January 2000


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Aram Falsafi <[log in to unmask]>
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Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 30 Jan 2000 23:19:39 -0500
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Surprisingly good article about corporate lobbying. The original paper version also had a bargraph showing his major contributors, by industry.

Sorry about the formatting. This is how it came off the Globe web page.


                                [The Boston Globe Online][]
                                [Boston Globe Online / Nation | World]

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                                Gore's lobbyist contributors reap access

                                By Walter V. Robinson and John Aloysius
                                Farrell, Globe Staff, 1/26/2000

                                 [Image]ASHINGTON - What's wrong with the
                                        government? It's in the vise-like
                                grip of monied special interests and their
                                influential lobbyists who corrupt
                                decision-making, to hear some presidential
                                candidates tell it. Vice President Al
                                Gore, however, has largely abstained from
                                joining that chorus.

                                A closer look at Gore's political and
                                personal retinue may help explain why:
                                Many of the vice president's close
                                friends, former aides, and senior campaign
                                advisers work as lobbyists and strategists
                                for corporate clients who often get access

                                to the White House and Gore's office - and
                                sometimes get profitable results from
                                regulators who operate under Gore's

                                Gore raised $28 million for his
                                presidential campaign last year. That's
                                less than half the $67 million that Texas
                                Governor George W. Bush raised. But Gore,
                                not Bush, is the favorite of Washington
                                lobbyists. They gave Gore more than
                                $600,000 in 1999, and their clients
                                donated millions more to his campaign and
                                the Democratic Party.

                                To be sure, Washington lobbyists curry
                                favor with both parties, more often to the
                                benefit of Republicans. But Democrats
                                close to Gore have carved out a special,
                                growing niche: representing new-tech and
                                high-tech firms whose prospects often
                                depend on regulatory decisions. And on
                                technology issues, Gore is the
                                administration's gatekeeper.

                                In two cases, major contributors, with
                                help from lobbyists with close ties to
                                Gore, walked off with windfall decisions
                                from regulators. In 1997, Teligent Inc.
                                was awarded additional microwave bandwidth
                                that by some estimates was worth close to
                                $1 billion. In 1998 and 1999, Teligent
                                contributed more than $200,000 to
                                Democratic Party committees, and officials
                                of the company have raised tens of
                                thousands of dollars for Gore's campaign.

                                And then there's Network Solutions Inc.,
                                which had exclusive rights from the
                                government to award Internet domain names.
                                When other companies demanded that the
                                monopoly be ended, the firm hired Gore's
                                former domestic policy adviser, Greg
                                Simon, as its lobbyist. In a decision
                                worth untold millions to NSI, regulators
                                initially opted for the status quo,

                                leaving NSI in control of domain names.
                                Even a decision last year to open the
                                domain business to competition was shaped
                                to preserve NSI's preeminence.

                                There is no evidence that Gore himself was
                                involved in either decision. But it is
                                clear that the web of relationships among
                                lobbyists, their clients, the White House
                                and the Gore campaign is mutually
                                beneficial: Friends of Gore are earning
                                millions in fees to represent clients who
                                want access to the White House, or to
                                agencies like the Environmental Protection
                                Agency and the Federal Communications
                                Commission, where Gore has a hand in
                                appointments and policy. And critical to
                                Gore's political success, these friends
                                and their clients have raised millions of
                                dollars for Gore's presidential campaign
                                and Democratic Party committees.

                                A spokesman for Gore, Chris Lehane,
                                asserted yesterday that the vice president
                                has never made a decision that was not
                                based on the country's best interests.
                                Sometimes, Lehane noted, Gore's decisions
                                work against the interests represented by
                                his friends.

                                As for the substantial contributions from
                                both Teligent and Network Solutions,
                                Lehane said, ''Al Gore has more than
                                120,000 contributors, who are proud to
                                support him because of his leadership.''

