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Revolving Doors

Location: Washington, DC

Revolving Doors -- (House of Representatives - March 10, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Bradley of New Hampshire). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 7, 2003, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 60 minutes.

Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I do not plan to use the entire hour, but I did want to come to the floor tonight to discuss a troubling issue that seems to be becoming more and more rampant within the Bush administration and within the back rooms of the Congressional Republican Caucus, and that is the revolving door of powerful lobbyists turning in their corporate lobbying cards in order to undermine the programs they are supposed to strengthen within the administration, a revolving door where Republican congressional staffers leave Capitol Hill, but continue to advertise their relationship with their former Republican boss, relationships they claim can get their clients anything they want with Republican legislation.

Mr. Speaker, before I get into that discussion, I want to talk about another revolving door, this one at the White House and Camp David. Today the Associated Press reports that President Bush opened the White House and Camp David to dozens of overnight guests last year, including at least nine of his biggest campaign fund-raisers. According to the Associated Press, more than 270 people have stayed at the White House since President Bush took office with at least the same number spending the night at Camp David. The President appears to be opening the White House and Camp David to the highest bidders.

Members may remember the controversy surrounding President Clinton and how he allowed guests to spend the night in the Lincoln bedroom. Republicans came to the floor and were aghast at that. At the time, candidate Bush also expressed his outrage over what he said was happening at the White House. In fact, during a debate with Al Gore in 2000, then-candidate Bush stated, "I believe they have moved that sign 'The buck stops here' from the Oval Office desk to 'The buck stops here' on the Lincoln bedroom, and that is not good for the country."

Today, the Associated Press article clearly shows that President Bush has changed his tune. The story lists nine of Bush's biggest fund-raisers either sleeping over at the White House or at Camp David.

First, there is Mercer Reynolds, an Ohio financier, who is leading Bush's campaign fund-raising effort. He stayed at both the White House and Camp David. Then there was Brad Freeman, a venture capitalist who is leading Bush's California fund-raising effort, and he has raised at least $200,000 for President Bush's re-election campaign. Freeman also stayed overnight at the White House.

Then there is William DeWitt, who also raised at least $200,000, and who also spent the night at the White House. The list continues. I do not want to take up my whole hour, so I am not going to go over the whole list.

Over the last 3 years, the President's credibility has been tested from creating jobs to the issue of whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction; and now we learn that President Bush, who sharply criticized President Clinton's actions in allowing people to stay overnight in the Lincoln bedroom, is doing exactly the same thing. Nine of his largest contributors have spent the night at the White House or Camp David. As a candidate, Bush criticized these same actions.

Mr. Speaker, the door at both Camp David and the White House continues revolving with President Bush's campaign contributors coming in and out. And as President Bush said, the buck does not stop at his desk. The buck stops with these campaign contributors as the President opens the White House and Camp David to the highest bidder.

Mr. Speaker, since President Bush entered the White House more than 3 years ago, the buck has also been passed to administrators who have acted in the best interests of the corporate interest rather than the best interest of the American people. On Valentine's Day, the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller), who is the co-chair of the Democratic Policy Committee, released a 21-page report that was titled "How the Republicans Have Turn the Government Over to Special Interests." In the report of the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller) he stated, "Pick almost any issue of public concern, water quality, food safety, defense contracts, pension security or health insurance, and you will find that at every level of the Bush administration, powerful roles and key agencies have been turned over to industry advocates who in many cases have long opposed the very programs they are now charged with implementing."

Imagine that, the Bush administration has appointed former industry officials to run national programs that they oppose. Let me give a few examples from the report of the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller).

The first one I would like to mention is when President Bush appointed David Lauriski, the Assistant

Secretary for Mine Health and Safety at the Department of Labor. Lauriski's background was 30 years in the coal industry. No wonder last June Lauriski's department issued controversial industry-friendly regulations that would cut down the amount of coal dust testing in mines. In addition to promoting industry-friendly regulations at the expense of miners' health, the report cites a whistle-blower in Lauriski's department who alleged in a complaint that Lauriski awarded no-bid contracts to former business associates and friends and that he pressured investigators to approve an inaccurate report on the devastating coal slurry spill in Kentucky. This is the guy that President Bush appointed to supposedly ensure that miners working in coal mines around our Nation are safe.

Another example from the report of the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller) is when President Bush appointed William Hansen as the Deputy Secretary of Education where he was in charge of, among other things, overseeing the department's direct college loan program which competes with private lenders. You ask where was William Hansen before he joined the Bush administration. Well, Hansen served as CEO of a trade group representing private lenders, and he founded a PAC that gave contributions to Federal candidates who favored private lenders over the department's direct loan program.

