The Democrats, as often observed, won a majority in Congress by demanding an end to the “culture of corruption” and undue lobbyist influence. The main beneficiaries of that campaign, the 41 freshman Democrats in the House, now want to form a political action committee to increase their clout on the Hill. So who did they choose to form and run it? Three guesses, and the first two don’t count:
The class of 41 freshman House Democrats has selected a registered lobbyist to form its political action committee, in what ethics watchdogs and Republicans are calling a contradiction of their promise to end a “culture of corruption” in Washington.
The custodian of the Democratic Freshmen PAC is William C. Oldaker, 65, whose most-recent lobbying clients include the oil industry, the tobacco lobby, pharmaceutical industries and American Indian gambling interests. Mr. Oldaker also has been removed from several Democratic PACs over conflict-of-interest concerns.
According to a 2005 report by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), “When lobbyist William Oldaker sits down to negotiate with a member of Congress, he brings years of experience working for the federal government to the table, as well as the legislative resources of his own firm. He also brings quite a bit of money.”
CPI has publicly referred to Mr. Oldaker as a “rainmaker,” for his ability to successfully represent his clients’ interests before congressional lawmakers. Many prominent lawmakers, and especially those seeking higher office, form PACs to donate money to other candidates or causes.
Oh, I get it. It takes a thief to catch a thief, right? The Democrats want to use a full-employment model for “rainmaker” lobbyists so that they can catch them in the act of benefitting Democrats instead of Republicans — the better to expose them. That must be the strategy!
Or, perhaps, the Democrats have decided to end even the pretense of fighting corruption and lobbyist influence. Given their rhetoric on and off the campaign trail, the selection of Oldaker specifically rejects their promises over the last two years. Oldaker has represented the betes noirs of the modern Democratic Party: Big Oil, Big Tobacco, and the pharmaceuticals. It’s practically the Democratic version of Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, and Leatherface, someone that they would have hauled in front of a televised committee hearing to humiliate rather than hire to add the Democrats to that list of clients.
Congressman Mike Thompson insists that the Democratic Freshmen PAC has followed the law in forming its PAC and hiring Oldaker, but that’s hardly the point. Most of the influence that lobbyists have in Washington comes within the law, too. That’s what the Democrats — and especially these freshmen — promised to change. They certainly never indicated that they would hire registered lobbyists from Big Oil and Big Tobacco as their consultants.
Republicans set themselves up to lose last year by clinging to lobbyists and their money more and more tightly over their 12-year period of control of Congress. The Democrats are setting speed records in making the same mistakes over a 12-week period. It’s a betrayal of the Nancy Pelosi/Harry Reid rhetoric, one that even Oldaker could have predicted would backfire.