Money Changers in the Dems’ Temple

By March 6, 2007Labor Unions

Time was way back when during the Dems’ 40-year rule of the House that the labor skates would set up shop in either the Clerk’s office or the Doorkeeper’s office on Capitol Hill for key votes. There, they would make calls and they’d send out for food and beer. This was their real estate after all — they had paid dearly for it — and they expected no less than the finest accommodations.

This gravy train of course all came to an abrupt end with the Republican takeover in 1994. That’s not to say the Republicans were pure as the driven snow, but at least they didn’t allow their offices to serve as a sort of catered telethon for lobbyists.

In reaction to other GOP scandals, incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to run a clean House, bereft of any moral turpitude, if you don’t count stuffing wads of cash in the freezer, that is, or turning down $50K in bribes “at this point”. No matter. A clean House.

But apparently old habits are hard to break. Organized labor is throwing their weight around again now that they feel that they have bought and paid for this brand new House. They’re not interested in visiting, they’re moving in. At least that’s what they did during the vote on the anti–democracy card check bill according to this story (subscription required) in yesterday’s Roll Call by Kate Ackley and Bree Hocking. “Instead of prowling around the Capitol’s marble hallways,” says Roll Call, “The labor lobbyists got to set up shop in an office in the Capitol suite of House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) as they watched Thursday’s debate and vote” on the card check bill.

Ackley and Hocking report that the gaggle included 15-20 union lobbyists, including AFL-CIO President John “Pyrrhus” Sweeney, Alan Reuther, top lobbyist for the UAW, AFL chief lobbyist Bill Samuel, a Colorado steel worker and a ballet dancer who was trying to form a union. (We couldn’t make this stuff up.) A labor lobbyist is quoted in the story as saying that the Whip set ’em up with phones and TV’s so they could watch the debate and, well, lobby.

Incredibly, Clyburn’s spokesperson says it was “an honor to have them in the Capitol.” Really? Doesn’t this all feel a little bit smarmy, a little bit unseemly to you? These folks have eliminated the middleman, the lobbyists are lobbying right from Capitol Hill offices. Doesn’t seem right. Doesn’t seem clean. In this age of caller ID, seeing a call come in from the Whip’s Office just might lend a little weight to your decision on how to vote, ya think?

In any event, you may want to drop a note to Rep. Clyburn, ask him what this is all about, or drop a note to Speaker Pelosi, ask her whether this is going to be SOP going forward or if, in fact, she plans to run “the most honest, ethical and open Congress in history,” as she promised.

Truth is, even this guy wouldn’t think this was clean.