In 1988, Bob Dole famously snarled at George H. W. Bush: "Stop lying about my record!" 18 years later, it seems Senator Joe Lieberman is taking a similar, though modified approach. He is essentially snarling at Ned Lamont: "Stop telling the truth about my record!" This is on display in today's papers, after Ned formally unveiled his bold new proposal to crackdown on Washington's culture of corruption. As this fact sheet shows, it is a culture that Joe Lieberman has been such a key part of, as he has stood in the way of almost every single one of the reforms Ned is proposing.
Not surprisingly, the Lieberman campaign lashed out at Ned and tried to hide Lieberman's atrocious record on reform Lieberman spokesman DANGERstein told the Hartford Courant that Lieberman supposedly has a "stellar record" on reform. Yet, he was unwilling to explain why Lieberman has repeatedly cast votes against a ban on the kinds of gifts that Jack Abramoff and his clients showered on White House officials and lawmakers to get special favors. Specifically, Lieberman was one of only two Democrats in the Senate to vote against a gift ban before the scandal erupted, and this year helped kill legislation to close the gift loophole completely. And - shocker - No Show Joe skipped what would have been a tie-breaking vote to crackdown on lobbying and pay-to-play abuses at the Department of Homeland Security.
DANGERstein also told the New Haven Register that "Lieberman was the lead Democratic co-sponsor of the Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act of 2005" - expecting us all to believe that that means he was serious about reform. But you may recall, that legislation was ridiculed in national newspapers as a sham by nonpartisan government watchdog groups who noted that it deliberately preserved all sorts of loopholes allowing lobbyists and special interests to shower lawmakers in cash. Even Sen. John McCain (R) voted against the measure, saying "It's extremely weak."
Obviously, none of this is surprising - Lieberman is raking in rougly $7,000 per week from Washington special interests, and his D.C. fundraising is being spearheaded by Michael Lewan, an Enron lobbyist who used his status as Lieberman's former chief of staff to coerce Lieberman to slow-walk the Enron investigation a few years ago. Pretending to be a reformer by pushing showy sham measures while voting against real reform is reflexive for someone like Lieberman. Put another way, selling out is Lieberman's default setting - and that's the reason why Washington insiders are so frightened Lieberman may lose. As Lewan himself said in appealing to corporate lobbyists to give Lieberman more cash before the primary: "The Washington lawyers and lobbyists in those rooms will come back for Joe Lieberman. Who knows what Lamont would be like?"
Make no mistake about it - Lieberman represents an important investment for Washington lobbyists. He is among the top receivers of health industry cash, and he has led the fight in Congress against major health care reform, literally throwing Connecticut's Senate seat in front of efforts to overhaul the system in the mid-1990s. Lieberman pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in cash from oil and gas industry PACs, and was the only Democrat from New England to vote for the Energy Bill. The list is endless.
You can bet as the campaign enters the stretch run, Lieberman will continue to claim he's a real "reformer" and serious about ending corruption. He will claim that anyone who points out his record casting votes against real reform is being "negative" - as if the public should not look at their own senator's votes. But to paraphrase Harry Truman's famous quote, Connecticut voters aren't giving Lieberman hell - they're just demanding the truth, and Lieberman thinks its hell. At the end of the day, he will have to explain why he thinks lobbyists and special interests should be able to shower him and his colleagues in gifts, why he is relying on Enron lobbyists and oil/gas companies to underwrite his campaign, and why he has been such a happy participant in the culture of corruption.
(DISCLOSURE: I have long been a volunteer supporter of Ned Lamont's candidacy and written extensively about the race. As of Labor Day, I am officially working with the Lamont for Senate campaign on research. The writing on this blog is my own, and not the official work I do for the Lamont campaign.)