Ugly divorce exposes spoils of progressive shakedown racket
Two of the biggest and best-connected lobbyists in Washington, DC are divorcing each other, and in the process they are placing on the public record the amazing wealth that can be generated by helping rent-seeking powerful interests shape the laws and regulations that separate Americans into winners and losers as the state confiscates a fifth of our GDP and regulates much of the rest. Matthew Continetti chronicles the divorce of Tony and Heather Podesta in the Free Beacon, and it is arresting reading.
If the name Podesta rings a bell, that is because Tony’s kid brother John is a former White House chief of staff for Bill Clinton and current head of the Center for American Progress. Based on the fabulous wealth Tony has generated as a lobbyist, it is clear that the division of labor in the progressive shakedown industry has favored him.
Tony had been one of the capital’s most powerful lobbyists for some time. As his lawyers would later put it, “‘Podesta’ was a widely recognized and well-respected name in the lobbying industry at the time of the marriage.” The lobbying firm he had established in 1987 was powerfully connected. His younger brother, John, was President Clinton’s chief of staff. Tony Podesta owned art and wine and real estate in Italy, in Australia, in northern Virginia, and in D.C. He was a major Democratic donor, a force to be reckoned with, and a cut-up, a character who wore loud neckties and red Prada shoes. “The Pope wears Prada,” he is known to say, “and so do I.” (snip)
In 2007 Podesta Matoon became the Podesta Group. Heather formedHeather Podesta + Partners, establishing two prongs of the Podesta family empire. The third prong was the Center for American Progress, founded in 2003 by John Podesta, who would oversee President Obama’s transition team in 2009, and join the Obama administration as a senior adviser in 2014. The Podestas had become the most important non-elected family in the Democratic Party.
In 2009, with the inauguration of Obama and the dawn of unified Democratic control of Washington, business boomed. Revenues at Tony’s firm close to doubled, and revenues at Heather’s firm increased by 50 percent. The money has continued to roll in. The Podesta Group had some $13 million in lobbying income in 2013, sporting clients such as Lockheed Martin, Wells Fargo, U.S. Airways, Walmart, and the National Biodiesel Board. Heather Podesta + Partners made some $4 million, lobbying on behalf of health companies, the American Beverage Association, Brookfield Power, DeVry University, and others. A portion of that money was recycled, contributing to Democratic campaigns, opening up avenues of influence: Tony gave some $45,500 in 2013, all to Democrats; Heather some $95,798 to Democrats, Democratic committees, and liberal groups.
As government expands, extending its reach to every aspect of business, every sector of the economy, private citizens and corporations require sherpas to lead them through the mountains of regulations and tax provisions, to discover exemptions and special favors and other forms of relief or favoritism to improve the bottom line. And who better to act as sherpas than the relatives of the Democrats who impose the regulations and tax provisions in the first place, who better than the lively proprietors of a family business operating in the luxurious and morally uncomplicated world of the caste of limousine liberals who dominate politics, culture, news, and finance.
Corporations give to Democratic politicians, avoiding the scrutiny of liberal attack dogs in the media and nonprofit sectors, and enjoying the ego boost that comes with being on the “right side of history.” Then those corporations hire the Podestas to get them out of the Rube Goldberg traps the Democrats have enacted into law. John’s innovation was to establish a corporate-funded think tank where the burdensome policies would be concocted, and whose staff would go on to man the regulatory agencies that put their wool-headed ideas into practice. And to whom do the corporations turn when they find themselves on the receiving end of all this uplift, all this do-goodery, all this progress, hope, and change? Why, to the man in the red Prada loafers, and to his flamboyantly patterned wife.
There is much more. Read the whole thing. It’s a story that could come straight out the pages of This Town, Mark Leibovitch’s lighthearted expose of the ways of the Beltway machine. Except that this is ugly, very ugly, and much of it is sworn under oath.