Welcome to TNR’s 2011 list issue. Last week we named DC's most over-covered stories, most over-rated thinkers, most powerful, least famous people, TNR's favorite people and the worst words in Washington. Today's installment: DC's sell-outs.
When Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh announced that he did not intend to run for office in 2010, on the eve of the deadline for the primaries—despite pleas from both President Obama and Rahm Emanuel to stay in the race—he opened up another Senate seat for Republicans and left Democrats scrambling. Around the same time, in a hectoring New York Times op-ed, Bayh blamed partisan rancor for stymieing progress in Congress. Then, he took jobs at the law firm McGuire Woods, as a Fox News commentator, and as a spokesman for the Chamber of Commerce—occupations that we’re sure afford many opportunities for bipartisan cooperation.
The former aide to Bill Clinton has been retained by for-profit colleges; Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the Equatorial Guinean dictator with an appalling human rights record; and, briefly, the ousted Ivoirian dictator Laurent Gbagbo—leading The New York Times to observe that there is “growing criticism that Mr. Davis has become a kind of front man for the dark side.” Under scrutiny last December, he defended his activities on behalf of Obiang by saying: “I’ve been a liberal Democrat all my life. I haven’t changed my values. But what am I supposed to do if the leader of a country comes to me and says he wants to get right with the world and get right with the United States?” Being a liberal Democrat has never seemed so slimy.
Soon after leaving the Senate in 2005, Daschle went to work for a private-equity firm at a salary of $1 million per year. He resurfaced politically in late 2008 when President Obama nominated him to become secretary of health and human services; but he had to withdraw his bid when it was revealed that he had failed to pay taxes on a car-and-driver service. Still, as the debate surrounding health care heated up in the summer of 2009, he lobbied publicly for the inclusion of a public option to “keep the insurance companies accountable.” Unfortunately, in his role as a “special public policy adviser” to the Washington office of lobbying firm Alston & Bird, he was also advising UnitedHealth, an insurance company that was one of the main forces opposing the public option.
Meredith Baker is not the first Federal Communications Commission (FCC) member to slide over to the private sector after a stint on the commission. But Baker became chief lobbyist for Comcast-NBC Universal less than five months after she endorsed the controversial merger in her role as an FCC member. During her time on the FCC, she also criticized the pace of the merger, telling an industry group, “The NBC-Comcast merger took too long.” While she can’t personally lobby the FCC until there’s a new president, The New York Times points out that “she can still lobby Congress, and there is no ban on her overseeing a shop of lobbyists.”
Dick Gephardt spent nearly three decades in Congress advocating for labor, supporting universal health care, and slamming corporate greed. In 2003, he proclaimed he’d “had enough of the oil barons, the status-quo apologists, the special-interest lobbyists running amok.” But, since leaving Congress in 2005, Gephardt has represented anti-union Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; UnitedHealth, which raised objections to health care reform (see above); and Goldman Sachs. The list goes on and on, but you get the point.