Looking at the list of newly-registered lobbyists at the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, we find that Former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt and Christina Hamiltion (a former congressional chief of staff), have been signed as state-level contract lobbyists by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).
Rachel Stassen Berger tweeted the hire on Friday:
The CCA hire illustrates not only the power of a national corporation, but the lucre offered by the revolving door for retiring law makers.
CCA, which owns the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, closed since 2010, is hoping to gain a revenue stream from an economic development scheme cooked up by Rep. Tim Miller and Swift County, with a paid assist from Goff Public to house male offenders. The prison would be leased, although there's some talk of purchasing the facility. We wrote about the plan extensively last year.
There's been substantial resistance to the idea from unions, faith-based groups, the criminal justice and probation reform movements, and Minnesota's newly-robust civil rights movement. At the Star Tribune, J. Patrick Coolican reported Wednesday in Dayton vows veto of Appleton prison reopening:
Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he would veto any measure this year that seeks to reopen the privately owned prison in Appleton, Minn.
“It hasn’t been given any forethought,” Dayton said at a news conference.
The DFL governor said the state faces a significant problem with prison overcrowding, but that leaders must first consider less costly options before taking over and rehabbing a vacant prison.
The company has three registered lobbyists at the Minnesota Capitol.
We'll all probably see Gephardt's move into this market framed in the press as a move to given more DFL support. That would be possible only if one ignores Gephardt's clients for the past eleven years. Bluestem predicts that Minnesota press and the public relations firms that love them will do exactly that.
Nostalgia & its discontents: Gephardt no longer friend to progressives--or Armenians
Gephardt's last years of congressional service in the House (1977 to 2005) overlap with Governor Dayton's single term in the U.S.Senate (2001-2007), so perhaps that's was a selling point for purchasing former congressman Gephardt's services as a lobbyist.
Or maybe it's just an exercise in nostalgia.
A minimal amount of digging reveals that Gephardt quickly abandoned his legislative track record and caused as soon as he got on the other side of the revolving door from Congress to K Street. Do those protesting at Wednesday's hearing about the criminal justice system claim the system is rigged against them? They might be on to something.
Here's a sample:
Chuck Raasch, After switching positions, Gephardt and his lobbying firm have taken $8 million from Turkish government, St. Louis Post Dispatch, June 7, 2015:
As a member of Congress, Dick Gephardt often spoke passionately about the need for the United States to recognize as genocide the mass deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians under the Turkish government that began one century ago.
But as a lobbyist for Turkey since leaving Congress in 2005, Gephardt, a Democrat, has taken the opposite side. His behind-the-scenes work has been cited as a factor in the annual failure of Congress to recognize the Armenian genocide.
Justice Department records show that Gephardt’s lobbying firm has been paid more than $8 million since 2008 to fight the declaration and represent Turkey on other contentious issues, including repatriation of Christian holy sites seized over the last century in that Muslim nation.
Dan Eggen, Armenia-Turkey dispute over genocide label sets off lobbying frenzy, The Influence Industry, Washington Post, March 4, 2010:
Each year, Armenian Americans remember the massacres of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in the aftermath of World War I. And each year, Congress becomes embroiled in a bitter debate between Armenia and Turkey over whether to label the episode as genocide.
The dispute has set off a lobbying frenzy this year in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) is scheduled to hold a vote Thursday on a nonbinding resolution that calls on President Obama to formally refer to the 1915 massacre as genocide and to use the term during an annual address on the topic next month. . . .
The resolution has prompted an aggressive push by the government of Turkey and its lobbying firm led by former House majority leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), who had urged recognition of the Armenian genocide when he was in Congress. Public-relations firm Fleishman-Hillard also has a contract with Turkey worth more than $100,000 a month, records show.
