Is the following individual (A) a Republican, or (B) A Democrat?:
He's a business partner with a close friend of Tom DeLay's and together they work in Washington to represent clients who want to drill in fragile areas of Alaska, put the screws to already beleaguered American creditors, and prevent the introduction of more healthy dairy substitutes in school lunches.
If you guessed A, you're like a lot of Americans, who assume that the historic ideological divide between the two parties still exists. If you guessed B - well, you're way ahead of the curve.
As the nation gears up for a battle over control of Congress this year and for the presidency in two years, there will be much effort to differentiate the two dominant parties. Less likely to be discussed are the ways in which the parties are virtually indistinguishable--especially when it comes to rooting at the money trough.
One way to grok that reality is to look at what influential Democrats do when they are 'out of power.'
A new report from the noncommercial, nonprofit Real News Project, which I founded, examines the work performed by key Democratic Party operatives who earn their "real money" helping corporations exert influence in Washington. The report raises questions about conflicts of interest that have so far escaped public attention.
How does all this affect you and me? Well, imagine a strategy adviser to a Democratic candidate campaigning for publicly-funded universal health insurance--an adviser who has spent years working for insurance interests vehemently opposed to such a change. Do you doubt that person might be somewhat affected by the lucrative influence-peddling he or she has been engaged in between campaigns? Sadly, that kind of scenario plays out every day along Washington's lobbyist gulch, K Street. The paradoxes are sobering, but, for the most part, they have been invisible. Until now.
To assist the public in better assessing this problem, the Real News Project has prepared short biographical sketches of 25 Democratic consultants whose income comes largely from advising, lobbying for, making ads for, or creating public relations campaigns for large corporations and trade associations.
In the course of their daily work, these consultants assist clients in attaining a wide range of objectives, such as: seeking military contracts, furthering gambling ventures, protecting industrial activities against restrictions designed to control global warming, enhancing firms' ability to impose genetically-modified food on dubious populations, holding off universal health insurance and affordable prescription drugs, protecting the aggressive tactics of giant companies like Wal-Mart, and preventing the imposition of consumer-friendly protections against misleading practices of credit card issuers.
Many of the figures in the report worked in the Clinton-Gore administration or retain close ties to key party figures, such as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. It's likely that when and if the Democrats regain power, these people will be in position to influence policy. How will this affect the fortunes of the Fortune 500, and of the American people? See what you think.
The full report can be seen at realnews.org. That site also features a previous RealNews exclusive, Unholy Trinity: Katrina, Allbaugh and Brown. This is the remarkable behind-the-scenes story of Michael Brown and Joe Allbaugh, the men President Bush put in charge of protecting Americans against natural and manmade disasters at FEMA in the period prior to the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina.
The Real News Project is a new non-commercial, non-profit, non-partisan "production shop" for ground-breaking, transformative, independent investigative journalism. RealNews is assembling a team of experienced and conscientious journalists to produce original investigative reports on the realities behind the biggest controversies of our time. We welcome the ideas and support of the public.