June 27, 2012

D.C. Newspaper Writes Fawning Profile Of Kennedy-Aide-Turned-Lobbyist

D.C. Newspaper Writes Fawning Profile Of Kennedy-Aide-Turned-LobbyistOne of the best ways for special interests to influence our lawmakers is to hire former government staffers to get the insider access needed to win legislation and regulation. By passing through the “revolving door,” these staffers are generously rewarded for winning over government favors for private clients, often clients who seek to distort public policy to favor wealthy interests.

This revolving door should be a scandal. But in Washington, it’s simply become normal. The local press there even glamorizes it.

Take this profile of Holly Fechner, the former policy director to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), in The Hill, a Washington, D.C. newspaper. Fechner, who now works for  a number of corporate clients as a lobbyist, is repeatedly praised throughout the piece and presented sympathetically:

After leaving Capitol Hill in February 2007, Fechner came to Covington and is now co-chairwoman of the firm’s government affairs practice group. The practice draws on the giant law firm’s expertise across several issue areas, having 36 registered lobbyists.  Representing clients via traditional lobbying as well as in more arcane regulatory and legal work in Washington has worked well for Covington. The firm posted solid revenue in lobbying fees for 2011, taking in $11.2 million. That’s a 10 percent jump from 2010, while many on K Street saw their lobbying earnings plateau or fall last year. […]

Fechner is among a coterie of former Kennedy aides — like Tony Podesta of Podesta Group and Nick Allard of Patton Boggs — who now help run K Street. A University of Michigan Law School graduate, Fechner loves the law but appreciates the unique challenge presented by lobbying.  “I find combining the substantive and the political very interesting,” she said. […]

The Hill article includes praise for Fechner from Steven Law, former Deputy Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, former general counsel at the business lobby the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and now president and CEO of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, the Super PAC and non-profit advocacy group advised by Karl Rove that are playing a central role in advancing Republican candidates and arguments this election year:

“[Fechner] has a gift that is in short supply in Washington: She’s able to appreciate the viewpoint of those on the other side, even if she feels very strongly about her own position. Paradoxically, it’s one of the things that makes her such an effective advocate for whatever issue she’s advancing.”

What The Hill does not spend much time on is what Flechner actually spends her time doing: using her skills, but also her status as a former government official, to give access to some major corporate interests. She has taken on a couple union clients (UNITE HERE and the Teamsters), but the majority of her lobbying clients have been large corporations.

In 2008, she worked for Promontory Financial Group on issues related to the bank bailout, industrial loan legislation, and other related areas. That same year she spent time working on behalf of private equity firms as it fought a bipartisan bill to close a tax loophole related to the industry. In 2009, right before the health care debate began to heat up, she was working for the pharmaceutical industry. Most recently, she has been working for Amazon.com on tax legislation and for the American Task Force Argentina, a group sponsored by a New York sovereign debt fund, which advocates for the use of harsh measures to force debt collection from Argentina.

As Americans lament the corruption of our government by Big Money, it appears that the fourth estate has abdicated its responsibility to hold power responsible. Rather, newspapers like The Hill are spending far too much time praising lobbyists for selling out rather than holding them accountable.