OCTOBER 1997 · VOLUME 18 · NUMBER 10
T H E I R M A S T E R S ' V O I C E
WHEN BIG CORPORATIONS hire a lobbyist, they look for someone who can open doors on Capitol Hill and at the White House. That is what makes former members of Congress such effective lobbyists: in addition to being highly skilled at rewriting the rules -- since they wrote them in the first place -- they have easy access to former colleagues and administration officials.
Consider the case of Beryl Anthony, who Arkansas voters ejected from Congress in 1992 after he bounced 109 checks at the bank for the House of Representatives. After losing office, Anthony -- who had served on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and is an old crony of Bill Clinton's -- took a job with Winston & Strawn, where he specializes in regulatory issues. One of Anthony's first clients was the American Hospital Association, which publicly declared that the former congressperson was hired because of his "knowledge of the Clinton inner circle and his long friendship with Mr. Clinton." Anthony's case is hardly unique. According to the Wall Street Journal, 40 percent of the members of Congress who were defeated in election bids in 1992 later joined major law firms that do lobbying and consulting. Between 1988 and 1993, 42 percent of all permanent Senate committee staff directors became lobbyists, while the corresponding number on the House side was 34 percent.
The revolving door pattern also holds true among former administration officials. Between 1974 and 1990, half of all senior officials who left the U.S. Trade Representative's office went to work as foreign lobbyists. In 1993, Washingtonian ranked the capital's most persuasive influence peddlers. The top ten included Stuart Eizenstadt, formerly Jimmy Carter's top domestic policy adviser; Tom Korologos and Bill Timmons of Timmons & Company, both who previously were employed by the Nixon White House; Patrick Griffin, a one-time Democratic aide in the Senate who later became Bill Clinton's congressional lobbyist; and Lloyd Cutler, White House counsel to Jimmy Carter and a decade and a half later for Bill Clinton.
For lobbyists who have not served in Congress, gaining access to lawmakers is a vital priority. When lobbying for agricultural interests in the early 1980s, Paula Parkinson took a direct approach to achieving this goal. She claimed to have had sex with eight members of Congress, a relatively small number in the context of the full House but a voting block equivalent to the combined states of Vermont, Hawaii, Idaho and New Mexico. Parkinson took a 1980 golf trip with three members of Congress -- Dan Quayle of Indiana, Tom Railsback of Illinois and Tom Evans of Delaware -- all who subsequently voted Parkinson's way on a crop insurance bill.
Having a family member in Congress is also helpful, and that leads to the more current case of Randy DeLay, the brother of Republican House Whip Tom DeLay of Texas.
Tom DeLay maintains intimate ties with many beltway lobbyists. After the GOP's 1994 seizure of power in Congress, Tom worked with a team of lobbyists from an outfit calling itself "Project Relief" -- a coalition of 350 corporations and industry groups -- in drafting a bill to gut regulations affecting industry. A lobbyist for energy and petrochemical industries wrote the first draft of the legislation, which called for a moratorium on any new federal regulations for 100 days. Other lobbyists from Project Relief found this too timid and wrote successive redrafts of the bill, lengthening the moratorium to 13 months and making it apply retroactively.
"Each new version sharpened and expanded the moratorium bill," reported the Washington Post, "often with the interests of clients in mind -- one provision favoring California motor fleets, another protecting industrial consumers of natural gas and a third keeping alive Union Carbide's hopes for altering a Labor Department requirement."
No lobbyist has made out better under Republican rule, though, than Tom's brother. Until the early 1990s, Randy DeLay's financial prospects were grim. Four business ventures in which he was involved -- a restaurant, two oil projects and investments in beach property -- had gone under. In one of the oil ventures, DeLay's uncle and four other business partners sold a company called Oilfield Distribution out from under Randy and the new owners fired him from his $120,000 per year post as the firm's Chief Executive Officer. As a result of these setbacks, DeLay filed for bankruptcy in 1992.
Salvation came in early 1995, when Tom was elected to the whip's post. A number of big firms and trade associations promptly began to hire Randy as a lobbyist, even though he had no previous experience. His clients have included Houston Lighting and Power, Cemex, the Mexican cement monopoly, Union Pacific Railroad and the city of Houston, which is home to both DeLays.
A Houston Press report indicates that between 1995 and mid-1997, Randy DeLay earned $750,000 in fees and expenses. The man who just five years ago was forced to seek refuge in bankruptcy now has a plush office in a Houston high-rise and regularly flies to Washington to meet with his new stable of clients.
Of course, Randy's clients have hired him purely because of the vast talents he displayed as a businessperson, not because of his blood ties to the third most powerful Republican in the House.
Tom, for his part, promises that he offers his brother no special favors. "Be assured there is no conflict of interest," he wrote in a statement issued earlier this year. "I have taken steps to make Randy's access to my office more difficult than any other registered lobbyist."
Given the manner in which Tom has turned his office over to lobbyists. this statement, even if true, is hardly comforting.
-- Ken Silverstein