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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
For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.
One Friday evening, the refugees’ half of the sidewalk was demarcated by police barriers, and a line of officers slouched at ease in the street, some with yellow bullhorns hanging from their necks. At the very end of the street, where the National Diet glowed white and strange behind other buildings, a policeman set up a microphone, then deployed a small video camera in the direction of the muscular young people in drums against fascists jackets who now, at six-thirty sharp, began chanting: “We don’t need nuclear energy! Stop nuclear power plants! Stop them, stop them, stop them! No restart! No restart!” The police assumed a stiffer stance; the drumming and chanting were almost uncomfortably loud. Commuters hurried past along the open space between the police and the protesters, staring straight ahead, covering their ears. Finally, a fellow in a shabby sweater appeared, and murmured along with the chants as he rounded the corner. He was the only one who seemed to sympathize; few others reacted at all.
Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:
Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.
An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”
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