"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The K Street Project

The so-called K Street Project was a potent tool for increasing Republican power. It was designed to force lobbying firms to purge Democrats, hire Republicans, and direct their contributions to Republican members and their political action committees. The House Republicans redoubled their earlier efforts to prevent their members from dealing with any lobbyists with Democratic connections. In the past, Democrats had sought contributions from lobbyists and the firms they represented. The Republicans broke new ground by demanding that these people and their firms sharply reduce what they contribute to Democrats. Republican members were also expected to shun environmental lobbyists and those for other causes favored by the Democrats.

Majority Leader Tom DeLay ruled that members should investigate lobbyists to be certain they have no connections to Democrats and do not work for corporations that have donated money to the Democratic Party. Democrats tried to bring Representative Oxley before the ethics committee when he insisted that the Investment Company Institute either fire Democrat Julie Domenick or get a Republican to work with her. Oxley, a member of the Financial Services Committee, was pressing for an investigation of how mutual funds disclose their fees to investors, and the Democrats use this connection to claim a breach of ethics. When DeLay was too obvious about refusing to deal with one firm’s representatives because its board chairman was a Democrat, the House Ethnics Committee found it necessary to issue a mild reprimand. In the Senate, former leader Trent Lott led a similar effort. Rush Limbaugh joined the effort by urging Republican House members to avoid lobbyist Linda Daschle, wife of the Senate minority leader.

The result of this so-called K Street Project is that Republican activists have been hired as lobbyists. Their chief loyalty is to their party, not the firms the represent and they channel almost all their firms contributions to the GOP In the past. The Republican Congressional leadership has learned how to exploit lobbyists to the fullest extent. Without making political contributions, firms learned they could not do business in Washington. The private e-mail of Westar Energy Inc. of Kansas said it was necessary to give to Republican POACs “to get a seat at the table.” The House Republicans redoubled their earlier efforts to prevent their members from dealing with any lobbyists with Democratic connections. Republicans rewarded contributing firms by allowing their lobbyists to sit with House committees in drafting legislation. These people often have desks in staff areas and draft legislation on government computers. In an effort to create a poll of lobbyists who were friendly to the Republican Party, De Lay called in lobbyists and lectured them about their hiring practices and political donations. He was equipped with data provided by Grover Norquist on each lobbying operation. His message was simple, “If you want to play in our revolution, you have to live by our rules.” In 1996, GOP Chairman Haley Barbour and house leaders delivered the same blunt message to a meeting of CEOs. In theory, the strategy created an endless loop in which former Republican Congressmen and staffers occupied high-paying lobbying position, pumping huge amounts into the party, and electing more and more Republican senators and representatives.

Under Senator Rick Santorum, some Senate Republicans have joined the K Street Project, but lobbyists have not greatly increased their legislative roles in that chamber, Democrats had sought contributions from lobbyists and the firms they represented. The Republicans broke new ground by demanding that these people and their firms sharply reduce what they contribute to Democrats The mandatory hiring of Republican lobbyists was the key element in a carefully crafted play to lock Republicans into control of both Houses of Congress. It was expected that these highly partisan lobbyists would maximize contributions to Republican campaigns at the federal and state level. In return, they received more access to those in power; and, in the House, actually sat in on the drafting of legislation. Their funds at the state level helped elect Republican legislature that redrew Congressional and local district lines, creating many more invulnerable Republican seats. Of course, the two seats given by the Constitution to small, rural states enabled the party to slowly expanded on that great advantage facilitated the GOP hold on the Senate.

The result was that the GOP receives twice as much money as the Democrats from firms maintaining lobbyists in Washington. Tom De Lay had close ties with Republican lobbyists, particularly Jack Abramoff, and rose in the leadership by obtaining funds from lobbyists for other Republicans. Abramoff was the most successful Washington lobbyist and was a long-time intelligence asset for the apartheid regime in South Africa. His friend Bob Ney, chairman of the House Administration Committee, was the informal “Mayor of Capitol Hill” and used his power to reward Congressmen who cooperated with De Lay. He was also close to the lobbyists and openly pulled strings to help them.

When the Electronic Industries Alliance hired a former Democratic congressman rather than a Republican, the EIA found that its legislation was stalled. Lobbyists also learned that they could not access Karl Rove unless Norquist first cleared them. Rove’s appointments secretary had worked for key Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whom DeLay had described as his best friend. Norquist, who stands at the center of the GOP policy apparatus, proclaimed, “What the Republicans need is 50 Jack Abramoffs.” Lobbying firms learned to clear hires with Senator Rick Santorum and either DeLay or House Republican whip Roy Blunt. The K Street Strategy has produced a corps of lobbyists who are Republican Party operatives, whose first loyalty was to the Republican Party. A Senate Committee chaired by John McCain looked into some of Abramoff’s questionable relations with Indian tribes and found that some of their payments were channeled to political consultant Ralph Reed through Norquist’s Americans for Tax Justice and that Norquist took a processing fee. This finding should result in the powerful group losing its tax exemption.

One of the most interesting DeLay-Abramoff operations began in 1997, when DeLay visited Moscow ostensibly to meet religious people there. When he returned, he was working with a little-known Bohemian company and a London lawyer and--of course Abramoff-- to obtain legislation providing for the International Monetary Fund to assist certain Russian companies held by holdovers from the old Soviet regime. In return for this work, DeLay’s U.S. Family Network received $1,000,000 from the former Communists. According to the former chairman of its board, the network also received money from textile sweatshops in the Marianas that forced women to have abortions and backed prostitution. It was forced to pay a substantial fine for using its money for political advertisements. The real power behind the US Family Network was Ed Buckham, once De Lay’s chief of staff. The former chairman of the board said the organization operated to benefit Abramoff.

In May ABC reported that Speaker Dennis Hastert was a Justice Department target in the Abramoff scandal, but the Speaker denied it. Earlier, a major magazine hadrevealed that translator Sybil Edmonds had reported that Hastert had received $100,000 from the Turkish lobby, but a federal court subsequently gagged her. Hastert was also connected with a $207 million appropriation earmark to build a freeway west of Chicago, about five miles from some land he owned. He had a 67 acre farm in the name of his wife and a similar farm owned by him and two political associates. The highway made it possible for him to turn a $1.8 milli0on profit selling the land to a developer. This is what historians call “honest graft,” but he was infuriated when the Chicago press reported the story.

The Speaker had angered the Department of Justice when he criticized the FBI for raiding the office of Louisiana Democrat Bill Jefferson and carting off papers. The FBI refused to permit the Counsel of the House of Representatives or his attorney to witness the search. Jefferson had been stung in a sting operation accepting $100,000, (90,000 of which he deposited in his freezer). Jefferson had been deeply involved in assisting Americans do business in Nigeria and neighboring states. It has been speculated that he had files a huge bribe Halliburton paid in bribes to get a gas liquefaction contract. That was said to have occurred when Dick Cheney was chairman of the conglomerate. The FBI also searched the Pontiac, Maryland,home of the likely 2007 Nigerian presidential candidate Atiku Abubaker in an effort to scoop up and contain documents on the Halliburton bribe. The raid of a ranking foreign national was unprecedented.

Jack Abramoff received a light prison sentence, and several others have gone to jail.
The deeper meanings of the scandal have not been found and the Bush administration's firing of US attorneys derailed much of the investigation. The conviction and subsequent suicide of the DC Madam made it more difficult to probe the sex for Congressional votes part of the scandal.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A Brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

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About Me

Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!