The 9 Most Loathsome Lobbyists in Washington
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Tis the bleak post- Citizens United season in America—money equals speech, and corporations, super PACs, and an egregiously wealthy minority have the biggest mouths in the land. But the oligarchs’ work is never done. After the elections are bought, it’s back to the business of business—and, presumably, consuming yacht-loads of caviar and foie gras. Maximizing profit demands that high-powered lobbyists grease the wheels of legislation or grind them to a shrieking halt—whichever yields the highest return.
For your edutainment, below is a list of some of the most depraved lobbyists money can buy.
9) Chris Dodd
The former Connecticut Senator, and internationally renowned eyebrow-haver, isn’t the most prodigious scum in the Beltway swamp, but he may be the most hypocritical. When asked in 2010 what would follow his thirty-year legislative career, which ended amid financial scandal, Dodd bluntly said, “No lobbying, no lobbying.” He then promptly became, as The Hill put it, “Hollywood’s leading man in Washington, taking the most prestigious job on K Street,” as chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America. The gig comes with a $1.2 million annual salary, and complimentary tickets to the Academy Awards.
Dodd’s most public, and ultimately ill-fated, advocacy was in pushing two potentially disastrous bills: the Stop Online Piracy Act, and its Senate counterpart, Protect IP Act—both of which would’ve given the federal government the right to shut down any website that was merely being accused of copyright infringement. The bills were shelved indefinitely after a massive online protest in which thousands of sites went voluntarily dark for a day. Dodd unironically called the blackout an “irresponsible . . . abuse of power.” So it’s OK for the Feds to make your site go black, but it’s not OK for you to do it yourself. Dodd doesn’t want you to post the Jack and Jill movie trailer to warn Americans of the danger. Because every time someone sees an Adam Sandler film, the terrorists win.
8) Billy Tauzin
The former Louisiana Congressman’s lobbying career functionally began before he left Capitol Hill. In 2003, as one of his final acts as chair of the committee that oversees the pharmaceutical industry, he brazenly extended a fifteen-minute vote on the Medicare Modernization Act so the industry-authored bill, which prohibited the federal government from negotiating drug prices, could pass quietly in the night.
And ditto that for the awful Medicare Part D fine-tuning in ’05. So when Tauzin resigned from Congress soon after and landed a $2 million-a-year position as president and CEO of the drug-lobbying Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), it was shocking—that he waited an entire month. (As recently reported by journalist Lee Fang, when Congress-creatures become lobbyists, they secure a 1,452 percent raise, on average.)
Along with Karen Ignagni, CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, Tauzin is as responsible as anyone for killing any hope that the purportedly “socialist” Obammercare would be a single-payer system or include a public option (for this Tauzin earned a handy $11.6 million in the first half of 2010 alone). They were literally the people meeting with the President behind closed doors before the plan was announced.
Tauzin left PhRMA in 2010, and has since completed the cycle of greed as a board member of the Louisiana Healthcare Group, which specializes in selling mandatory broccoli.
7) Richard Berman
In the Venn diagram representing lobbying, public relations, and shameless evil, Berman occupies the balding overlap. An anti-labor-lawyer-cum-anti-labor evangelist, the sole proprietor of the PR firm Berman and Associates has earned the nickname “Astroturf Kingpin” for repeatedly forming phony, industry-funded nonprofits to spread his clients’ falsehoods. Dubbed “the booze and food industries’ weapon of mass destruction” by 60 Minutes , Berman’s clients include the usual restaurant, alcohol, tobacco, and living-wage-averse service industry suspects, with the front groups bearing creepy Orwellian names like the Minimum Wage Coalition to Save Jobs.