The Hill Newspaper reports that Enron lobbyist Michael Lewan, Joe Lieberman's former chief of staff, is "work[ing] to quell Democratic discontent with Lieberman and to steer [Senators] away from campaigning against his former boss." Lewan has simultaneously raised cash for Lieberman and now-convicted Connecticut Republican Gov. John Rowland, telling the Hartford Courant that "they are two like-minded guys" and that his job for both men is to "collect checks and pass them along." Lewan also recently held a big lobbyist-sponsored D.C. fundraiser for Lieberman, Lewan breathlessly begging his fellow influence peddlers to fork over more cash to Lieberman. "The Washington lawyers and lobbyists in those rooms will come back for Joe Lieberman," he said. "Who knows what Lamont would be like?"
Considering his corporate lobbying clientele, Lewan's loyalty to Lieberman is understandable - as the Washington Monthly reported, Lieberman obediently "balked" at Democratic demands to use his committee chairmanship to intensify the Enron investigation. What is surprising and nauseating is that Lieberman's Enron lobbyist has any influence over other Democrats.
There really are no words to describe the immorality and shamelessness of all this. Here we have an Enron lobbyist and former moneyman for a Republican convicted on corruption charges now bragging to the press that he's demanding elected Democrats ignore the results of our party's small-d democratic election. The fact that this is even happening and not raising serious alarm bells shows just how corrupt the Beltway culture has become. The fact that some Democratic Senators (including the vice chair of the Democrats campaign operation whose mission is "to to elect more Democrats to the United States Senate") are actually listening to this Enron lobbyist's demands is beyond disgusting - it tells you exactly why this fight against the hostile takeover of the Democratic Party is so important. On the eve of an election to throw out the majority party on charges of corruption, a party that silently allows a faction of its own elected representatives to follow an Enron lobbyist's demands to ignore voters is a party that undermines its chances of victory by publicly acknowledging it cares more about the wishes of Washington lobbyists than the wishes of thousands of ordinary voters.
Thankfully, the Hill reports that "a group of Senate Democrats is growing increasingly angry about Lieberman's campaign tactics" and that he "could be stripped of his seniority within the Democratic caucus" after the election. I told McClatchy Newspapers Democrats need to go farther than that - they need to strip Lieberman of his committee assignments right now. That is especially true since, as the Hill notes, "he has adopted rhetoric echoing Republican talking points" to attack not only Connecticut Democratic nominee Ned Lamont, but also top candidates who are the party's best chances of keeping Senate seats out of GOP hands in other states.
Make no mistake about it - this is a litmus test issue for Democratic Senators. Echoing one Senate Democratic staffer quoted in the Hill, the willingness by some Democrats to embrace Lieberman, continue preserving his committee spots, and reward him with seniority should he defeat the Democratic nominee gives the view that some Democrats "view that the Senate is a country club rather than representative of a political party and political movement."
When I talk to audiences around the country about my book Hostile Takeover I discuss with them the faction of Democrats who undermine their party (Bob Geiger is keeping track of which Democrats are supporting Lieberman). These Democrats supporting Lieberman are exactly the kind of people I am talking about: lawmakers who view American democracy as their exclusive property to be manipulated and disregarded as they see fit. We as Democrats will never be able to fight the conservative movement effectively if in every fight a handful of our own leaders are selling out, undermining our efforts, and siding with the corrupt forces that are driving this country into the ground.
It is time for Democratic Senators to stop telling everyone how nice a guy they think Joe Lieberman is - he's not a nice guy, he's a craven, selfish, anti-democratic opportunist, and is as mortal a threat to the Democratic Party's ability to take back Congress as George W. Bush is. It is time for Democratic Senators to stop listening to an Enron lobbyist who is demanding they ignore the will of voters. It is time, in short, for our own leaders to stop worrying about country club sensibilities, stop being so comfortable in the minority, and start getting serious about taking back political power.