Here is why every American should be concerned about lobbying and corruption:
* Most incumbent campaign money comes from D.C. lobbyists, not the incumbentâ€™s congressional-district constituents. Therefore the lobbyists get access to the member of Congress, not the constituents.
* The number of lobbyists in Washington has doubled in just six years.
* The number of appropriations â€œearmarkedâ€ as special favors has gone from 150 a year under President Reagan to 6300 last year under President Bush.
* Those earmarked favors are generally paybacks to the lobbyists.
* Members pressure lobbyists to hire former staffers who turn around and lobby for favors in return.
* The spouses and children of Members are hired by lobbying firms.
* Members retire to high-paying lobbying jobs.
I didn’t write that. Unity08 wrote it. Unity08 also writes this about lobbying and lobbyists:
“…the Unity08 President and Vice President will enter office not with favors owed to lobbyists and special interests but with a clear mandate from the American people…” (link)
“Unlike the other parties we don’t have lobbyists bankrolling our work.” (link)
“Generosity fills the air around the Capitol and K Street (where most lobbyists have their offices). In honor of the season of giving, Unity08 has put together the top 10 recipients of lobbyist cash* in 2006.” (link)
“Despite the elections, lobbyist corruption and bitter partisanship remain the reality in Washington â€“ proof positive that the system is broken…. Through Unity08, for the first time we are going to throw out the backroom deals…. Youâ€™ll vote. Youâ€™ll decide. Not the consultants and spin doctors. Not the special interests. Not the lobbyists.” (link)
“Americans are sick and tired of power in Washington built on lobbyist money and special interests, and of candidates paying lip service to the problem without actually doing something about it.
“Unity08 makes cleaning up the influence of lobbyist and special-interest money a defining element of its effort to win the White House in 2008…. We believe the influence of fat-cat lobbyists has gotten so bad that if Unity08 is going to transform politics, we need to start at the top â€“ in the White House. But that means if any president is going to try to talk the talk of cleaning up the lobbyist culture in Washington, he or she had better have walked the walk in the campaign…. It is essential that Washington curtail the culture of lobbying excesses, endless Congressional fundraising on K Street, earmarks for lobbyist projects, and special favors for special friends…” (link)
“Most politicians pay lip service to the dangers of special interest lobbyist money in Washington, but few do anything about it â€“except take the money.” (link)
You get the point. According to Unity08′s public communications, Lobbyists are a bad influence on politics, and need to be removed from their positions of political influence. This isn’t me saying lobbyists are bad, mind you. This is Unity08 saying it. Unity08 has been bashing lobbyists left and right, and swearing up and down that if you let Unity08 into power they won’t let lobbyists run the show. So surely Unity08 wouldn’t let lobbyists and leaders of lobbying firms into leadership positions within Unity08, would they?
A couple of days ago, I was inspired by a comment left by Tom:
Further, isnâ€™t it ironic that U08 bashes K Street, yet U08â€™s very own Board of Directors member Carolyn Tiegerâ€™s address, according to the U08 lawsuit, is on K Street?
Really? I hadn’t noticed that. So I decided to look further, and here is what I found:
Unity08′s Rules Committee, which will determine the rules by which candidates for president and vice president of the United States of America are chosen, contains lobbyists and leaders of lobbying firms.
1. Carolyn Tieger, corporate leader of lobbying firm. Tieger, who is a member of the board of directors of Unity 08 and a co-chair of the Unity08 Rules Committee that will decide the rules for choosing a U.S. presidential candidate and vice presidential candidate, listed her address as follows in the lawsuit Unity08 filed against the Federal Election Commission (FEC):
1909 K Street
Washington, DC 20006
That is the business address of Porter Novelli, where Carolyn Tieger works as partner and director of public affairs. A Porter Novelli press release details her achievements in influencing government policy on behalf of her corporate paymasters:
She is also lead communications counsel for the Asbestos Alliance and the American Beverage Association.
â€œCarolynâ€™s leadership has helped fuel the growth of Porter Novelliâ€™s business and our reputation as a top public affairs player in Washington, DC,â€ said Helen Ostrowski, chief executive officer, Porter Novelli. â€œClients trust Carolyn because she takes on the toughest issues and wins.â€
â€œShe is a hands-on strategist of rare talent with a tolerance for nothing less than top quality from herself and her team,â€ added Michael Kehs, executive vice president, Porter Novelli Public Affairs. â€œTo know her is to learn.â€
Tiegerâ€™s expertise has been forged through work in the most challenging communications environments â€“ on Capitol Hill, in the Department of Commerce and at the White House, and in more than 20 years with leading public relations agencies. In 1994, she opened the Washington office of Goddard Claussen and became a partner in the firm. There, she contributed to the unprecedented success of its â€œHarry and Louiseâ€ campaign and managed the communications campaign that resulted in permanent trade relations between the United States and China. The operation she started grew to include 20 professionals working for top clients across the city and the country, including the Business Roundtable, National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Chlorine Chemistry Council.
Did I mention that Porter Novelli is registered as an official lobbying organization before the United States Congress? Well, it is. Look it up yourself in the Senate’s disclosure database. Porter Novelli lobbies for the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association and the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan.
Carolyn Tieger: Manages Political Relations for Asbestos, Alcohol, Business Roundtable, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and the Chlorine Chemistry Council. Public Affairs Leader in a Lobbying Firm. Co-Chair of Unity08 Rules Committee.