                                Gore's official actions and decisions do,
                                as Lehane suggests, sometimes disappoint
                                lobbyists who know him. But that would
                                seem inevitable. On many
                                telecommunications and technology issues
                                nowadays, lobbyists who trace their
                                political lineage to Gore's office can be
                                found representing opposing sides.

                                Lower-tech industries, some considered
                                untouchable by some lobbyists, have also
                                steered business to Gore's friends.
                                Masterminding Gore's campaign strategy are
                                a longtime friend, Carter Eskew, and a
                                pollster, Harrison Hickman, who had
                                pivotal roles crafting the tobacco
                                industry's $40 million ad campaign against
                                antitobacco legislation. Among Gore's
                                largest campaign donors are Washington
                                lobbying firms that earn millions
                                representing tobacco interests and
                                companies that have pollution issues
                                before the Environmental Protection

                                Lehane deflected questions about Eskew's
                                tobacco industry work. ''Carter Eskew is
                                now helping to promote the vice
                                president's antitobacco agenda,'' he said,
                                adding that Eskew is not unlike someone
                                who played for the New York Yankees and
                                then was traded to the Red Sox. ''Now,
                                he's playing for the Red Sox,'' the
                                spokesman said.

                                Eskew and Hickman did not return telephone

                                The fact that money buys ''access'' in
                                Washington is nothing new, though the
                                system is now so awash in corporate
                                donations that some candidates, and even
                                some corporate leaders, are crying for

                                Bush, for example, has raised millions of
                                dollars from the industrial, professional,
                                and corporate interests that are regulated
                                by the Texas state government. Senator
                                John McCain, who has elevated the campaign
                                finance reform issue to first-rank status,
                                seeks donations from industries he
                                oversees as chairman of the Senate
                                Commerce Committee, and in one recent case
                                interceded with regulators in a way that
                                benefited a major contributor. And Gore
                                himself has attacked former New Jersey
                                senator Bill Bradley for acting in the
                                Senate on behalf of home state
                                pharmaceutical companies.

                                ''Money follows power. When a company
                                needs someone in a position of power to
                                help them out, it's a very good time for
                                them to take out the checkbook and make a
                                political donation. That's the way
                                Washington works,'' said Larry Makinson,
                                executive director of the Committee for
                                Responsive Politics, which maintains a Web
                                site (, where
                                donations and lobbying revenues can be
                                tracked and compared.

                                The evident intersection between Gore's
                                fund-raising, lobbying, and the companies
                                queuing up to hire his friends is all the
                                more surprising after the buffeting he
                                took in the 1996 campaign fund-raising

                                Back then, Gore was known as the
                                ''solicitor in chief'' for his zealous
                                pursuit of donations from special interest
                                groups targeted by the Clinton-Gore
                                reelection campaign. Along with Clinton,
                                Gore hosted White House coffees that were
                                followed by substantial contributions. He
                                used his own office to solicit campaign

                                donations. And for months, he maintained
                                that he didn't know that an event he
                                attended at a Buddhist temple in
                                California was a fundraiser. Investigators
                                later discovered that the event was used
                                to move cash from Asia into the campaign.

                                This time around, Gore's contributions are
                                carefully vetted. Nonetheless, much of the
                                money he has raised come from officers of
                                companies whose interests coincide with
                                Gore's areas of official responsibility.

                                What's more, lobbying reports examined by
                                the Globe show that Gore's office is often
                                listed as a lobbying stop for Gore's
                                friends, on issues that include
                                telecommunications, computer technology,
                                tax credits, biotechnology, drug company
                                concerns, and environmental quality
                                disputes. Since 1996, the television
                                networks alone have spent several million

                                dollars on lobbyists on issues like the
                                ''V'' chip, which limits access to violent
                                TV programming, with Gore's office getting
                                much of the lobbying attention.