Amanda Terkel, Hillary Clinton’s Emails Give A Glimpse Of The Revolving Door, Huffington Post, September 1, 2015:
On May 5, 2010, former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), wrote to Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, about a possible meeting for Boyner with the secretary of state. After leaving government service, Gephardt had founded his own lobbying shop and also did consulting work for bigger firms. In 2007, The New York Times reported that he was a top lobbyist for Turkey.
“I have been asked by the Turkish Embassy, who I represent, to request a meeting with Secretary Clinton for Mrs. Umit Boyner, a prominent Turkish business woman,” wrote Gephardt in his email to Mills. “Such a meeting could be whenever and wherever you determine most convenient for the Secretary — either in Washington, DC or Turkey.”
Ken Silverstein, Dick Gephardt: From NAFTA foe to the U.S. Chamber Washington Babylon, Harper's, March 5, 2009:
Remember Dick Gephardt, the former House House Majority Leader, mortal foe of NAFTA and overall friend of the working class? He’s a lobbyist now of course, and his firm, Gephardt Group, has boomed following the Democratic takeover of congress. Revenues for the firm — which helps clients “improve Labor Relations, develop Political and Public Policy Strategies and enhance Business Results by gaining access to new markets or partners” climbed from $500,000 in 2007 to $1.5 million last year.
Gephardt’s clients include Boeing, Goldman Sachs and Waste Management Inc. and just two days ago he signed up the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The disclosure form doesn’t say how much Gephardt will be paid and only vaguely describes what issues he’ll be working on. . . .
Sebastian JonesDick Gephardt’s Spectacular Sellout The Nation, September 30, 2009:
As a politician, he was a champion of progressive reform. Now he lobbies for its enemies. . . . .
While Gephardt spent most of his twenty-eight years in national Democratic politics quietly promoting and voting with establishment interests, he is best known for his friendship with labor and advocacy for universal healthcare during two presidential runs. In 2003 he harshly condemned corporate crime, which he said “ruined people’s lives for selfishness and greed,” and launched his candidacy claiming, “Every proposal I’m making, every idea I’m advancing has a single, central purpose: to revive a failing economy and give working Americans the help and security they need.” So why, six years later, was he on Capitol Hill representing one of the biggest players in the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression? And further, why was he recently working for Visa to kill credit card reform, helping Peabody Energy stymie climate change legislation and consulting for UnitedHealth Group alongside Tom Daschle to block meaningful healthcare reform? ....
On January 1, 2005–before Gephardt’s term had even expired–the Congressman’s son-in-law signed papers to form a consultancy firm based in Delaware called Gephardt and Associates (now the Gephardt Group). But for most of 2005 it lay dormant as Gephardt joined corporate boards and advised a few big-name companies. Banned from lobbying Congress for a year, he soon discovered there were places outside Washington that needed influencing.
Like California: when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced legislation that would have opened the door to increased infrastructure privatization in January 2006, Democrats in the legislature balked. So Goldman Sachs, standing to benefit from these policies, sent Gephardt as an emissary to Sacramento, hoping to persuade the state to monetize infrastructure by levying tolls and then leasing roads to private investors for decades. “I’ve done some work with Goldman Sachs in their capacity as adviser to both the City of Chicago and now the State of Indiana,” Gephardt told California lawmakers at a February 14, 2006, hearing, before extolling the virtues of infrastructure privatization if “negotiated properly.”
Several years on, the results have been lackluster. In certain cases, poorly negotiated contracts with little oversight have allowed high tolls and, because of failure to estimate the true value of the infrastructure, have given the private sector windfall profits at the expense of local communities. Transit grids have been fragmented, causing unpredictable congestion, leading to significant litigation.
Gephardt has remained committed to the cause of infrastructure privatization, visiting Nevada’s legislature in 2007, and at last year’s Democratic National Convention joining bankers from Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase to advocate for the practice on a panel discussion. By then, however, Gephardt had a new day job. In June 2005 he joined DLA Piper, a large Washington lobbying firm, as a consultant. He would not lobby, he told the Washington Post at the time; he would just offer “strategic advice.” His new boss had other ideas, however, telling the trade publication Influence a few days later, “Once he’s able to, he’ll lobby if that’s something that might be useful.” ...
