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So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Governmentby Robert G. Kaiser
Synopses & Reviews
A SCANDAL FOR OUR TIME
In the early hours of February 22, 2004-a cool, clear, late-winter day—copies of the fat Sunday edition of The Washington Post landed on doorsteps and driveways throughout the nation's capital and its booming suburbs in Maryland and Virginia. Near the top of the front page, an arresting headline announced a scoop:
A JACKPOT FROM INDIAN GAMING TRIBES
LOBBYING, PR FIRMS PAID $45 MILLION OVER 3 YEARS
This was a seductive come-on in a city where making money was in vogue, and the story lived up to the enticement. The Post reported startling details about the exploits of a lobbyist named Jack Abramoff, then forty-six, and a public relations man who collaborated with him, Michael Scanlon, thirty-three. They had persuaded four Indian tribes flush with gambling money to pay huge fees to exploit Abramoff's connections with conservative Republicans in the White House and Congress to protect the tribes' interests. At Abramoff’s urging, the tribes also hired Scanlon to do unspecified public relations work.
The fees are all the more remarkable because there are no major new issues for gaming tribes on the horizon, according to lobbyists and congressional staff, reported the Post's Susan Schmidt. Abramoff persuaded the tribes that they needed his help to block powerful forces both at home and in Washington who have designs on their money, Schmidt wrote, quoting members of the tribes to this effect. She disclosed that the four tribes had donated millions of dollars to politicians and causes suggested by Abramoff, and had changed their traditional patterns of political contributions by giving less to Democrats and more to Republicans-at his urging. Some members of the tribes Abramoff represented “have begun to complain that they are getting little for their money,” wrote Schmidt.
Neither Abramoff nor Scanlon was a household name in Washington. But Tom DeLay was, and DeLay's name appeared five times in that Post story. DeLay, a successful small businessman who ran an exterminating firm in the suburbs of Houston before he became a politician, was then the most powerful man in Congress. Everyone knew that DeLay had chosen Dennis Hastert of Illinois to become Speaker of the House of Representatives
when that job suddenly came open in 1999. DeLay's title was majority leader, technically second-ranking to the speaker, but their colleagues
understood that DeLay was smarter and tougher than Hastert, and more influential among House Republicans.
In the mid-1990s DeLay and his colleagues in the Republican leadership had struck a bargain with Washington's lobbyists that was both brazen and remarkably successful: if the lobbyists would help raise hundreds of millions of dollars to support Republicans and help preserve their majority in Congress, DeLay would invite them into the legislative process, and allow them to propose entire bills and suggest changes to legislation
proposed by others.
Both sides fulfilled this understanding with gusto. The Republican National Committee and the party's House and Senate campaign committees, which collected $358 million in contributions in the two years prior to the 1994 elections when Republicans won control of Congress for the first time since 1952, reported contributions of $782 million a decade later, in 2003-04-a 220 percent increas
In this sometimes shocking and always riveting book, a political correspondent for "The Washington Post" offers the startling story of the monumental growth of lobbying in Washington, D.C., and how it undermines effective government.
With a New Foreword
In So Damn Much Money, veteran Washington Post editor and correspondent Robert Kaiser gives a detailed account of howthe boom in political lobbying since the 1970s has shaped American politics by empowering special interests, undermining effective legislation, and discouraging the country's best citizens from serving in office.Kaiser traces this dramatic change in our political system through the colorful story of Gerald S. J. Cassidy, one of Washington's most successful lobbyists. Superbly told, it's an illuminatingdissection of a political system badly in need of reform.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
Robert G. Kaiser, with The Washington Post since 1963, has covered Congress, the White House, and national politics; reported from abroad as the Post’s correspondent in Saigon and Moscow; served as the paper’s national editor and managing editor; and is now associate editor and senior correspondent. He has written for Esquire, Foreign Affairs, and The New York Review of Books, and is the author or coauthor of six books, including Russia: The People and the Power. He has received awards from both the Overseas Press Club and the National Press Club. He lives in the town where he was born: Washington, D.C.
Table of Contents
A scandal for our time — Looking down on the Capitol — The art of self-invention — A Washington that worked — A new kind of business — Corrupt or correct? — Earmarks become routine — A great awakening — A marriage unravels — New American politics — A money machine — Disaster averted — Tricks of the lobbying trade — The new technology of politics — Disorder in the house — Becoming a conglomerate — Influencing policy for profit — Public service, private rewards — Radical ends, radical means — Cash cow on the Potomac — Elections bought and sold — Government broken by politics — Hard times — A corroded culture.
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