03/22/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Village: Wash Post Reporter Covering (and Deploring) K Street Becomes Corporate Lobbyist

What, you ask, do political writers really mean when they refer to "The Village"? What does that political term mean in practice, rather than in theory? Here's about as good an example as I have ever seen:

Jeffrey Birnbaum, one of the premier lobbying reporters, joined a leading K Street firm Tuesday.

Birnbaum has gone to BGR Group, formerly known as Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, as president of its public relations practice, BGR Public Relations.

Birnbaum has reported and written for several national publications, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time and Fortune. He has covered the White House and Capitol Hill and his former column at the Post, "K Street Confidential," was widely read among lobbyists in Washington. Also, his 1988 book, Showdown at Gucci Gulch, co-authored with Alan Murray, is considered one of the best dissertations of K Street.

In colloquial usage, "village" implies community (think "It Takes a Village"), a place where a group of similar people - regardless of their particular jobs - take care of one another out of respect for their own homogeneity. As Birnbaum's move - and the ho-hum DC reaction to it - shows, that's exactly what our corrupt political/media/corporate class is: An insulated, well-fortified village.

In this political Village, it doesn't matter that Birnbaum formerly made his career as a Fourth Estate cop patrolling the intersection between money and politics, and is now cashing in that experience for the very life of corruption he once journalistically deplored. It doesn't matter in the same way it didn't seem to matter that Richard Wolffe was (and still is!) pretending to be an objective "journalist" while working for a corporate PR firm, just like it doesn't matter when federal regulators cash in their public experience for a high-paying lobbying gig in the industry they were regulating - just like it doesn't matter when the door spins the other way (and just to prove that point - notice that Birnbaum will remain as a supposed objective "journalist" for Fox News and the Washington Times even as he works at his corporate lobbying firm).

In the Village, there is no such thing as shame, no such thing as behavior too unethical to show one's face in public ever again, no such thing as serious laws/rules/bright lines preventing brazenly unscrupulous behavior, and certainly no such thing as genuine principles that might lead someone to personally choose to foresake Big Money for integrity.

In the Village, every public service experience - whether political or media - is a way to build one's resume for future private profit.

Why, you ask, are these odious axioms - axioms that are anathema to most regular folks outside the Beltway - the norm in the Village? Because in the Village, loyalty to sameness - same economic class, same cocktail parties, same privilege - is what society is organized around, not any trifling notions of morality, ethics or - ha! - public service.

In the Village, anything long as you are a Villager.

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