"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Peddling Even More Influence”: Blackwater Lobbyist Will Manage The House Intelligence Committee

After lobbyist-run SuperPACs and big money efforts dominated the last election, legislators are now appointing lobbyists to literally manage the day-to-day affairs of Congress. For the House Intelligence Committee, which oversees government intelligence operations and agencies, the changing of the guard means a lobbyist for Academi, the defense contractor formerly known as Blackwater, is now in charge.

Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the incoming chairman of the Intelligence Committee when the House reconvenes in January, announced that Jeff Shockey will be the new Staff Director of the committee. As a paid representative of Academi, Shockey and his firm have earned $80,000 this year peddling influence on behalf of Academi.

In previous years, the House Intelligence Committee has investigated Blackwater over secret contracts with the Central Intelligence Agency. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. As Staff Director, the highest position on a committee for a staff member, Shockey will oversee the agencies that do business with his former employer.

Shockey also represents a number of other companies with business before defense agencies: General Dynamics, Koch Industries, Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance, Innovative Defense Technologies and Boeing.

The role reversal, for lobbyists to take brief stints in Congress after an election, has become normalized. In a previous investigation for The Nation, we found that some corporate firms offer employment contracts with special bonuses for their staff to return to government jobs, ensuring the paycut they receive for passing through the revolving door to become public servants doesn’t have to alter their K Street lifestyle.

Other committees are also hiring lobbyists. Congessman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) replacement as chair of the Oversight Committee, just hired Podesta Group lobbyist Sean McLaughlin as his new Staff Director. McLaughlin’s client list includes the Business Roundtable, a trade association for corporate CEOs of large firms. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) also hired a new chief of staff, Mark Isakowitz, who represents BP.


By: Lee Fang, Public Report, December 19, 2014

December 20, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Influence Peddling, Lobbyists | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just Doing Nothing Is Difficult”: Even By ‘Do-Nothing’ Standards, This Congress Is Useless

On Friday, the House of Representatives will join the Senate on recess, leaving the 113th Congress on pace to be one of the most ineffective in history.

Its reputation for inaction is well earned. As the Pew Research Center’s Drew DeSilver points out, as of Wednesday this Congress has passed just 142 laws — fewer than any of its recent predecessors did in their first 19 months.

And Congress isn’t just failing to act on major iniatives, like gun, immigration, or tax reform. It’s also passed fewer ceremonial bills — think post office renamings, or commemorative coin authorizations — than any of its predecessors in the past 16 years.

Pew Productivity Chart

As House Republicans demonstrated this week, even doing nothing has become exceedingly difficult for this group. Republican leaders were forced to pull their immigration bill from the floor without a vote on Thursday, after failing to collect enough votes for it from within their own caucus. This, despite the fact that the bill has no chance of ever becoming law, and is — by House Republicans’ own admission — substantively useless.

After allowing the most right-wing Republicans to order from a menu of changes, it appears that the House will be able to pass its message bill on Friday. But as long as the Republican majority is filled with “a lot of members who just don’t want to vote for anything,” as Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) put it, Congress will continue to struggle to pass many actual laws.


By: Henry Decker, the National Memo, August 1, 2014

August 3, 2014 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Spoiler Alert”: GOP Leaders Hope To Maintain Party Unity By Doing Nothing For The Rest Of The Year

The debt ceiling has been lifted, an omnibus spending bill has been passed, the farm bill is finished and a bipartisan budget has been signed by President Obama. All the must-pass legislation of this Congress, in other words, has been dealt with, leaving leaders in the House GOP with one big choice and three options.

The choice: What to do between now and November’s congressional elections.

The options:

  1. Push for immigration reform.
  2. Push for tax reform.
  3. Do absolutely nothing and hope that saying some combination of “Obamacare” and “Benghazi” every 30 seconds between now and November will be enough to maintain the Republican hold on the House and retake the majority in the Senate.

Spoiler alert! They’re going with option No. 3.

According to Robert Costa of the Washington Post, congressional GOP leadership has decided that in order to maintain party unity and put themselves in the best position to win in November, Republicans would be best off doing a whole lot of nothing for the next nine months.

“We don’t have 218 votes in the House for the big issues, so what else are we going to do?” California GOP Rep. Devin Nunes told Costa. “We can do a few things on immigration and work on our principles, but in terms of real legislating, we’re unable to get in a good negotiating position.”

While the GOP has a clear majority in the House, Nunes’ remarks reflect the divided nature of the Republican caucus, in which the Tea Party faction is too small to command a governing majority, but is large enough to keep less-conservative GOPers from getting anything done.

Republicans’ decision to wait out the remainder of 2014 is, according to GOP pollster and spinmeister Frank Luntz, “[A]n acknowledgment of where they stand, where nothing can happen in divided government so we may essentially have the status quo.”

“Significant immigration reform and fundamental tax reform are probably not going to happen,” he added.

That’s not to say that Republicans will literally do nothing, however. On the contrary, they plan to introduce a slew of bills that have no chance of passing but will supposedly win the support of undecided swing-voters. Costa reports that a bill to fully repeal and replace Obamacare is planned to be released in the spring or the summer, and that GOP leaders hope to introduce similarly DOA bills focused on jobs, energy and regulations.

“It’s a natural progression,” Minnesota Republican Rep. Vin Weber told Costa, speaking of the party’s new plan. “If you’re a Republican in Congress, you’ve learned that when we shut down the government, we lose. Now that we’ve had some success in avoiding another shutdown, our fortunes seem to be rising, so maybe we don’t want big things to happen.”

Now there’s a bumper-sticker. “Vote Republican in 2014: We don’t want big things to happen.”


By: Elias Isquith, Salon, February 18, 2014

February 19, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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