                                Of the 19 companies whose executives have
                                donated the most in individual
                                contributions to Gore's campaign, seven
                                are Washington lobbying firms. Moreover,
                                lobbying and campaign finance records show
                                that 15 of the 19 firms have also made
                                unrestricted ''soft money'' contributions
                                to Democratic Party committees during
                                Clinton's second term of office. The
                                total: $3,376,690.

                                One highly successful lobbyist, Tony
                                Podesta, even has a Web site that invites
                                readers to conclude that he wields
                                considerable influence at the White House
                                - which friends say he does, sometimes
                                aggressively and often effectively. On the
                                site, Podesta's firm boasts how he
                                ''gained the ear'' of the White House on a
                                key tax issue and arranged meetings with
                                Clinton for broadcast executives and
                                sessions with ''key policy makers.'' The
                                site also includes a trade publication
                                news article describing Podesta's
                                late-night role helping the White House
                                plot anti-impeachment strategy.

                                Podesta's brother, John, has been White
                                House chief of staff since November 1998.
                      , the company where John and
                                Tony once toiled together, has 53 lobbying
                                clients, and revenues of about $8 million
                                last year, up from about $6 million in

                                In an interview, Tony Podesta said he
                                sometimes does not go near the White House
                                for weeks at a time. But there have been
                                times, he said, when he spends every day
                                in a given week at the White House. But,
                                he said, ''I've gotten no client into the
                                White House who the White House didn't
                                want there.'' And Podesta said he never
                                contacts his brother on behalf of any

                                ''It's not like we helped elect Bill
                                Clinton and Al Gore and then hung out a
                                shingle,'' Tony Podesta said. ''We started
                                this business when George Bush was
                                president, and we'll still be here if his
                                son becomes president.''

                                Gore did not invent the Internet, as he
                                once claimed. But the industries driving
                                the new economy often treat him as if he
                                had. And with good reason: No one in
                                government, arguably not even President
                                Clinton, has more influence than Gore over
                                the direction of the technology
                                revolution. And some of Gore's friends
                                have his ear on those issues, even as they
                                earn millions for advising companies eager
                                to affect those decisions.

                                For example, Roy Neel, a close friend and
                                former chief of staff to Gore, is
                                president of the US Telephone Association,
                                which represents the interests of the Bell
                                operating companies in Washington. In
                                1998, Neel was paid $1.2 million by USTA,

                                according to a survey by the National

                                USTA, in turn, retains another former
                                chief of staff to Gore, Peter Knight, as
                                its lobbyist, for $200,000 a year. Knight,
                                who has long been Gore's most prodigious -
                                and controversial - fund-raiser, is also
                                Bell Atlantic's chief lobbyist, at another
                                $280,000 a year. Two months ago, Knight
                                took a leave from his lobbying firm as a
                                way to mute criticism of his multiple

                                One member of a lobbying firm, speaking on
                                condition that neither she nor her firm be
                                identified, said she was troubled by
                                overtures to potential high-technology

                                Often, she said, some of those with Gore
                                connections present themselves as advisers
                                to the president and vice president, note
                                that they frequently attend White House
                                meetings, and even say that they can get
                                Gore to appear at client company events.
                                Even if they cannot affect the outcome,
                                she said, Gore's friends can claim access
                                to inside information from the White House
                                staff. ''That in itself is very valuable
                                to clients,'' she said.

                                Andrew Schwartzman, president of the Media
                                Access Project, a public interest law firm
                                that specializes in technology issues,
                                said he is troubled by what he calls the
                                ''monetarization of politics,'' but said
                                he sees no evidence that the outcome is
                                tipped in cases involving Gore's friends.

                                Part of the reason: Both sides in any
                                major telecommunications dispute are often
                                represented by lobbyists with ties to the
                                vice president. ''They nullify each
                                other,'' Schwartzman said.

                                Gore, Schwartzman concluded, ''makes his
                                own decisions. But the vice president
                                wants to see his friends be successful and
                                wealthy. And he wants them to contribute
                                to his campaign.''

                                Two recent issues, perhaps more than any
                                others, illustrate how easily political
                                money fuels the perception that special
                                interests exert undue influence on policy.