2. Thomas Collier, registered lobbyist. Thomas Collier is, along with Carolyn Tieger, co-chair of the Unity08 Rules Committee that decides the rules for the nomination of candidates to be the next president and vice president of the United States of America. Thomas Collier is also Unity08′s primary legal counsel.
Thomas C. Collier works in the Washington, DC office of the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson. He also has worked as as lobbyist, officially registered with the U.S. Congress, for various groups since 1999. Don’t believe it? Check the U.S. Senate Lobbyist Database.
Thomas C. Collier. Registered Lobbyist, Co-Chair of Unity08 Rules Committee.
P.S. Other Steptoe and Johnson lawyers working with Thomas C. Collier for Unity08 in the organization’s lawsuit against the FEC to evade its contribution and disclosure regulations — Robert Jordan, Anthony Onorato, and John J. Duffy — are also registered lobbyists.
3. Sayuri Yamada Matthews, aka Sayuri Yamada, state lobbyist. Sayuri Yamada Matthews is a member of the Unity08 Rules Committee, which will set the rules by which Unity08 selects a presidential and a vice presidential candidate to lead the most powerful nation in the world, the United States of America.
Until late last year, Sayuri Yamada Matthews (or Sayuri Yamada, as she is known to New Mexico reporters), served as a lobbyist for the Association of Commerce and Industry, which worked to keep New Mexico’s minimum wage at the federal minimum of $5.15. Then, when that became politically unrealistic, Yamada engaged in her work as a lobbyist to push New Mexico’s state government in favor of a bill that would keep the New Mexico minimum wage from being indexed to the rate of inflation:
As Yamada sees it, her job consists not only of helping legislation get passed that helps business but also of making sure â€œbad billsâ€ donâ€™t make it to the governorâ€™s desk.
At the top of her list this session is stopping â€” or at least slowing down â€” an increase in the stateâ€™s minimum wage from the congressionally mandated level of $5.15 an hour to $7.50 an hour.
A bill proposed by Rep. Ben LujÃ¡n, D- Santa Fe, would raise the minimum wage statewide to that $7.50 level on Jan. 1, 2007. â€œWe canâ€™t support that,â€ Yamada said. â€œItâ€™s too huge of a cost in such a short period of time.â€
After being picked for the Unity08 Rules Committee, Yamada / Yamada Matthews stepped down from her role as a pro-business lobbyist. Sounds good, until you learn that she stepped down as chief lobbyist for the Association of Commerce and Industry to become a lobbyist for PNM Resources, a natural gas and electric utility company.
Sayuri Yamada / Sayuri Yamada Matthews. Business Lobbyist, Member of Unity08 Rules Committee.
4. Tieger and Collier claim in a lawsuit to be bankrolling Unity08.
Remember that quote from the Unity08 front page? “Unlike the other parties we don’t have lobbyists bankrolling our work.” Well, Carolyn Tieger and Thomas C. Collier are named plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the FEC. In that lawsuit, it is written:
The individual Plaintiffs to this suit are contributors to Unity08 and would all have contributed substantially more than $5,000 except for the threat of prosecution by the FEC that could result in civil or criminal penalties.
In short, Tieger (who is a leader of a lobbying firm) and Collier (a registered lobbyist) claim that they are “bankrolling” Unity08 indeed, and that they would like to contribute “substantially more.”
These are just the people in Unity08 leaderhip positions who I know of being lobbyists or leaders in lobbying firms. There may or may not be more. So I have two new questions for Unity08 tonight:
Carolyn Tieger is co-chair of the Unity08 Rules Committee. Thomas C. Collier is the other co-chair of the Unity08 Rules Committee. Sayuri Yamada Matthews is a member of the Unity08 Rules Committee. Tieger is a leader of Porter Novelli, a registered lobbying firm. Collier and Yamada Matthews are registered lobbyists. Are there other members of the Unity08 leadership, or employees of Unity08, who are now or have been leaders of registered lobbying firms or registered lobbyists? If so, who are they?
Carolyn Tieger is a leader of a registered lobbying firm. Thomas C. Collier is a registered lobbyist. In the lawsuit against the FEC, Tieger and Collier claim as plaintiffs that they have contributed money to Unity08 and would like to contribute “substantially more.” How does this square with the claim on Unity08′s home page that “Unlike the other parties we don’t have lobbyists bankrolling our work”?
Important, lawsuit-avoiding caveat: Look, I’m just a self-employed guy with student loans and two kids. These are people who have a lot more money and resources at their disposal than I have. So I don’t want to get my pants sued off. I also don’t want to be unfair.
For that reason, I want to make it absolutely clear that this is not meant to be a personal attack against Carolyn Tieger, Thomas C. Collier, the lawyer/lobbyists who work with Thomas C. Collier, or Sayuri Yamada Matthews. I don’t know them, and I’ve never spoken in person with them. They may be perfectly nice people. My point in writing this is not to put down lobbying as a profession per se, or to put these people down.
My point in writing this is simple: to show that while Unity08 is trying to score political points by putting on a big show of being anti-lobbying and anti-lobbyist, they’ve put lobbyists and leaders of lobbying firms in key leadership positions within their own organization. These are, to nab a term from George W. Bush, “the Deciders.” Unity08 needs to explain their choices in order to preserve whatever public trust they may have left. If Unity08 chooses not to explain their choices, they should not be surprised to find that the public does not take them seriously.