WASHINGTON -- As tonight's debate is consuming the lion's share of everyone's attention today, with the whole of the media speculating feverishly on what may happen during an event that hasn't happened yet, it was nice to break up the day with Tim Carney's full-scale decimation of a weirdly mis-premised Politico Pro piece, titled "Lobbyists ready for a comeback under Mitt Romney."
One's first question should be, of course: "How can the team that is leading by about a million points in American politics possibly be in need of a 'comeback?'" But, okay -- I'd be completely open to an argument about how lobbyists might enjoy somewhat greater access or influence in a possible Romney administration, if only because Democrats occasionally promote the idea that being influenced by lobbyists is somehow shameful. But that's not what this piece argues. Here is how it begins:
President Barack Obama’s gone further than any president to keep lobbyists out of the White House --even signing executive orders to do it.
And right from there, my eyeballs cross, because you really, really have to be totally kidding yourself if you think an executive order kept "lobbyists out of the White House." If you just showed up in Washington today, and the guy in line at the Starbucks at Union Station told you that there was some executive order that totally put the kung-fu grip on K Street, and you decided right then and there you were going to write a story about lobbyists, then maybe this naivete would be forgiveable. But Politico Pro is supposed to be -- well, I'll just use Jim VandeHei's words to describe it:
“Political and policy professionals want someone to cut through the clutter, tell them what really matters and tell them first,” said Politico Executive Editor Jim VandeHei. “We have a proven track record for doing just that -- and Politico Pro will build on it.”
Politico Pro is also a subscription service, so I hope that all of the "political and policy professionals" enjoyed paying to have their intelligence insulted today.
Carney essentially uses the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique to destroy the entire premise that lobbyists have been wandering around Washington as paupers because of their exile from the White House, naming 55 lobbyists who have sloshed and doshed their way around the Oval Office in the past four years, beginning with the people who may have helped create those aforementioned executive orders:
In crafting and signing those executive orders, I wonder if Obama relied on the help of White House deputy counsel Cassandra Butts (1), White House special assistant Martha Coven (2), or the chief of staff or the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Michael Strautmanis (3), all of whom were registered lobbyists.
Carney makes note of something I enjoy pointing out as well: "Remember how the drug lobby wrote much of Obamacare."
Ah, yes, Carney is referring to the dread platinum-level lobbyist Billy Tauzin, the former president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) -- a position earned thanks to his tireless work helping to pass the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. In Ron Suskind's book, Confidence Men, Tauzin is described as someone who believes in the “unfettered marketplace” and who has “little faith in government acting as an arbiter,” who nevertheless shows up at a White House meeting on health care reform, to help PhRMA fetter the marketplace and get the government up to arbitrating the health care reform bill to the pharmaceutical industry's liking.
He was wildly successful. Per Slate's Tim Noah:
Tauzin told Tom Hamburger of the Los Angeles Times that in exchange for the much-touted $80 billion in savings that PhRMA volunteered in June to help cover the uninsured and reduce drug prices for some senior citizens, the White House had promised to block any congressional effort to allow the government to negotiate Medicare drug prices. Tauzin is from Louisiana, where tall tales grow like weeds, and at first his assertion seemed wildly implausible. But two days after the L.A. Times scoop, the New York Times got White House confirmation. "The president encouraged this approach," White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina said in an e-mail. "He wanted to bring all parties to the table to discuss health insurance reform."
Noah goes on to opine: "President Obama's handshake with Tauzin is easily the dumbest mistake he's made in shepherding health reform through Congress." Guess those executive orders Politico Pro mentions failed to close the loophole on metaphorical handshakes, or something.
Here's someone you missed, Tim Carney: Liz Fowler, a veteran of the Max Baucus Health Care Lobbyist Complex and multiple-beneficiary of the revolving door. In 2006, she took leave of the Senate Finance Committee to serve at Wellpoint, as its "vice president for public policy and external affairs." But in 2008, she returned to Baucus' office right as the debate over health care reform was gearing up, and ably served her former corporate employer.
Politico actually had been keeping tabs on Fowler during this time, but I guess they lost track of her because once the Affordable Care Act was passed, look where the former Wellpoint lobbyist ended up:
Liz Fowler, a key staffer for U.S. Sen. Max Baucus who helped draft the federal health reform bill enacted in March, is joining the Obama administration to help implement the new law.
Fowler, chief health counsel for the Senate Finance Committee, which Baucus chairs, will become deputy director of the Office of Consumer Information and Oversight at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
So, yeah, it's really been rough going for lobbyists lately, according to people who apparently have no idea what they are talking about.
READ THE WHOLE THING:
Oh no! We can’t let Romney win, he’ll let lobbyists in the White House!!! [Washington Examiner]
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