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Hot on the Money Trail

The next election frenzy hasn't begun in earnest in the public eye, but behind closed (and gilded) doors, the race for campaign cash is on and as these two articles describe.

Lobbying and How It Got That Way

On Sunday The Washington Post ran the first in what is to be a 25-part profile on the growth the lobbying industry in Washington through the eyes of top Washington lobbyist Gerald Cassidy. Intended to be an analysis of how Cassidy rose through the ranks to become a player in DC, all the while helping to transform lobbying into the access-buying influence game it is today, it ought to be an illuminating peak at an industry under fire in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Somebody's Going to Jail...

Bob Ney reported to prison yesterday to begin serving his 2+ years sentence on federal corruption charges stemming from his relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. His former chief of staff William Heaton pleaded guilty Tuesday in connection with the same corruption inquiry.


The Traveling Congressman

USA Today has been hammering Congress for talking tough on ethics and lobbying reform while poking loopholes in legislation. They're at it again today, pointing out the numerous exemptions to the ban on lobbyist-funded travel and whether the way around the loopholes is to publicly fund congressional travel.


Cashing In On Corruption

For a few congressmen booted out in 2006 amid charges of corruption, nothing says "turning over a new leaf" like taking high-powered lobbying jobs with people you used to help steer money too. Former Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) and former Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) who found themselves embroiled in corruption scandals last year have both landed jobs as lobbying advisors with groups they had a history of helping financially.


Hang On, Hoyer

NPR's Marketplace did a story last night on the loophole that allows lobbyists to fund lawmaker getaways to exotic locales by calling the trip a fundraiser and funneling the lobbyist money through the lawmaker's political action committee (PAC). Of particularl interest to Marketplace are the travel plans of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who campaigned last year on cleaning up corruption.


Power Players

Think the latest series of lobbying reforms is going to cut the cord between lawmakers and lobbyists? Says the Wall Street Journal: think again. The story highlights activities of top lobbyist Heather Podesta to illustrate, among other things, the prevailing power of campaign cash and challenge in overcoming an atmosphere of exclusivity around our lawmakers and their lobbyist friends.


How Congress Learned to Stop Worrying

...and Love the Loophole. The start of 2007 saw Congress rally support behind a series of lobbying reforms to ban lobbyist-funded meals, travel, and other tools used to curry favor with lawmakers.

Conventional Fundraising

Fredreka Schouten of USA Today points to a significant loophole in the recent ethics bill passed by Congress: lobbyists can still underwrite the party national conventions, a big way to buy influence. Bills are in the works that might address this activity.


Lobbyist Influence Growing in States

Joel Barkin, the executive director of the Progressive States Network writes today in the Baltimore Sun that the growing influence of big industry lobbyists is not just a concern inside the Beltway, business interests are beefing up their state-level lobbyists as well to beat back policies that might cost them money. What to do? Work for public financing in of elections in your state, for one.