kendall County with the same business partners. Looks like he intends on receiving continued profits from the federal projects that he is pushing.
- At least 90 former Homeland Security officials from DHS and the White House's Office of Homeland Security left their government jobs to earn millions as lobbyists, executives, and consultants for companies seeking funds from these agencies, according to the New York Times.
- The Department of Homeland Security found the missing letter that [sw: Duke Cunningham] sent to urge the issuance of a contract to Shirlington Limousines. Defense contractor Mitchell Wade's plea agreement contained allegations that Shirlington was hired by Brent Wilkes, alleged Cunningham briber, to ferry prostitutes to the now jailed congressman as payment for his earmarking services. A grand jury is investigating Shirlington's connections to the Cunningham case and their government contracts.
- The lobbying firm at the center of the ethics cloud surrounding Appropriations Chairman [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA) is breaking up, according to the San Bernardino Sun. The two Democrats who are partners at the firm are bolting due to the investigations into two of the three Republican partners. No more shall we refer to the firm as Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White. The firm will now be referred to as Lowery Denton & White. Soon it will probably be called Denton.
There's a terrific front page story today in the New York Times on the revolving door between former employees of the Department of Homeland Security (and other domestic security positions in the government) and the private sector. I was surprised -- but not shocked -- at the large numbers of high level officials who've served at this still young government agency who are now reaping big bucks in the private sector. The Times has posted the full list of former domestic security officials and where they are now working that they used for their study. but alas, it's not in a searchable form. That's a lost opportunity for others who might want to take what they've learned thus far and dig deeper.Continue reading
On Sunday, the Washington Post's David S. Hilzenrath reported a rather high profile example of on all too common Washington phenomenon: the former government official who, out of office, cashes in on his expertise. Hilzenrath reported on William Cohen, who spent two dozen years in Congress representing Maine (the first six in the House, the balance in the Senate), then served as Bill Clinton's second-term Secretary of Defense. Cohen, of course, is by no means an isolated case. The practice of former government officials, who understand how their old agencies work, have longstanding professional relationships and in some cases personal friendships with their old colleagues, and the ability to influence government decisions to the benefit of narrow special interests (their clients) has been an ongoing problem that Congress has made little attempt to address. In 1996, Congress banned the top negotiators of U.S. international trade policy, the U.S. Trade Representative and the Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, from ever representing foreign governments in trade negotiations; however, all other officials in that office are free to sell their services to the highest bidder on leaving office.Continue reading
A couple of days ago, Political Money Line -- a high-priced political money research firm -- released an analysis (scroll down for a summary) of a new database that shows that 318 former members of Congress are now lobbyists. Seems like it could be really interesting information, but alas, you don't get much more than a headline from this fee-based service unless you are a subscriber. (And we're not subscribers.)
From an article in The Hill (also subscription based!) we get some highlights:Continue reading
Political Money Line released a report yesterday that shows that 318 ex-lawmakers currently work as lobbyists in Washington. The Hill reports, "Washington is a seductive force, according to a new report that finds it has become routine for members of Congress to take jobs on K Street after retiring from public service — rather than returning to their home districts." Another 120 and you'd have a shadow Congress operating out of K Street.Continue reading
- The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Jack Abramoff will be sentenced today in a Florida court.
- The Washington Post follows up on the report issued by the Minority Office of the House Committee on Government Reform on contracting abuses by the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root. According to the Post, “Pentagon auditors have challenged $45 million worth of company costs, out of $365 million in charges that were reviewed. … In one case, the government's contracting officials reported that KBR attempted to inflate its cost estimates by paying a supplier more than it was due. In another, KBR cut its cost estimates in half after it was pressed on its true expenses. In a third, KBR billed for work performed by the Iraqi oil ministry.”
- The Government Accountability Office released a report warning that, “Incentives for oil and gas companies that drill in the Gulf of Mexico will cost the federal government at least $20 billion over the next 25 years,” according to the New York Times. The government could also lose “$80 billion in revenue … over the same period if oil and gas companies won a new lawsuit that seeks a further reduction in their royalty payments.” The GAO notes that “the Interior Department, which runs the offshore leasing program, had never carried out a ‘robust’ cost-benefit analysis of the original program or of incentives added in the last five years.”
- Raw Story reports that a biography of Jack Abramoff prepared by his lawyers as a plea for leniency states that the lobbyist is ashamed of the profanity used in a 1980s anti-communist movie he produced titled “Red Scorpion.” Abramoff, however, is not ashamed of making the movie in South African-occupied Namibia or from using money and assistance provided by the apartheid regime of South Africa. Cast and crew members also allege that many of them were never paid for their work.
- The Cincinnati Post reports that, “A federal appeals court Tuesday ordered a Washington congressman [Rep. Jim McDermott (D)] to pay West Chester Republican John Boehner $700,000 for leaking an illegally taped phone conversation between Boehner and then-Speaker Newt Gingrich.”
- The head of the Environmental Protection Agency was the featured speaker at a Colorado fundraiser for Rep. Rick O’Donnell (R-CO). The Denver Post reports that, “The guests included representatives from El Paso Natural Gas, the Colorado Mining Association and the Colorado Petroleum Association. El Paso and member companies of the two associations have activities that come under federal environmental regulations.”
- The revolving door continues to spin as TNR’s The Plank reports that former Senator Howard Baker, who, until last year, was our ambassador to Japan, has registered to lobby for “Toshiba Corporation on ‘Consultations with eh [sic] appropriate members of the Executive and Legislative branches of the federal government, and the applicable agencies on CFIUS and antitrust matters, all related to Toshiba Corporation's acquisition of Westinghouse Electric Company.’”
- The Hill reports that House Republicans have vowed to pass campaign finance laws restricting donations to 527-organizations.
The former head USAID Andrew Natsios, interviewed in Newsweek, claims that the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ruled Iraq after Saddam’s fall, was not prepared for the rebuilding of Iraq and let “ill-qualified or corrupt contractors” dominate the rebuilding process. “They didn't have [monitoring] systems set up. They were very dismissive of these processes,” he stated. Others are speaking out on contractor fraud and corruption including the watchdog group Transparency International, which claimed that the contractor fraud could become “the biggest corruption scandal in history.” Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT), who has investigated fraud allegations states, “The administration seems to have a deaf ear to this issue … When you have men and women dying on the battlefield and you have corruption, then you've got a problem.” The Defense Department refused to send auditors to Iraq until numerous pleas and corrupt practices brought them to send a team to Qatar, a thousand miles away from Baghdad. The Inspector General at the Pentagon oversaw the auditing practice of rewarding and monitoring contracts – until he left his position to take a job with Blackwater USA, one of the top Pentagon contractors in Iraq.Continue reading