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November 29, 2005

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After years in which big-dollar dealings have come to dominate the interaction between lobbyists and [Read More]

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this comment is only marginally on topic ("money, politics, indictments") but what the hey. I received a DSCC fund-raising letter in the mail from Chuck Schumer yesterday. These are still interesting to me because I only recently got put on these Lists (for years I was not politically signed-up).

There were several flyers enclosed but the package had essentially two messages: 1. the 2006 campaign starts NOW, and 2. George Bush is a rotten guy and we ened your help to defeat him.

Obviously we are unlikely to defeat Bush in the 2006 elections since he's not technically running (though you might be excused for thinking so after reading this mailing). ...But let me work on saying something useful instad of just complaints & snide remarks.

So, first, do fund raising letters like this usually start going out the year before? Regardless, good for the DSCC for starting early.

Second, there was one flyer with a series of mugshots of Republican officials like Libby, Rove, and DeLay who have been indicted or are under investigation. It's an effective page. Contributing to the sense that they are running against the Bush regime and not really against Senators per se was the face that was missing: the highest-ranking Senator under investigation, Bill Frist himself. Why was he left out? Maybe because they really have decided this is a campaign against Bush, not against individual Senators, and Frist isn't seen as enough of a Bush consort to make the list.

Third, a thought on that strategy. Personalizing the fight is always better. Personalizing it against Bush may help -- but I wonder if it isn't limited, since of course there is no real hope of defeating him. Perhaps better to personalize it against a few vulnerable Senators who are running in '06 and have provided key votes to further Bush's agenda in the Senate.

Of course that is the boon to starting early -- there is plenty of time for them to focus on individual races in the months to come.

The K Street project was really the beginning of the end for the GOP, IMHO. Installing all those DeLay staffers, using lobbying contributions to build party front groups or just line pockets, a la Abramoff/Norquist etc. My question is whether business interests still think they have too much to gain from continued GOP control or whether they are beginning to smell a change that would give more power back to the Dems. After all, even if the GOP keeps the House and Senate, margins are going to be razor-thin. Maybe 5 seats in the House, 2 in the Senate. In that climate they will need to peel off Dem votes or lose. So will the trade associations and corporations start being bipartisan again? And after a few exposures like Tyco, perhaps a few companies will get tired of being shaken down by the GOP?

I agree this is very important, but it needs to be boiled down to a simple narrative, rather than everyone being well versed in the details:

"As the GOP ascended to power, they started insisting that companies give only to them, and in return they would pass business-friendly legislation. They did, and the GOP obliged. This was done on a scale far beyond what the Democrats ever did. Now we are neck-deep in debt and it turns pout many of those Congressmen and their aides and allies were simply on the take. Several have bene indicted for corruption and more surely will be. You have to go back to the Harding or Grant Administrations to see corruption like this."

Failed link there on Tyco. And the dems need to roll out their position on Iraq and their positive program beginning with the New year.

Point well taken, Mimikatz. This needs to be an easy story.

I've fantasized that the business capitulation to GOP will end up making it a lot easier for Dems to limit corporate influence in politics, if and when we start to wield power again. After all, we're going to have to do it without the big donors. Some big donors (by no means all) think HoHo is bad for their business and they're not giving. Well, guess what? We might succeed anyway. And if we do, we'll even have a window of time to re-regulate money in politics, before the Dems get so craven that they'll never buy in.

It's mostly fantasy, but it's a nice thought.

My more moderate hope is that Sumner Redstone will live to regret his very public break from the Dems to support Bush last year. The Telecommunication Act of 1996 happened because Dems (including my own well-loved Dingell) were disproportionately funded by telecoms and media companies. But that's changing along with Sumner's voting habits.

Yeah, the "well the Democrats were doing it, too" defense is inherently weak on its face...even if it were true, which it isn't.

And to me, being from Texas, probably the worst example of the K Street project is that of one Drew Maloney.

Maloney is not in trouble at the moment, but here is who he is. He is a former chief of staff with Tom deLay. Keep that in mind.

Now, every state gets 2 Senators to lobby on behalf of the state's interest. Texas has something called the "Office of State/Federal Relations". I do not know if other states have such an office. The OSFR is overseen by the Gov, the Lt. Gov and the Speaker of the House - all Republicans.

Drew Maloney was twice awarded a $180,000 6 month contract to lobby on behalf of the state of Texas in DC (2 such contracts were awarded, the other went to a former Kay Bailey person). Note also that Maloney's renewal for this sweetheart contract happened at about the same time as Tom deLay paid a visit to Perry and Craddick on redistricting.

So, what does this mean or "so what" - it means a few possible things:

1) The Texas Republican leadership considers their 2 Senators, Kay Bailey and John Cornyn, to be incapable of meeting their duty to get all that Texas needs to get out of Washington - I like the idea of a public debate on their competence, but not a likely outcome;

2) An alternative, The Texas Republican leadership feels so safe with their power that they can toss a $360,000 bone to a deLay man for services redundant/similar to the duties of a Senator (ie, lobby and represent the interests of the State of Texas);

3) Or, Tom deLay has such a grip on Texas politics that he can squeeze this out of the State Republican party when clearly our 2 esteemed Senators should be able to handle the job; and last

4) This is a terrible precedent for the K Street project. Should other states develop similar programs, think about what might happen - the states with the most cash get: a) the best lobbyists, and b) the lobbyists of the party in power. State's with liberal Senators are diminished in stature and the Senate as an institution becomes a farce.

So, with that in mind, I would consider it a great favor, and you in the blue states would be doing yourselves a favor, if we got the open source research going and see what we could dig up about Drew Maloney.

Is he tied to Abrimoff? What other bad things has he done (his lobbying firm touts him as being ahead of the curve on interviewing Lewinsky and managing the impeachment).