Kevin Bogardus, Former House Dem leader Gephardt hired as lobbyist by firm battling SEIU, The Hill, June 10, 2010:
Former House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) has been hired to lobby for a major food-services company that has faced criticism from a powerful union.
Gephardt and Tom O’Donnell, his former chief of staff, have registered to lobby on “labor/management related matters” by Sodexo, according to lobbying disclosure records.
The French-owned company has been embroiled in a battle with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) over a labor organizing campaign, and Gephardt is known for his labor ties.
SEIU is running online ads that show videos of Sodexo employees complaining about worker conditions at the company. They have organized public protests of Sodexo and argue the company is paying its employees wages below poverty levels. . . .
The contracts with Gephardt’s lobbying group and Trammell and Co. represent the first time the food-services company has turned to outside lobbyists to work in Washington, according to a review of records by The Hill. Overall, the group has spent more than $5.6 million on internally hired lobbyists since 2002. . . .
Since creating the firm in 2005, Gephardt and his team have been hired to lobby for some of the most prominent names in business and finance. Boeing, Goldman Sachs, Visa and others have all hired Gephardt at some point, according to lobbying disclosure records.
Those lobbying contracts, however, have earned him the ire of labor groups. Last month, SEIU members protested Gephardt along with other well-known Democratic lobbyists, including Steve Elmendorf and Tony Podesta, in a large K Street rally.
Thomas Edsall, The Trouble With That Revolving Door, New York Times, December 18, 2011:
Last week, an inside-the-Beltway newsletter, First Street, published a unique top-ten list. It reveals which former members of Congress are among the most important Washington lobbyists. . . .
A case in point is Richard Gephardt, who represented a working-class district in south St. Louis for 28 years. Gephardt served one year as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, six as Democratic majority leader, and eight as Democratic minority leader. Through much of his congressional career he was a staunch ally of organized labor (his father was a member of the Teamster’s Union) fighting for the interests of trade unions on issue after issue. . . .
By 2010, annual firm billings had shot up from $625,000 in 2007 to $6.59 million. Gephardt’s client list was blue chip, Goldman Sachs (paid Gephardt $200,000 in 2010); Boeing Co. ($440,000); Visa Inc. ($200,000); Ameren Corp, the energy holding company ($200,000); and Waste Management Inc., the leading provider of trash and garbage removal ($320,000). . . .
The corruption inherent in the open revolving door between Congress and K Street is well described by Lawrence Lessig, a professor of law at Harvard, in his new book “Republic, Lost.”. . .
Laurie Bennett,The rewarding post-election career of Dick Gephardt Muckety, March 6, 2014:
A decade ago, Dick Gephardt was one of the least affluent members of Congress.
In 2004, his final year in the House, he filed a financial disclosure form reporting a negative net worth.
Since leaving public office, he has built a multimillion-dollar annual income as one of Washington’s premier lobbyists.
Forty-two former members of Congress sit on Fortune 500 boards. But only one - Gephardt - sits on four.
A two-time presidential candidate, he is a director of Ford Motor, US Steel, Centene and CenturyLink. . . .
His lobby firm, Gephardt Group, represents nine Fortune 500 companies. The firm booked nearly $1.7 million in lobby fees from those clients last year. Its total haul for lobbying work was almost $4.8 million.
Gephardt also serves as an adviser to Goldman Sachs, a client of Gephardt Group.
Last year he personally collected $1.2 million in compensation for his Fortune 500 board activities. His stock holdings in those companies are worth more than $5.6 million.
Muckety provided a map of this web:
We're hoping our friends at the state office buildings manage to get selfies with Gephardt and the lawmakers he's visiting.
Drawing: Cartoon by Caitlin Dover for The Nation.
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