March 23, 2012

Senator Lieberman Honored By Ballroom Full Of Corporate Lobbyists Night Before Passing Watered Down Ethics Reform For Congress

Senator Lieberman Honored By Ballroom Full Of Corporate Lobbyists Night Before Passing Watered Down Ethics Reform For Congress
The ballroom was "packed" filled with lobbyists honoring Senator Joe Lieberman. (Right) Cal Dooley, a former Democratic Congressman from California, poses for a picture with Josephine Cooper, a former Toyota lobbyist honored at the event. Dooley now earns over $2.3 million a year as a chemical industry lobbyist.

Yesterday, Senator Joe Liberman’s (I-CT) STOCK Act passed the Senate. Though the legislation was originally designed to curtail insider trading in Congress, lawmakers stripped the bill down, removing provisions to add new powers for prosecutors, as well as a rule for Wall Street “political intelligence” firms to register as lobbyists. Strong improvements to the bill, from both Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), were blocked. The weakened STOCK Act, which President Obama says he willsign, does little to address any real corruption in Congress.

The bill cleared the Senate at 1:23pm yesterday. Less than 18 hours prior, the bill’s chief sponsor, Senator Lieberman, was surrounded by corporate lobbyists in a “packed house” at the Capitol Hilton. The Bryce Harlow Foundation, a group named after a famous Procter & Gamble lobbyist and Nixon aide, bestowed its annual award to Lieberman and a former Toyota lobbyist named Josephine Cooper.

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call covered the event, noting that Lieberman told the audience filled with “hundreds” of lobbyists that he respected their profession:

In his acceptance speech, Lieberman said he hoped the next generation of lobbyists will put a light on the business, adding that it is “a critical, and really constitutionally protected” profession.

Lieberman also suggested that he is drawn to the privileges of being a lobbyist:

And while he didn’t say he planned to decamp for K Street himself, he hinted that he might be eyeing some of the trappings it provides. “I don’t know what I’m going to do in the future, but I think I’d like to have a picture of Charlie Chaplin sitting next to me,” he joked, making a reference to his former Senate colleague, Chris Dodd, who is now the president of the Motion Picture Association of America.

It’s quite possible Lieberman, who is retiring from office this year, may take up a K Street job just as Dodd moved through the revolving door after he left office. The former Democratic senator now makes about $2.5 million a year as a movie industry lobbyist. [See Republic Report’s analysis of revolving door pay and our letter to Lieberman asking him to disclose any current job negotiations.]

The gathering included several other lawmakers, including Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), who praised Cooper, the other honoree at the event. “She has so many successes because she knows how to get things done,” remarked Upton, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees car-makers like Cooper’s former client.

According to Politico, the Hill, and other media outlets at the event, lobbyists from Caterpillar, GE, the National Retail Federation, the American Beverage Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce were present. Steve Elmendorf, a top Democratic lobbyist, as well as Cal Dooley, the chief chemical industry lobbyist, were there as well. In other words, the room was filled with some of the wealthiest lobbyists in the city.

The day after the lobbyist party, Lieberman took the Senate floor moments before the chamber passed his watered down STOCK Act legislation. “This represents Congress at its best,” he said, calling his bill as the “most significant” reform bill in years. Republic Report reviewed the video on C-SPAN. He even said it with a straight face.