Saturday, June 17, 2006

They're all friends on this street....

There is a haven of non-partisan bliss inside the beltway where Republicans and Democrats work amicably together in the best interests of their constituencies. It's called K Street and "their people" are corporate interests. Here is where the roots of governmental dysfunction lie and this is where the Democrats' new generation of the political consultants we love to hate are found. Russ Baker has a fascinating profile of a random 25 players in this brave new world where the main actors make their money on both sides of the fence. As Baker says:
Now that so many key party operatives earn their “real money” helping corporations exert influence in Washington, they face more and more conflicts when advising Democratic candidates who insist they are dedicated to reform and serving the public interest. Such conflicts speak for themselves. At the very least, it’s tricky to be the strategy adviser to a Democratic candidate who supports publicly-funded universal health insurance when one has spent years working for insurance interests that vehemently oppose any changes. But that is just the scenario playing out every day. The paradoxes are staggering. And, for the most part, they are invisible.
And here's just one example of how it works.
What Thomas Quinn (no relation to either Jack Quinn), says about the work of his firm, Venable LLC, applies to the whole politically-neutral K Street scene today: “Here we work very collegially, and I’ve gotten more collegial as there are more Republicans. We work closely with Republicans. All of us are in this together.”

Thomas Quinn has been active in Democratic politics from Sen. Edward Kennedy's (D-MA) presidential run in 1980 to Sen. John Kerry's (D-MA) in 2004. He’s a key player on financial services, taxation and homeland security issues. Venable’s clients have included: Wal-Mart, Tsakopoulos Investments (real estate developer which has worked with Wal-Mart; lobbying concerning the Endangered Species Act); Timmons Real Estate (Endangered Species Act); National Company for Mechanical & Electrical Works Ltd (Kuwaiti firm re contracts in Iraq); Allied Capital (US government ran a criminal investigation of the firm’s largest subsidiary, which makes government-backed loans to small businesses; Venable hired an SEC attorney who grilled a critic of Allied); McWane (Birmingham, AL-based cast iron pipe manufacturer; the company was heavily fined and executives convicted in federal court for environmental crimes).
It's not comfortable prose but it's worth reading in full to get a sense of just how deeply our politicians on both sides are lodged in the corporate pocket. At least scroll down to the final paragraph that offers one small hope that it's not too late to take our government back.

[hat tip Jules Siegel]
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