K Street Cash Flows to the Dems

Three weeks ago, when The Hill reported that lobbyists on K Street were running back to Democrats after more than a decade in the hope of restarting the all-too-close relationship they once had with the more progressive of the nation's two major parties, I wrote the following post that not everyone on this site agreed with.

Given that Democrats do not need these lobbyist donations to win this year, why take them? The prevailing logic holds that, should they win this year, Democrats would have an easier time governing with K Street than without it. But I am not certain that that's the case. In fact, I don't believe I'm out of line in assuming that if Democratic lawmakers become too beholden to the powerful lobbyists and the big corporations that they will feel it necessary to abandon at least some core planks of their platform.

However, if the Democrats said "no" to lobbyists today and win without them -- which, again, is a real possibility -- then the party will have a mandate to govern in the way it sees fit. Democrats will be able to pass real lobbying reform without fear of retribution because they will know that they don't need lobbyist dollars to win. Such a move would have the potential of completely upending Washington. And you know what? The party pledging to fundamentally change the way the people's business is conducted in Washington is going to have the support of a lot of voters this year.

Well, it turns out the Democrats are not saying "no" to corporate lobbyists. Not whatsoever. Jonathan Martin has the details over at The Hotline on Call blog:

Some of these heavyweights gave to Pelosi in 2004, but with a full month of contributions yet accounted for, many have already exceeded their past donations. The Bankers gave Pelosi $6K in '04; they've already given $7.5K. The Financial Services Roundtable? They donated $2K for the whole '04 cycle, but had given $5K through last month. The Mortgage Bankers offered a token $1K in January of 2003. Last month, they maxed out to $10K. And how about the Beer Wholesalers, perennially one of the most loyal GOP allies? Maxed out to Pelosi -- in July.

Hoyer, the chief K St liaision for House Democrats, has already raised nearly $2.1M so far this cycle, the most ever in his 24 years in Congress. Of that, almost $1.5M comes from PACs. Though widely viewed as more friendly to business interests than his rival from California, Hoyer has also has seen his corporate contributions soar from Republican-leaning sources. The National Retail Federation, Capital One, Sallie Mae, and Occidental Petroleum have all stepped up their giving from 2004 to the man who could be the next Maj Leader of the House.

In short, bets are being hedged. Groups that could be impacted by the Democrats' top priorities in January want to be sure they can get their calls returned. Whether it be the minimum wage (the Retail Federation), student loan interest rates (Sallie Mae) or lobbying reform (all of the above), Pelosi has made clear that her caucus would waste no time pushing through their agenda. And when that happens, these interests want to have the chance to make their case to somebody in leadership.

Asked about the influx of K St dollars to the would-be leaders of a Democratic-controlled House, Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said it indicated "support for our agenda and the political reality that we have a chance to win." Pointing to their "6 for '06" plan released before the summer recess, Daly said such donors "understand our agenda" and that is the agenda they can expect should Democrats take the majority.

I wish I had the same faith in Democratic leaders that Mr. Daly has. I really do. I wish I could believe that these special interests, which have fought against many of the core progressive tenets of the Democratic Party at least the last decade and realistically even longer, are simply trying to get on the good side of the next leaders of the House and won't be able to co-opt the Democratic leadership to their side come January.

But will the retailers really go for a substantial increase to the minimum wage? Will Sallie Mae really accede to the Democratic plan to provide fairer student loans? Will K Street as a whole really buy into a meaningful lobbying reform plan? My hunch is the answer to each of these questions is no, that the retailers will try to edge the Democrats to a smaller or more gradual increase in the minimum wage, that lenders will try to pick off Democrats worried about 2008 on any student loan changes and that K Street will coalesce around an effort to remove teeth from any real lobbying reform.

And what do the Democrats get for letting these special interests get a foot in the door? A few thousand dollars? Even a few tens of thousands of dollars? In the grand scope of things, when the DCCC is facing the prospect of borrowing $10 million or more to make a last effort push to win as many House seats as possible, will even a couple hundred thousand dollars in the leaders' campaign accounts really make the difference for the Democrats? Is it really worth having to take calls from these lobbyists should November 7 prove a great day for the party? I still think the answer is no.

Tags: Democrats, House 2006, K Street (all tags)

Comments

20 Comments

Re: K Street Cash Flows to the Dems

Well, I'll be the first one to make a motion that we be on guard. If the Dems take the House and/or Senate and in ANY way waffle and water down these bills, we be just as hard as them as we were on people during the Scalito, Torture, Bolton, Net Neutrality, etc. debates. Let's be ready to make sure that the Democratic Party STAYS democratic.

by JewishJake 2006-10-18 03:18PM | 0 recs
Re: K Street Cash Flows to the Dems

the problem is that the GOP is going to slam us for being corrupt anyway, there are going to be a flurry of ads in 08 calling every dem candidate a crook and people are gonna go "ya know what, i think so too"

This one move is too complicated for the average voter, and they CERTAINLY won't think 'oh, now after hundreds of years, we now have clean politicians'

no one is going to buy that, except us

so i say take the money, crush the republicans for good, THEN wean off the money...we may not be able to, but its a lot better than not taking the money, losing elections over it, and still being called corrupt

by thorgrim 2006-10-18 03:31PM | 0 recs
Re: K Street Cash Flows to the Dems

I agree... fine, take the cash.  I hope no one taking that cash thinks we won't be watching starting Nov. 8.