Even worse, Hansen testified before Congress against the direct loan program; and yet somehow President Bush determined that he was the perfect person to run the direct loan program. Based on Hansen's past, we should not be surprised that on his watch the Education Department cut off marketing for the direct loan program and stopped competing for new schools to offer the direct loans. The Bush administration even proposed selling the direct loan portfolio to private lenders.

After weakening the direct loan program, Hansen left the Bush administration last July to become the managing director of education services for the Affiliated Computer Services, an information technology business that specializes in outsourcing solutions to commercial and government clients. Four months later, that company was awarded a $2 billion contract from the Department of Education.

Mr. Speaker, these are just two examples, not even a half page, in this 21-page report that the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller) put together. There are many other examples that probably will be brought to the floor or discussed further on other nights.

Within the Bush administration, it is clear that a revolving door has been created in which corporate leaders come in and work for the administration for a period of time, weakening popular laws that benefit the American people.

Unfortunately, this revolving door does not only exist within the Bush administration. It also exists here within the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, and it should stop. The revolving door within the Republican majority is becoming so widespread if you picked up the newspapers the last week or so, you would think that was the only thing going on up here on Capitol Hill.

There was a front page story in last Thursday's Roll Call, which is the Capitol Hill newspaper, one of the Capitol Hill newspapers. The first headline in last Thursday's Roll Call read, "Revolving Door Snags Hill Aide." There is a subheading, "Taylor Staffer Negotiated Lobby Contract While on House Payroll."

Roll Call reports that Robert France, the former top aide to the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Taylor), negotiated a $60,000 lobbying deal on House time. The negotiations came 2 months after the aide was able to secure a $750,000 appropriations projected earmarked to his boss.

This revolving door, my question is, Where does it end? Ken Gross, an ethics and campaign finance lawyer told Roll Call, "People are certainly able to seek jobs, cashing in on their background and experience on the Hill." Gross continued to say, "If there is evidence of this person working as a staffer on legislation that would especially benefit this company while he is talking to them about going to work for them, that would be troubling." Yet that is what seems to go on.

Going back to the front page of last Thursday's Roll Call, there is another headline that says, "McCain Seeks Files in Abramoff Probe." This article surrounds actions first discovered by The Washington Post several weeks ago in which the paper discovered Jack Abramoff, a White House lobbyist, and Michael Scanlon, a former aide to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. DeLay), persuading several Indian tribes to pay their firms more than $45 million over the past 3 years. Senator McCain is now investigating these payments.

The Scanlon-Abramoff investigation is a perfect example of how Scanlon used his relationship with his former boss, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. DeLay), the majority leader, to influence legislation. When Republican Leader DELAY was asked about how both men promote their ties to him, he stated, "I have no idea how their operation is or what it is." DELAY continued, "What I can tell you is that if anybody is trading on my name to get clients or to make money, that is wrong and they should stop it immediately."

Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting statement. I wish it were true. However, we have to consider that the gentleman from Texas (Mr. DeLay) has played an instrumental role in the K Street Project, a database that tracks the party affiliation, Hill experience, and political giving of every single lobbyist here in Washington. The K Street Project was featured in a July 2003 edition of the Washington Monthly, and the article stated back in 1995 that the gentleman from Texas (Mr. DeLay) compiled a list of the 400 political action committees, along with the amounts and percentages of money that had recently been given to each party. Lobbyists were then invited into the office of the gentleman from Texas (Mr. DeLay) and shown their place in friendly or unfriendly columns.

A veteran steel lobbyist told Washington Monthly that the House Republican leadership "assembled several large company CEOs and made it clear to them that they were expected to purge their Washington offices of Democrats and replace them with Republicans." The House Republican leaders also demanded more campaign money and help for the upcoming election. According to the article, the meeting descended into a shouting match and the CEOs, most of them Republicans, stormed out of the meeting.

The gentleman from Texas (Mr. DeLay) essentially is telling lobbying firms around Washington whom they can and cannot hire. He also has worked hard to place former aides in key lobbying and trade positions. The practice is so well known that these former aides are known as "graduates of the DeLay school." And yet, with a straight face, the majority leader tells reporters, "If anybody is trading on my name to get clients or make money, that is wrong and they should stop immediately." Well, it does not seem to be very believable.

Tonight, as I said, I have been talking about a revolving door, a door that swings for the Republican corporate interests but shuts in front of everyday Americans. Whether it be the President opening rooms in the White House and Camp David to the highest bidder, or the administration hiring many of its key officials to advocate on behalf of policies they have opposed in the past, or the questionable actions of former Republican staffers who are functioning in a climate created by the majority leader, it is just unacceptable.

I know that the media has been paying a lot of attention to this, and I think it is important that we bring it out. I do not want people to think that this is always the case, but it certainly is a strong indication that the President and the Republican leadership in the Congress have been essentially involved with this revolving door for some time, and let us just hope it does not get any worse.

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