08/17/2006 09:48 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Your Congress: On Sale Now!

So, People, Inc.  Big social services organization covering Buffalo and Western NY.  Presumably, doers of good things.

But, so too is Buffalo's Everywoman Opportunity Center (doers of good things, that is).  Their self-sufficiency calculator for low-income New Yorkers, has proven itself financially useful and incredibly worthy.

Problem is, People Inc. is slated to receive some serious funding via the 2007 Labor HHS appropriations bill - while the Everywoman Opportunity Center (as just one example) is not.

That discrepancy alone might explain why neither of Buffalo's Congressional Representatives jumped at the opportunity to take credit for People Inc.'s two pending grants: one for $75,000, for an integrated Alzheimer's and dementia respite care demonstration project, and the other for $350,000, for electronic health records.

Working backwards from these earmarks, the $tory unravels itself in seconds.

In early 2005, People, Inc. hired themselves a DC lobbying firm. And this little lobbying account came with three lobbyists, or at least so shows the latest registration.

And ever since, the three lobbyists made ample contributions to DC electeds, Rep Brian Higgins and Rep Thomas Reynolds prominent among them (click on each of the lobbyists' names to view their respective contributions:  Jonathan Orloff, Patrick Gould, Christopher Knospe).

Probably not a stretch to assume that over the same time period, the three amigos led the management team of People, Inc. to make some good faith contributions of their own to DC electeds; where again, Reps. Reynolds and Higgins found themselves prominent among those funded.

Coincidentally (or not), one of the lobbyists (Knospe) revolved out of the position of District Director for ... you got it ... Rep. Reynolds (whose office declined comment).

No matter.  Suzanne Anziska, Higgins's Communications Director, confirmed for us via email that Capitol Partners had much access to Rep Higgins as well:

"Capitol Partners, Inc has met with Congressman Higgins and staff several times.  Capitol Partners represents a host of Buffalo area organizations, including the City of Buffalo, Medaille College, and People Inc. (and others)."

But Anziska fell supremely short of having her boss take responsibility for the pending appropriations, citing a future unknown:

"As I stated before, it is impossible for me to comment on the success or failure of funding for People Inc. until the bill actually passes (office policy is not to announce funding until the yeas and neas are officially counted)-- we're sensitive to the fact that until a vote is taken, nothing is for certain."

Incredibly (or not), People Inc. is poised to get exactly what they paid for.  In fact, it's eerie how similar the wording in Capitol Partners' lobbying registration (Monitoring appropriations for respite housing and electronic medical records systems) is to the final wording in the bill (in italics above).  Could it be that the lobbying firm of Capitol Partners just wrote these appropriations into the bill themselves?

Either way, wouldn't it be good to see the Everywoman Opportunity Center get its fair shake without having to pay to play its way into this bill?