A forewarning to the Dems... I'd like to think that when you consider Lamont, Burner, McNerny, Webb, Tester -- and likely many others I'm forgetting -- we've gotten pretty good at taking out the beltway folks in primaries.  

Eyes on the prize for three more weeks -- but I don't think any of us will be spending the next 2 years dancing the happy dance and blindly support someone with nothing more than a D to their name.

Get in bed with K street -- and you sleep in the yard.

by zonk 2006-10-18 03:38PM | 0 recs
Re: K Street Cash Flows to the Dems

I can't believe you expect the Dems to shun lobbyist money.  They're possibly 3% less corporate than the GOP.  I can see wanting the GOP out of power because they're batshit insane and 100% corporate but to think that the Dems will be a substantial improvement is a little too optimistic for me.
by eRobin 2006-10-18 03:31PM | 0 recs
They won't be...

....unless we MAKE them. The last time lobbyists actively poured money into Dem coffers we had barely a way of watching them. Now we have huge ammounts of people watching and these people regularly express themselves.

It's another reason we need to rally to beat Joe so they know our threats have teeth.

by MNPundit 2006-10-18 03:44PM | 0 recs
Re: They won't be...

IF the Dems take the cash and think the band is simply going to play on with a new band leader, they are full of it.  I am not putting out all of this time, effort and cash for more of the same old bull shit.  It isn't enough to win.  I want the freakin party back.  No party, no country and that's the way it is.   I hope the Dems are listening cause we are watching.  Two years in a lot of time to follow the money and blog it.  

by dkmich 2006-10-18 05:11PM | 0 recs
Re: K Street Cash Flows to the Dems
"They're possibly 3% less corporate than the GOP."

I hate lazy blanket statements like that. In 2004, Republicans received 66.0% of corporate PAC money. 85% of donations to the DNC have come in the form of donations les than $200 dollars.

Demcorats are by no means free of corporate influence, but to imply that the two parties are equal on this is unfair, inaccurate, and misleading.
by Chris Bowers 2006-10-18 03:46PM | 0 recs
Money flows to the majority

The better the Dems do - and both houses is far from impossible right now - the more funding they will get from corporate PACs and lobbyists - or so the industry numbers in Open Secrets suggest.

The Dems aren't as corporate as the GOP? That's not really an exacting standard, surely?

There'll be some test in just how much damage to corporate welfare they're prepared to propose in the bills they put through the House.

And talking about repealing the bankruptcy bill - ha ha! - the piece on Hoyer that I noted earlier suggests no great enthusiasm for ethics reform from the putative Majority Leader; and the fate of the bills much trumpeted earlier in the year would suggest a bipartisan reluctance which might need more than a change of control to overcome.

by skeptic06 2006-10-18 04:18PM | 0 recs
Re: K Street Cash Flows to the Dems

This is just another sign that no matter which side wins, K Street will still call the shots. They don't spend money unless they know what they'll get in return.

Reforming the Democratic Party into one that is of, by, and for the people is a movement still in its infancy.

by Liberal Avenger 2006-10-18 03:41PM | 0 recs
Re: K Street Cash Flows to the Dems

It's up to us to highlight inappropraite closeness to lobbyists.  Lobbying is what it is, and until the Supreme Court overturns the precedent that a separate legal entity like a corporation or LLC can 'speak', those entities will have a right to lobby.

What we need to do is focus the light of information and discovery on those contacts.  Politicans, especially those on our side of the aisle, need to understand that tit for tat will not be tolorated or hidden.

by lutton 2006-10-18 04:23PM | 0 recs
Not surprising, but fixable

This isn't surprising, and speaks to the next phase of the netroots-powered transformation of politics and the Democratic party.  The netroots will only grow in power and influence over time and we will have to continue developing systems and strategies to exercise that power and influence, and to continue the transformation of our party.  I welcome that opportunity.  It will not be a repeat of the Clinton years in that regard.

We need to counterbalance the influence of K Street money...and I think we will.  If DC Dems are so far gone that they won't respond, then we squeeze them with everything we have.  And, over time, our pincers will become more powerful, and also more precise.  And we need to start the new phase of this "democracy training program" on the first day our party regains some real power.  

