I watched in sorrow and disbelief last night as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow previewed the extravaganza that Republicans and their lobbyist pals will stage in Tampa next week. Money apparently is no object when these folks get together to fete each other. One of Tampa’s biggest restaurants, for example, is booked solid for the entire week – by a single patron! A lobbyist, of course.
You can bet this lobbyist will keep the restaurant busy throughout the convention week, wining and dining lawmakers who can potentially be useful to his clients.
I worked for the Tampa Tribune in my reporting days, and I have seen up close the city’s sordid underbelly. To watch the rich and powerful (and so often corrupt) enjoy an orgy of consumption in the midst of that seedy city is to witness an allegorical depiction of America’s future – if the Republicans get their way.
You’re probably wondering whether it’s against the law to lavish food, drink and entertainment on elected representatives in the hope of winning favors from them. And in a way it is.
Rachel reminded me that after the Jack Abramoff scandal a few years ago, Congress passed laws to prevent a recurrence. But – like love – lobbyists will find a way. And she observed that it hasn’t taken long for Washington’s power brokers to circumvent the new ethics regulations.
Abramoff, who served four years in federal prison for crimes related to the Indian gaming lobby, told the National Conference of State Legislatures recently that things in Washington are pretty much the way they were during his day. Abramoff has made a career since prison by advocating for ethics reform, along with writing a 2011 book on his crimes.
NBC’s Michael Isikoff quotes Abramoff as saying the GOP convention is “a mega-fundraising, lobbying extravaganza. Everybody is in one place at one time.”
Isikoff reveals one way in which lobbyists will get around the ethics laws:
Craig Holman, a lawyer for Public Citizen, a campaign watchdog group that plans to “bird dog” the parties , says that this year’s convention is showcasing new ways that lobbyists are bypassing ethics rules. Those rules — enacted in 2007 after the Abramoff scandal — barred lobbyists from throwing parties honoring “a member of Congress.” So this year’s parties don’t honor individual members; they honor groups of members such as “A Salute to the House and Senate Energy and Commerce Committees” being thrown by a new consulting firm called GOP Convention Strategies at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. (“It’s a Home Run!” reads the invite.)
The leaders of today’s Republican Party are the most brazen trolls in America’s history. They obviously don’t care what common people like you and me think of them.
Hey, they seem to be saying, get over it; we got the money and we don’t care if you know how we got it and how we plan to spend it. What could you do about it, anyway, you pathetic pauper?
How else would you interpret their convention program? What are we to make of the plan to honor casino owner Sheldon Adelson’s wife? And one of the infamous Koch brothers? How else would you interpret their orgy of indulgence, which has Tampa’s strip clubs buzzing with anticipation?