                                The first involved the recent Clinton
                                administration decision to reverse course
                                and permit the export of high-end
                                encryption technology. Initially, the
                                White House had agreed with the Justice
                                and Defense departments that US national
                                security interests could be damaged by
                                such exports.

                                Jack Quinn, a former Gore chief of staff
                                and Clinton legal counsel, was paid at
                                least $680,000 by Americans for Computer
                                Privacy, cobbled together to get the ban

                                John Podesta, Clinton's chief of staff,
                                said yesterday that Quinn's lobbying did
                                not affect the decision. What turned the
                                administration around, Podesta said, was a
                                realization that technological
                                breakthroughs had eclipsed longstanding

                                One industry official with intimate
                                knowledge of the decision supported
                                Podesta's explanation. But the official,
                                who declined to be quoted by name but is
                                sympathetic to Gore, said presidential
                                campaign fund-raising loomed over the
                                discussions of the case.

                                The computer industry, the official
                                explained, was united on the issue, at a
                                time when Gore was competing mightily with

                                Bush for Silicon Valley political
                                contributions. To have the administration
                                at odds with the industry on the issue, he
                                said, could have transformed more of the
                                high-tech world into Bush supporters.

                                The other issue involved lobbyist Tom
                                Downey, a onetime Democratic House
                                colleague who is sometimes described as
                                Gore's closest friend - and the only
                                lobbyist who Lehane acknowledged has
                                lobbied Gore personally on issues. Downey
                                clients include the Merck drug company,
                                which according to lobbying records gave
                                Downey an unspecified number of stock
                                options in 1993, the year that Gore took
                                office as vice president.

                                Starting late in 1996, Merck led a drug
                                industry offensive designed to prevent
                                South Africa from implementing legislation
                                to acquire patented AIDS drugs at
                                below-market cost for the 3.2 million
                                South Africans who are HIV-positive. A
                                day's dosage of the drug cocktail often
                                costs more than a worker there makes in a

                                Records show that Downey lobbied Gore's
                                office and Podesta's firm lobbied the
                                White House, State Department, and the US
                                trade representative for the drug

                                The Clinton administration, where Gore
                                heads a US-South Africa relations group,
                                backed the drug companies, even imposing
                                trade sanctions on the country, freezing
                                any action for more than two years. A
                                State Department memorandum, although
                                noting that the United States understood
                                the need for the medicine, declared: ''The
                                US government nonetheless made clear that
                                it will defend the legitimate interests
                                and rights of US pharmaceutical firms.''

                                The drug firms have funneled hundreds of
                                thousands of dollars into national
                                Democratic campaign coffers since Clinton
                                became president, noted James Love, the
                                director of the Consumer Project on
                                Technology, which has pressed the
                                administration to take a humanitarian
                                approach to the issue.

                                Last fall, after US AIDS activists had
                                embarrassed Gore several times by
                                disrupting his campaign events over the
                                issue, the White House altered course,
                                negotiating a settlement that will allow
                                South Africa to acquire the drugs at low

                                Yesterday, Gore spokesman Lehane cited the
                                issue as one on which Gore took a position
                                counter to the interests of a friend's
                                corporate client. But Love said the
                                lengthy delays prompted by the
                                administration's support for the drug
                                industry have had tragic consequences.

                                ''It's morally repugnant to help campaign
                                contributors in a situation like this,''
                                Love said. ''How else can you explain why
                                the US would impede access to cheap
                                medicine in Africa, which is in the midst
                                of a health crisis of historic
                                proportions? This is not something that
                                makes you proud to be an American.''

                                Kathleen Hennrikus of the Globe Staff
                                contributed to this report. Walter
                                Robinson's email address is
                                [log in to unmask] John Aloysius
                                Farrell's email address is
                                [log in to unmask]

                                This story ran on page A01 of the Boston
                                Globe on 1/26/2000.
                                Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.