Daniel Schulman

Senior Editor

Based in DC, Dan covers politics and national security. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine, the Village Voice, the Columbia Journalism Review, and other publications. He is the author of the new Koch brothers biography, Sons of Wichita (Grand Central Publishing). Email him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com.

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Jack Murtha's K Street Connections

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 1:32 PM EST

Last week I brought up the cozy relationship House Majority Leader hopeful Steny Hoyer has sought to cultivate with K Street, but Jack Murtha, who incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi backed for the number two job on Sunday, has lobbyist ties that are worth mentioning as well. The Pennsylvania congressman is often hailed by Democrats for taking a principled stand against the President's stay-the-course policy in Iraq, though some political observers consider him to be among the least scrupulous members of Congress serving today. Among Murtha's critics is the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which listed him in its report "Beyond DeLay: The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress (and five to watch)." (Murtha, for his part, is designated as one to watch.) CREW's report notes that Murtha's "ethics violations stem from abuse of his position as Ranking Member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee to benefit the lobbying firm of a former long-term staffer and clients of his brother, Robert 'Kit' Murtha, a registered lobbyist."

According to CREW, which decried Pelosi's endorsement in a press release yesterday, some of the beneficiaries of Murtha's powerful position have been clients of PMA Group, which lobbies on behalf of defense contractors and was founded by longtime Defense Appropriations subcommittee staffer Paul Magliocchetti, who worked with Murtha. "In the 2006 Defense appropriations bill, PMA clients received at least 60 earmarks at a total of $95.1 million," according to CREW's report. In turn, PMA and its clients have made generous campaign contributions to Murtha. "In the current campaign cycle, the PMA Group and 11 of the firm's clients rank in the top 20 contributors to Rep. Murtha, having made campaign contributions totaling $274,649.2 In the 2004 and 2002 cycles, PMA and nine of the firm's clients ranked in the top 20 contributors having made $236,7993 in contributions and $279,074, respectively."

Then there's Murtha's brother, Kit, who joined the lobbying firm KSA Consulting in 2002, reportedly at the invitation of a former Murtha staffer, Carmen Scialabba, who is a senior partner at the firm. According to the Los Angeles Times, which reported on Jack Murtha's shady ties to his brother's firm in 2005, Congress passed a defense appropriations bill in 2004, one that Murtha helped to author, that benefited at least 10 of KSA's clients. The firms, according to the Times, received $20.8 million in earmarks in the bill.

One of the clients, a small Arkansas maker of military vehicles, received $1.7 million, triple its total sales for 2004. Several other clients received money that represented more than half of their annual sales from last year.

KSA directly lobbied the congressman's office on behalf of seven companies that received money from the bill, records and interviews show. Among those clients, a firm based in Maryland received one of the larger individual awards, $4.2 million.

Steny Hoyer, the Maryland congressman, was once thought to be the front-runner for Majority Leader. No longer. Pelosi's endorsement levels the playing field and then some. "She will ensure that they [the Murtha camp] win. This is hard-ball politics," Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), a Murtha supporter, told The Hill. "We are entering an era where when the Speaker instructs you what to do, you do it." (We have a word for the new era that Rep. Moran is referring to. It's called a dictatorship.)

Since one of the issues that resounded with voters in Tuesday's election was congressional corruption, it seems unwise for the Dems to use their new mandate to go back to business as usual, installing a Majority Leader that has a questionable past of shilling for K Street and, in the case of both Murtha and Hoyer, a history of working against lobbying reform efforts. As the Democrats become the majority party in Congress after 12 years in the minority, they would do well to remember that, in 1994, when both houses of Congress fell to the GOP, it was rampant corruption that helped to end their long reign.

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Lincoln Chafee: Leaving the GOP?

| Fri Nov. 10, 2006 11:04 AM EST

Lincoln Chafee, the moderate Republican Senator from Rhode Island who was unseated by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in Tuesday's election, hinted at a news conference yesterday that he may exit the GOP. "I haven't made any decisions," he said. "I just haven't even thought about where my place is." But, according to the AP:

When pressed on whether his comments indicated he might leave the GOP, he replied: "That's fair."

Steny Hoyer's K Street Project

| Thu Nov. 9, 2006 5:37 PM EST

Now that the Democrats have taken back Congress, members are jockeying for leadership positions. Among them is Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who announced he would seek the number two job in the House leadership, Majority Leader, the morning after the election. By all accounts the Maryland Democrat has been paving the way for this post for some time. As Zach Roth points out in a recent profile of Hoyer in Washington Monthly, the Democrat, if successful in securing the job, will have something in common with one of his Republican predecessors -- Tom DeLay. Like DeLay, Hoyer has made it his business to cultivate close ties to K Street, which, Roth notes, may not make him the best choice for Majority Leader, particularly since the Democrats have taken pains to distance themselves from the lobbying scandals that ensnared top Republicans:

...There is no doubt he has worked hard to curry favor on K Street. Over the last year and a half, he has ramped up an effort—begun soon after taking over the whip's job—to raise money for Democrats from Washington business lobbyists. Starting in late 2004, Hoyer and three close allies—Reps. Crowley, Tauscher, and John Tanner (D-Tenn.)—launched an energetic K-Street-outreach program, with a goal of raising $250,000 for vulnerable Democratic incumbents by June 2006. Later, they would switch the focus to raising money for promising Democratic challengers, increasingly basing their pitch on the growing likelihood that Democrats would retake the House this fall, and thus be in a position to pass legislation. Hoyer's particular political gifts—his persuasiveness, his talent for negotiation, and his willingness to see all sides of an issue—appear to have made him well suited to the task. "We find mutual interests, mutual ways to help each other," says [Bill] Cable, [Hoyer's] chief of staff.

But the outreach has at times complicated Democrats' efforts to capitalize on the slew of Republican influence-buying scandals—from Abramoff to DeLay to Cunningham to Safavian to Ney—that has come to light over the last year and a half. After Hoyer's office posted on its website a news story describing the fundraising project, Republicans were quick to call Hoyer a hypocrite for attacking the GOP over Abramoff while at the same time touting his relationships with lobbyists. Hoyer's staff quickly took the story down.

...More problematic than the fundraising program has been Hoyer's stance on lobbying reform, in which he has consistently stood in the way of Democratic efforts to unite behind a far-reaching approach. Hoyer's opposition to reform appears to be of long standing, and well known on both sides of the aisle. Back in October 1994, Congress had been considering a lobbying reform bill that many lawmakers privately considered too restrictive. According to Roll Call, DeLay and Hoyer were walking down the Capitol steps shortly before leaving for the October recess in advance of the midterms that would bring the GOP to power, when the Texan "cupped his hands around his mouth and chuckled to Hoyer, 'But lobbying reform is dead!'" DeLay, it seems, understood even then that he and Hoyer were of one mind on the issue.

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