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Just three weeks ago, President Bush signed into law a new bill into law that he said marked progress towards strengthening “ethical standards that govern lobbying activities.” Congress had passed the legislation in question in August, by a 411-8 vote in the House and an 83 to 14 vote in the Senate. The bill “demands unprecedented disclosure of how lobbyists interact with lawmakers,” reported the Wall Street Journal. “Months in the making, the measure has been a major priority following the scandals of the previous, Republican-controlled Congress and represents the most ambitious effort to tighten ethics rules in a decade.”
Yes, a new day had dawned in Washington. Not really, of course. I recently received news of several fundraisers from a GOP source (that’s why only Republican lawmakers are mentioned here; Democrats are certainly holding identical events). Some highlights follow.
On September 14, the very day that Bush signed the bill into law, a number of top lobbyists sent out an invitation for a fundraiser luncheon for Pete Olson, a Texas Republican who is hoping to unseat Democratic Congressman Nick Lampson in next year’s elections. Lampson holds Tom DeLay’s old seat and is considered to be highly vulnerable.
The fundraiser was held at the Independence Avenue townhouse of Williams & Jensen, a top lobbying firm whose clients include a number of big energy and pharmaceutical firms, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The lobbyists hosting the affair included Greg Laughlin, a former congressman, John Runyan, who is a lobbyist for International Paper, and Jeff Munk, who previously helped raise money for DeLay.
Four days after Bush signed the bill, a number of lobbyists for the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America hosted a fundraiser for Senator John Thune of South Dakota at Five Guys on “H” Street in downtown Washington. For $500 per individual, $1,000 per Political Action Committee, or $2,500 per event host, Thune donors were entitled to not only a bit of time with the senator but as many burgers and fries as they could swallow.
On September 27, lobbyists for Patton Boggs hosted a breakfast fundraiser for Congressman Paul Ryan at the firm’s downtown headquarters. The invitation didn’t mention Ryan’s party (GOP) or home state (Wisconsin), but it did include the absolutely vital information that he is the Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee and also holds a seat on the House Ways & Means Committee.
One can understand why the Patton Boggs lobbyists hosting the event would want to be on good terms with Ryan. Consider, for example, Darryl Nirenberg, a former chief of staff to Senator Jesse Helms (“where he was responsible for banking, financial and legal issues”) and later counsel to the 2001 Presidential Inaugural Committee. Now he’s deputy chair of the Patton Boggs Public Policy Department, where he “protects clients’ interests before the U.S. Congress, federal agencies and the White House by focusing on parliamentary procedure and developing legislative strategies,” and specializes in matters such as domestic and international taxation, healthcare, gaming and energy.
And how about tonight? Well, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is hosting an evening fundraiser at its townhouse on New Jersey Avenue for Senator Norm Coleman, the Minnesota Republican. Coleman is pretty much in the tank for the Chamber, last year racking up a 100 percent voting record on the Chamber’s key issues, so one expects that ample thanks will be paid at tonight’s gala.
The money nexus between candidates and lobbyists is as solid as ever. Until it’s broken, Washington will remain a discount store for lobbyists seeking favors from elected officials.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Number of people stopped and frisked by the NYPD in 2011 for “furtive movements”:
The faces of Lego people were growing angrier.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature