Chris Dodd shows how Washington works

After emphatically vowing not to lobby, the former five-term Senator becomes Hollywood's chief lobbyist

Topics: U.S. Senate,

Chris Dodd shows how Washington works

Over the last two years — particularly during the debate over the financial reform bill — Sen. Chris Dodd served on multiple occasions as chief spokesman for, and defender of, the interests of Wall Street and corporate America.  That led to widespread speculation that the five-term Connecticut Senator, who announced that he would not seek re-election in 2010 in the wake of allegations of improper benefits from Countrywide Financial, was positioning himself for a lucrative post-Senate lobbying job — i.e., peddling the influence and contacts he compiled over five decades in “public service.” 

Dodd responded to those suggestions by repeatedly and categorically insisting that he would not work as a lobbyist.  In March of last year, he told The Hartford Courant that “he will not lobby, but, like [former Senators Chuck] Hagel and [Sam] Nunn, he may teach.”  In an August article headlined ”Dodd forswears a lobbying career,” The Connecticut Mirror quoted him as saying:  ”No lobbying, no lobbying.”  That vow earned this praise from Public Citizen’s Craig Holman:  ”That’s excellent on Senator Dodd’s part.”  

Here’s what Chris Dodd’s word and integrity are worth, from The Hill yesterday:

Dodd to be Hollywood’s top man in Washington

Former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) will be Hollywood’s leading man in Washington, taking the most prestigious job on K Street.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) named Dodd chairman and CEO on Tuesday. But heading Hollywood’s lobbying arm could be problematic for the former senator, who accepted the kind of job he pledged not to take. . . .

Dodd’s hiring, which had been rumored for weeks, ends months of media speculation regarding who would take one of the most glamorous jobs on K Street, whose perks include a $1.2 million-a-year salary and getting to attend the Academy Awards ceremony.

Dodd is barred from formally working himself as a lobbyist for two years after leaving the Senate, but the core purpose of his new job is to oversee lobbying activities and to convert his influence and inside knowledge of Washington into favorable legislation and desired regulatory action (or inaction) for the MPAA.  Dodd is replacing another long-time DC official paid to peddle his influence:  Dan Glickman — the former 9-term Democratic Congressman from Kansas and Clinton administration Agriculture Secretary.  Leaving no doubt about what the MPAA seeks in this position — a politician willing to sell his connections to the highest bidder — the association chose Dodd only after it was unsuccessful in recruiting former Sen. Bob Kerrey.

Other than the blatant violation of his pledge, there is, of course, nothing unusual about Dodd’s sleazy feeding at the trough through legalized influence-peddling.  It’s how Washington works.  Holman’s Public Citizen group circulates “Integrity Pledges” asking retiring members of Congress to find something else to do besides lobbying on the ground that, as Holman put it when praising Dodd’s (worthless) no-lobbying pledge last year:

The revolving door abuse is just out of control here on Capitol Hill and it is a primary source of undue influence peddling, Only the very wealthy businesses can afford senators and congressmen.

This, of course, is the whole point.  So much energy and chatter is spent fixating on partisan wars and election victories, but this is the real process that determines policy outcomes.  How can ordinary Americans possibly compete with corporations that can purchase the Chris Dodds of the world from both parties, who then dutifully use their decades of influence to foster the legislative and executive outcomes their owners want?   Obviously, they can’t and don’t, which is another way of saying that democracy exists in name only; to say that “only the very wealthy businesses can afford senators and congressmen” is another way of describing oligarchy.

This is why I found Charles Koch’s Monday Wall Street Journal Op-Ed so darkly amusing.  To justify the ugly spectacle of billionaires and TV millionaries endlessly demanding “sacrifices” from America’s middle and lower classes — by, for instance, suffering cuts in their Social Security and Medicare safety nets — Koch tried to insist that he wants the sacrifice to be shared equally by everyone:

There have been few serious proposals for necessary cuts in military and entitlement programs, even though these account for about three-fourths of all federal spending.

Too many businesses have successfully lobbied for special favors and treatment by seeking mandates for their products, subsidies (in the form of cash payments from the government), and regulations or tariffs to keep more efficient competitors at bay.

Crony capitalism is much easier than competing in an open market. But it erodes our overall standard of living and stifles entrepreneurs by rewarding the politically favored rather than those who provide what consumers want.

That’s all lovely in theory, but significant defense spending cuts and curbs on “crony capitalism” – as Koch well knows — will never happen absent some serious social unrest, precisely because the factions which benefit from them own all the influence in Washington, thanks to their purchase of people like Chris Dodd.  Only the politically powerless — meaning the nation’s middle and lower classes — will involuntarily “sacrifice” because they can’t afford to purchase the influence necessary to defend their interests in this battle over diminishing resources (and, of course, the only large entity capable of providing some minimal counterweight to this lopsided power imbalance — unions — happens to be the current target for destruction of the groups with which Koch most identifies).  That even Good, Liberal Democratic Politicians like Chris Dodd — who has done some decent things in his career — scamper out of the Senate to the nearest feeding hole, all to accelerate this process, underscores how potent a process it is.

* * * * *

Speaking of those feeding at the trough, The New York Times documents today the slew of highly-regarded lobbyists from both parties — including John Podesta’s brother, Tony — who lobby on behalf of the Middle Eastern dictators who are the Villains of the Month.  It’s amazing how easily the media reconciled its Middle East morality narrative (These Dictators are the Devils!!) with the fact that so many of American political elites — both in and out of government — have spent years keeping those very villains in power.

* * * * *

As I noted yesterday, for the week of March 7, I’ll be speaking at several events in New Mexico and Texas; details are here.

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>