C'mon - what else were you doing today?

Thanks,
Tug

I would like to take this opportunity to agree with emptypockets that attacking Bush is a limiting strategy. Having had the misfortune of observing how narcissists deal with failure I'm pretty confident that Bush's worst enemy is Bush now, and that any effect criticising him has will be minor compared to the damage he's inflicting on himself.

We need to focus on the other bastards, especially the more obscure ones, because the real danger is allowing federal power to remain centralized and blurry after Bush is gone. Yeah, sure, it's amusing to ask wingnuts whether they'll still approve of the PATRIOT act when President (H.) Clinton is deciding who's an unlawful combatant, or of no-bid cost-plus contracts when Dennis Kucinich is in charge of appropriations. But the fact is that I don't want that either...

This is an issue that is almost taylor made for Democrats as a 2006 national campaign theme -- major lobby reform. There are a number of good goverment groups that have well worked over proposals, so I'll only mention a few. But it really is the next step following on from Campaign Finance Reform and McCain-Feingold.

One recommendation is to significantly limit the percentage of campaign expenses that can be met with funds raised outside a district or in the case of the Senate, a state. Another (used in many states) is to prohibit all fund raising activity when the Congress is in Session. Yet another is to require committee members significantly limit the contributions they can accept from interests that are the subject of committee work, breaking the connection between legislation and contributions. All of these are ideas that create distance between legislative activity and political finance -- and of course in addition to this, the whole "influence industry" needs to be much more the subject of political reporting. In this, it could well be that progressive blogs may be able to do what the MSM has not done -- namely focus on the relationships.

Yes, most states do have hired lobbies in DC, many deal with fairly non-controversial matters, such as grants for transip projects, education and health grants. Many of these are highly technical matters that normally Senate Staff are not equipted to handle. But State Voters and the legislators they elect certainly should be aware of the possibility such public lobby funds can be misused.

I agree that Bush shouldn't be the main focus, especially since the elections next year are for Congress, and we've got a target-rich environment there. But I think some pressure should constantly remain on Bush if only to break the back of the Bush dynasty and make Jeb radioactive in national politics. Also, the lower Bush goes, the more even the few non-corrupt GOP congressmen can be tagged with "why didn't you do your job and keep his insane plans under control, instead of being a rubber stamp?"

The Democrats should focus on the corruption that comes from one-party government---"Keep Washington Honest, vote Democratic" would be a good slogan.

I think the Dems really have to emphasize that when voters go to the polls, they are voting not just for a particular representative, but giving control of the legislative agenda to the leadership of that reps party. Exploit the fact that the GOP leadership is now on the far-right in districts with a lot of "moderate" voters, and emphasize that a voter for a GOP congresscritter is a vote for more fat-cat tax cuts, etc....

Sadly, there is much Political Science research suggesting voters do not translate Party Organization of Congress directly into how they vote. However you can get the same effect by making the issue something that contains that logic. So, for instance, "Lower Taxes" will drive a change in party -- and fortunately clear evidence of corruption is another driver of change in party that attracts voters. I suspect the Dem Leadership knows this well -- so next year we will see some version of waste and corruption dished up front and center. I am not worried they have not found the words for it yet -- peaking too early is a big no-no in elective politics. I would expect the rhetoric to be rolled out in mid Spring.

I'll say here what I've said elsewhere: to limit the persuasive influence of big campaign contributions, make ALL contributions anonymous, under pain of imprisonment.

It would be illegal to let a Congressman or Senator know that you had given his campaign money. If you told him so, he's have to say, "Oh, I'm terribly sorry you told me that. It's illegal to tell me that. I'm going to have to report you to the US Attorney."

Maybe you could still have fundraising dinners, but you couldn't charge more than the actual cost of the meal! Donors could come and get a personal message from the candidate, but no money could actually change hands in any way that would make the source of the contribution identifiable.

Consequence: people, corporations, unions, would only give to those candidates who they trust to do what is "right" after election, as there would be no other incentive to give.

I'll say here what I've said elsewhere: to limit the persuasive influence of big campaign contributions, make ALL contributions anonymous, under pain of imprisonment.

It would be illegal to let a Congressman or Senator know that you had given his campaign money. If you told him so, he's have to say, "Oh, I'm terribly sorry you told me that. It's illegal to tell me that. I'm going to have to report you to the US Attorney."

Maybe you could still have fundraising dinners, but you couldn't charge more than the actual cost of the meal! Donors could come and get a personal message from the candidate, but no money could actually change hands in any way that would make the source of the contribution identifiable.

Consequence: people, corporations, unions, would only give to those candidates who they trust to do what is "right" after election, as there would be no other incentive to give.

So, first, do fund raising letters like this usually start going out the year before? Regardless, good for the DSCC for starting early.

EARLY? You must be joking. The RNC and all its sub-ops NEVER stop sending fund-raising letters. The money-making machine never stops churning with them. I throw away tons--TONS--of RNC, or RNC-related mail sent via the USPS. Note: we can throw away third class mail if the addressee doesn't live there anymore. It doesn't get forwarded without a special request for that.

Another thing: The Republicans here in Texas ALREADY have their candidates lined up for the next election, for nearly every race, congressional down to dog catcher. No race is beneath them. They'll put a Republican into any office, given half a chance. And they've never stopped raising money to run the campaigns.

So the Dem party is only kinda-sorta making an effort to get their funding and candidates together with less than a year to go before the election? When the Republicans have their candidates firmed up, AND have been raising money since the LAST election? And we wonder why the Dems lose?

I've watched this happen for years now. You'd think we'd learn something by now.

On the bright side, I do think Howard Dean has a clue about this, but it takes a long time to build as efficient an organization as the Republican party. And it is efficient, like it or not.

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