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The Gross National Debt

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

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You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 4:24 PM 10 comments

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

The Washington Post published an article yesterday that was, for me, a real eye-opener.

It seems that former government (specifically DOJ) lawyers are leaving the government in droves and heading to K Street firms to better defend the people they were supposed to (and sometimes did, but not nearly enough) investigate against the coming onslaught of oversight envisioned with the 110th Congress.

More after the fold.

From Jeffrey H. Birnbaum's /Washington Post/ column, K Street Confidential:

Deee-fense, Deee-fense Deee-fense.

You can almost hear the chant rising from corporate offices all over town. As soon as Democrats take over Congress next month, all sorts of businesses will no doubt face sharp-elbowed congressional hearings called O & I -- oversight and investigations. *And they'll need a strong defense*.

While we have embroiled ourselves over the raging debate of "to impeach or not to impeach", the drumbeat of oversight and investigations is taking root where it matters: with the stakeholders. The article continues:

So many inquisitions are about to be begun by the Democrats newly in charge that dozens of law and PR firms are bulking up with former insiders to cash in on all the trouble those hearings will create. Companies that were harassed in the past by smart young government lawyers have lately been buying the services of those same young lawyers, now in the private sector, for protection from their successors.

Indeed. As Mark R. Paoletta, chief counsel for investigations and oversight at the House Energy and Commerce Committee puts it:

"Democrats are going to be very, very active."

Let's hope so. In fact, I don't doubt it. Check out these gems from an hours-old article from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Rep. Henry Waxman has spent the last six years investigating the White House and its corporate allies, focusing on everything from military contracts to Medicare prices from his perch on the Government Reform Committee.

In January, Waxman becomes committee chairman - and the lead congressional hound of an administration many Democrats feel has blundered badly as it expanded the power of the executive branch.

The challenge?

"The most difficult thing will be to pick and choose," he [Waxman] said.

There was also this item, which I found extremely interesting:

When he became top Democrat of the Government Reform Committee in 1997, Waxman realized that he didn't have to settle for playing defense like most in the House minority. He took advantage of the committee's large staff to hire talented investigators to pursue projects large and small.

He probed Medicare drug costs, steroids in baseball, and why the Taekwondo Union was allowing 12- and 13-year-olds to kick opponents in the head. He also investigated abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and government contracts given to Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former company.

I'm certainly no expert, but what that last excerpt said to me is that a great deal of the groundwork for these important investigations has already been laid. In other words, he already has some measure of information to use as a basis for where he starts. Before we leave the Post-Intelligencer artcle, there was finally this:

As Government Reform chairman, Waxman's priorities will include probing government contracts for Hurricane Katrina cleanup, homeland security and the Iraq war.

Fertile ground. Now back to the Washington Post and the "K Street Defense":

So much better [the pay in the private sector], in fact, that just about every company on K Street is vying for a piece of the soon-to-thrive "crisis management" business. The law firm Holland & Knight is flogging its newly formed Congressional Investigations Response Team. Promotional literature highlights the many former insiders now eager to assist their former nemeses: "Our ranks include two former Members of Congress, a former Minority Chief Counsel to the Senate Government Affairs Committee, a former Rules Committee Counsel, a former Chief of Staff for the House Republican Conference, and a former Chief of Staff to the Attorney General, among others."

Two former aides to the House's Government Reform Committee are also forming a partnership partly in hopes of attracting clients who want to know how to defeat the kinds of investigations they once managed. Barbara J. Comstock and Mark Corallo are setting out on their new venture because, Comstock said, "it helps to know the history of the committee, its subpoena power."

Comstock is a well known conservative Republican operative and Corallo was with DOJ from 2002-2005 where he served as spokesman for then Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The Washington Post article is rife with references to former insiders from a variety of industries now nervous with the impending Democratic Congressional takeover. Energy/oil. Pharmaceuticals. Government Contracting. Labor. Hedge fund companies. Environmentally poluting companies such as utilities and the auto industry. The K Street machine of lawyers, consultants, PR and media firms are in full bulk-up to ensure they have representatives attractive to companies in these sectors who may fall under the microscope of oversight and investigations.

In short, a cottage indsutry has sprung up in lobbying, defending, and managing the public perception of companies that may be targeted by Waxman's committee alone.

Birnbaum closes with a statement of the obvious:

Sometimes a good defense is a vigorous offense.

All I can say is, I hope the reality of oversight and investigations is much, much worse than this investment indicates. And make no mistake - these firms are paying big money for these insiders because they KNOW they will see a substantial return on their investment. I don't know of any better indicator of how bad it's going to get than seeing huge sums of money flowing to people best poised to defend alleged or even suspected wrongdoing. It always does, essentially, come down to following the money.

I'm betting that Waxman isn't going to be fooled by well-crafted media messages and knowledgable defenses, though. And I would hope every other Democratic Congressperson with a dog in the investigations and oversight fight follows his already aggressive lead.

Pardon me as I wipe the drool created from anticipating the onslaught.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 4:17 PM 1 comments
Thursday, December 07, 2006

Here's Why:

Now - tell me what he's wearing on his feet??! 'Nuff said. (Click picture to enlarge)

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 4:36 PM 5 comments