Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Money-ethics-money-ethics . . .

By Carol Gee

The mother's milk of politics is golden -- As with McCain-Feingold, in the days of old, Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain recently called lobbyists "birds of prey," according to But this was a very new development in his campaign. "The topic of lobbyists is sensitive for McCain because several of his top aides had lucrative lobbying practices," the story explained. The problem is that Senator McCain talks a good game regarding campaign financing, but the unfolding of his own campaign belies his rhetoric.

McCain's top foreign policy adviser is Randy Scheunemann. Zachary Roth at TPM Muckraker (8/26/08) says, for example, "Scheunemann Lobbied Against Bill to Keep Guns From Terrorists." So this is not over, as McCain tries to down play this ethics story. And the Republican convention promised to be written as a very different lobbying influenced event, in the opinion of Think Progress. Like crows attracted to shiny objects, lobbyists flock to where the money gathers.

Investigative reporters are also curious. Paul Kiel, who used to be at TPMMuckraker, is now at ProPublica. On point on Monday (8/25/08), he posted this great piece, "Partying Under Adversity." To quote:

It depends on how you look at it. This week's Democratic National Convention (and in September, the Republican convention) is a week-long orgy for special interest money, same as it ever was. Alternatively, what was once the quadrennial triumph for corporations and lobbying firms, the Olympics for influence peddling, has been ruined by a litany of new ethics rules; those brave enough to even put on an event are doing so in an atmosphere of fear.

. . . This year's conventions are the first to occur under the 2007 lobbying ethics and reform bill, which among other things, further limited what gifts a lawmaker could receive and what sort of events they could attend.

Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas' curiosity was raised by an invitation to a Denver convention party. Kos posted about it with "Lobbyist central" the day before yesterday. It is an illustration of whether or not any "adversity" is really involved with the party hosts. To quote:

I just got an invitation for the "Spirits of Denver" party, . . August 25, 2008. Here are the sponsors. See if you can figure out the pattern:

Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (lead sponsor)
2008: 59% Dems, 41% Reps
2006: 48% Dems, 48% Reps
2004: 39% Dems, 61% Reps
2002: 32% Dems, 68% Reps
Lockheed Martin
2008: 57% Dems, 43% Reps
2006: 42% Dems, 58% Reps
2004: 41% Dems, 59% Reps
2002: 39% Dems, 61% Reps
. . . seeing the political winds turn, they [PACS] are working feverishly to buy the Democratic Party so that government can continue the same destructive policies that have gotten us to today's messes.

While Obama may not be taking PAC money, most other Democrats aren't following suit. And while there are many PACs friendly to progressive principles, the group hosting and funding this party is not.

In the midst of all this, the House Ethics Committee is without its chairman, the late Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who recently died tragically of a brain hemorrhage. The consequences of her loss were explored by's John Bresnehan on 8/21/08: "House shocked by Tubbs Jones' death." To quote:

Still shocked by the death of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones Wednesday, Democratic insiders don’t expect House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move quickly in replacing the Ohio Democrat as chairwoman of the House ethics committee.

. . . Democratic insiders said Pelosi faces a challenge in balancing the need for a working ethics committee against showing proper respect for Tubbs Jones, a five-term member whose death was the seventh by a sitting House member during this 110th Congress.

References on presidental campaign financing:

  • "In a shift, Obama rejects public funding" -- Boston Globe (6/20/08). To quote:

    Barack Obama rejected public funding for the fall presidential campaign yesterday, a dramatic blow to 1970s good-government reform that has been overwhelmed by an explosion of private money.

    John McCain confirmed later yesterday that he will take $84.1 million in taxpayer funding for the general election, and accused Obama of reneging on a pledge to do the same. "He has completely reversed himself and gone back, not on his word to me, but the commitment he made to the American people," McCain told reporters.

  • "Election panel sides with McCain" -- Los Angeles Times (8/15/08). To quote:

    Republican John McCain won a round against Democrats on Thursday when the Federal Election Commission rejected their contention that he violated campaign finance laws during the GOP primary.

    The FEC's draft opinion affirms McCain's right to bypass the public financing system and the spending limits that come with it.

The body politic has yet a ways to go on all this.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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