We can raise funds, we can influence MSM coverage, and we can generate our own media...and there are lots of us, and our members and capabilities will only grow over time.  Candidates that realize this will have us watching their back, singing their praises and funding their campaigns.  Those that don't will retire, black & blue, calling the netroots a bunch of crazies (here's hoping Lieberman is among the first to walk that road).  The change will happen over time, but there do seem to be signs that it's accelerating.

It may be true that if we don't learn the lessons of the past we're doomed to repeat it.  But I think there's also a risk of being too bound by the pain and failures of the past and becoming blind to new opportunities as they emerge in the present and can unfold into the future.  In that regard we need to strike the right balance, both individually and as a networked "movement."  And we need to find and support candidates who can do likewise, and democratically but forcefully remove those who aren't ready to make the change from the ugly and corrupt cycles that have devolved to a point where they may be destroying the Republican party before our eyes.  

Today's GOP may be experiencing a painful death caused by prolonged and toxic levels of cognitive dissonance.  If that's the case, its death will provide rich fertilizer for the growth of truly progressive politics and policies fueled by the expanding power of the netroots and based on REAL and fundamental human values.  

by mitchipd 2006-10-18 04:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Not surprising, but fixable

I agree that this is fixable. The influence of corporate lobbyists cannot be eliminated easily, but it is possible to diminish K street influence and out-compete K street for influence with our own representatives. Transparency is a key tool, because most constituents hate lobbyists. Also, the netroots capability to quickly organize communications and financial support is actually much better than lobbyist, so we compete well on that basis.

Most importantly, if and when Democrats get the majority, progressives must be willing to challenge democratic incumbents (in the primary) who betray the public trust. I'd much rather see hard-fought primaries than progressives defecting to third parties out of disgust with corporate influence.

Again, transparency and honest criticism are key ingredients.

by Mark Wallace 2006-10-19 12:02AM | 0 recs
Re: K Street Cash Flows to the Dems

WE all know they're going to take it so why even bother discussing it anymore?

by Blutodog 2006-10-18 05:19PM | 0 recs
Re: K Street Cash Flows to the Dems

"WE all know they're going to take it so why even bother discussing it anymore?"

Discussing a problem is the necessary first step toward fixing it.

Apathy, resignation, and silence is what those who buy and sell government rely on.

by Kobi 2006-10-18 07:24PM | 0 recs
Re: K Street Cash Flows to the Dems

If they turned down the money, it just would have gone to the GOP anyway.

Even actual good democrats with real consciences know, "If I turn this money down, someone less scrupulous will take it"

It's a prisoner's dilemma essentially.  The bad-faith actors force the good faith actors to make less desireable moves.

It really will require legislation to end this kind of thing.  

by scientician 2006-10-18 06:44PM | 0 recs
Re: K Street Cash Flows to the Dems

"If they turned down the money, it just would have gone to the GOP anyway."

You could just as well say, "If Democrats had turned bown the bribes, Republicans would have gotten them."

Well, Republicans are already bought. So why would K Street want to pay even more for services already being rendered??

by Kobi 2006-10-18 07:34PM | 0 recs
Take all their money!!!

And then turn around and deliberately screw them on all their line-items.

My money says they will totally miss the point and donate even more money in 2008.

Remember, people give money to a brand, and idealization of what they think is so great about themselves.

In K Street's instance buying and selling power is the brand.  They won't even comprehend what happened if we steal their money and take it all to Atlantic City and burn it playing blackjack and poker.

by jcjcjc 2006-10-18 09:03PM | 0 recs
Re: K Street Cash Flows to the Dems

if democrats jump in bed with the lobbiest than i can garentee you i will do everything i can to get them out of power.everything.sincerly james harris.

by idahojim 2006-10-19 03:48AM | 0 recs
Re: K Street Cash Flows to the Dems

Running back to suck on the lobby money teat is the worst idea I can think of.  We fall for their last-second attempt to co-opt a genuine movement for change?  This is what Dean's 50 state strategy comes down to?  Lobbyists buying into our souls?

Rationalizing why it's OK for us to take bribes when it has been clearly established that lobby money is dirty money and makes pols do dirty things?  Make no mistake, they are bribes; loans with infinite interest that will have to be paid into over and over with cozy contracts, diverted funding, you name it.  

K street sees it's opportunity to sleaze its way into the winners, and do it with a minimum of fuss.  They already bought the DLC, now they want the rest of the Party.

Pelosi pulls in more cash than anyone for the party coffers, and she has the tenacity of belief to be an effective firewall.  Contributors have her ear sometimes, and her vote when she already agrees beforehand, but not her soul.  They don't pull her strings because she doesn't have any.  Does the same apply for every senator and representative, and the staffers they rely on?

We need to stay off this slippery slope.

by markt 2006-10-19 06:20AM | 0 recs
Re: K Street Cash Flows to the Dems

Well, maybe Pelosi has some strings...

I sure wish I could pull on one and get her moving sometimes.

by markt 2006-10-19 06:23AM | 0 recs

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