Congressional Democrats bullying lobbyists and businesses

In a series of recent stories that has gotten virtually no mainstream media coverage, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats in both the Senate and the House seem to be saying ‘If you want to play, you've got to pay' to the CEOs of major companies and their lobbyists, contrary to their 2006 promises to eliminate just that type of conduct. An article from yesterday's edition of the Politico: Dem leaders pressure CEOs to buck GOP makes the point:

The Senate Democratic leadership summoned the chiefs of 17 major trade associations to the Capitol on Wednesday to send a subtle but unmistakable message: If you want our help on your issues, stop helping the Republicans block our bills.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who managed the meeting for the leadership, called in the CEOs of the city's most powerful trade associations to circumvent what Democrats consider their more partisan lobbyists - many of whom are Republicans with long-standing ties to the power structure that got toppled in 2006.

Lobbyists "help" Republicans block bills by spending money. That includes political donations to the candidates and their leadership PACs while encouraging the companies they represent to do the same, the funding of advertising campaigns for or against particular legislation, and the funding of advertising campaigns supporting their friends and attacking their enemies in Congress during elections. The Democrats aren't trying to "clean up" lobbying, they're telling the lobbyists to stop funding Republicans and start funding the Democrats in charge.

This meeting with the CEOs of the major trade associations is merely the latest salvo in a new campaign to forcefully bring existing Washington lobbyists to the Democratic side. Or, more importantly, to keep the lobbyists and their money away from the GOP.

An article in Roll Call on June 26th 2008, (
Democrats, K Street Feud), discusses what the Democrats are trying to do a bit more graphically than does the latest Politico article:

After 18 months in the majority and a series of unsuccessful outreach efforts to the business community, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has lost patience with Republican dominance on K Street and started a systematic campaign to force a dramatic realignment backed with threats of a hostile environment on Capitol Hill.

...Democratic leadership staff convened a meeting with a number of key lobbyists Wednesday with aides from Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Reid and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). One Democrat described the meeting as a "come to Jesus moment" designed to push K Street to abandon its allegiance to the GOP and throw its weight behind the bill.

That session comes just a week after Reid took National Association of Manufacturers President John Engler to task for involving the group in the 2005 "nuclear" option fight over Democratic filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominations. The confrontation came during a closed-door meeting with Reid and top members of NAM, and those close to the Majority Leader said his decision to openly express his displeasure was designed to be the beginning of Reid's offensive against K Street.

...Menendez and others warned that businesses will find an increasingly inhospitable environment on Capitol Hill if they do not move quickly to alter not only the political composition of their lobbying shops but also proactively work with Democrats to move legislation. Without changes, many companies and industry sectors might find it "a little difficult at the end of the day for them to achieve the success they want," Menendez said.

Hmm. The Democrats are attempting to get the lobbyists support and money by threatening them. That's the very definition of extortion as defined in the Oxford American Dictionary ("the practice of obtaining something, esp. money, through force or threats").  And look at the groups that are connected with this scheme - trade associations and lobbyists. Aren't they integral parts of the "culture of corruption" that the Democrats successfully criticized the Republicans about in 2006?

I wonder what Barack Obama is going to say in his upcoming national speech criticizing this sordid affair?