Updated: Sep 9, 2021
If you missed yesterday's post on corruption, you should go back and read it. It's pretty much impossible to understand American politics without understanding conservative corruption. They are utterly entwined-- and that is not a dig against Republicans. Sure, all or nearly all Republicans are-- by the nature of conservatism-- corrupt, but at least a third-- probably more than that-- of congressional Democrats are conservative enough to be classified as corrupt as any garden variety Republican. Corruption is the ultimate bipartisan political endeavor.
Most Americans understand that lobbyists are political bagmen who pay off corrupt politicians. That's why, year after year lobbyists are rated in Gallup polls as the occupation most Americans look down on the most and feel is the least ethical. In this typical 2017 Gallup poll, 82% of respondants rated nurses as highly ethical and honest and just 2% rated them low on that question. Way down at the other end of these spectrum, lobbyists were rated highly by 8% and low by 58%, even worse than car salesmen and (just barely) members of Congress!
I haven't met many lobbyists in person, but one I sort of did get to know-- having served on a board with him at one time-- is Tony Podesta. one of the most notoriously and flagrantly corrupt of the Democratic lobbyists. He was so toxic that the year of that Gallup poll I referenced, he was basically driven out of lobbying. Well, he's baaaaack. "The Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has hired the veteran Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta as part of an expanded campaign to improve relations with the Biden administration," wrote Ken Vogel for the NY Times earlier this summer. Biden, you probably recall, comes from a family of lobbyists and defends the profession and surrounds himself with lobbyist scumbags. Biden has always thought that corrupt is "human nature." Corrupt people always believe that.
Vogel wrote that Podesta has "deep connections" with Biden and Biden's most corrupt-- and conservative-- close aide, Steve Ricchetti, a lobbyists scumbag himself. "But Podesta," noted Vogel, "has been out of lobbying since late 2017, when his $42-million-a-year lobbying and public relations firm collapsed amid a federal investigation that rendered him toxic. Podesta signed agreements with Huawei and then a deal to represent a Bulgarian energy company seeking to do business with American companies this summer. Huawei is trying "to smooth over tensions with the U.S. government and make inroads into U.S. markets," after being branded a national security threat by the Trump regime."which argued that the Chinese government could use its communications technology for spying... The company and two of its subsidiaries are also facing federal charges of racketeering and conspiring to steal trade secrets from American companies. Huawei has hired a number of new lawyers and lobbyists with connections to both parties in recent months, increasing its lobbying spending to more than $1 million in the last three months from $180,000 in the first three months of the year, according to congressional lobbying disclosures."
You're not going to find many politicians who would take bribes from Huawei directly. But taking money from lobbyists-- that's how DC functions.
Podesta, 77, was once a dominant figure in Washington, raising millions of dollars for Democratic candidates and party committees, while building his firm, the Podesta Group, into one of the highest-earning shops on K Street.
The firm disintegrated after it became ensnared in one strand of the special counsel’s investigation into President Donald Trump, his campaign and its ties to Russia. The firm had taken on a client involved in Ukrainian politics that was linked to two figures central to the investigation: the Republican lobbyists Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, who had worked in Ukraine before joining the Trump campaign.
Podesta’s firm initially failed to register the work under Justice Department foreign lobbying rules, and investigators spent months looking into the Podesta Group’s work, but ultimately decided not to bring charges.
He's back in business, calling himself "A trusted adviser among clients and legislators alike... Tony was named 'The Lobbyist' by Newsweek, and he has consistently been named a top lobbyist by Roll Call and The Hill newspapers. According to the New York Times, 'His clients are going to get a blueprint for how to succeed in official Washington.' And 'to the surprise of no one in the capital’s K Street corridor, Podesta-- Democratic fund-raiser, avid art collector and member of a family brand in Washington-- has had a big hand in both (cleaning up Wall Street and cleaning up the Gulf Coast). And medical companies have also been drawn to his firm, particularly in the wake of health care legislation.' ... Recognized throughout the political and legal community as one of the Democratic Party’s top political strategists, Tony has been active for many years with Democratic congressional leaders as well as with many rank-and-file members in both the House and Senate. Additionally, he is active with the Democratic Governors Association [Terry McAuliffe first and foremost] and maintains close relationships with governors from coast to coast. Dubbed by Politico as 'a king of K Street,' Tony has delivered winning outcomes for businesses of all sizes, from start-ups to Fortune 100s, nonprofits, coalitions and local and foreign governments. His success over the past 20 years confirms what the media has said: If you want something done in Washington, DC, you go to Tony Podesta." His website lists neither his clients nor the members of Congress-- like Steny Hoyer-- that he owns.
Podesta's biggest personal contributors (apart from his business have gone to the DCCC ($81,800) and the DSCC (28,400). The members taking the most in Podesta's bribes directly were Steny Hoyer and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of course-- both well-known for laundering dirty money to candidates who don't want to be associated with people like Podesta. Other big recipients of his organized bribery were Hillary Clinton, Bob Menendez, Maggie Hassan, Chris Coons and Jim Clyburn, each a powerful member known to be willing to grant favors for cash. The firm itself gave money to Congress' most corrupt members like Joyce Beatty (OH), Lou Correa (CA) and to very few certain Republicans who have been infamous for taking money for favors regardless of party, particularly Mitch McConnell (KY), Roy Blunt (MO), Mac Thornberry (TX), Ron Johnson (WY) and Ken Calvert (CA).