The West Wing Characters Become Lobbyists
by Matt Stoller, Sun Jul 30, 2006 at 10:22:32 AM EDT
Follow the money. If you want to know why Democrats keep losing, don't offer advice, follow the money and get your hands dirty. You see, Democrats aren't losing because they are stupid. Democrats are losing because a significant portion of the operative class is paid to undermine successful populist positions. Just follow the money.
Here we have a nice example.
The calls are starting to come in from shocked or angry seniors. They have just learned that their Medicare drug plans are maxing out on early coverage and that they must now spend $2,850 from their own pockets before coverage will resume.
"I can't pay for my medications," one man told Howard Houghton of the Fairfax Area Agency on Aging the other day. "What do I do?"
Over the next five months, several million Americans with high medicine costs could find themselves in a similar bind. The gap in insurance, popularly called the doughnut hole, is an unusual provision in most of the private plans offered in Medicare's new Part D prescription drug program. Advocates for the elderly say it is misunderstood and problematic.
This obvious and foreseeable political problem didn't stop Carter Eskew's lobby shop The Glover Park Group from passing around memos arguing Democrats shouldn't take on the Medicare prescription drug fiasco because of bad polling. Their corporate clients are of course various players in the health care industry. Here are the opening few sentences of the memo.
After a thorough review of early public polling on the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, our analysis suggests that support for the program is solid. Five months into the program, enrolled seniors are satisfied with the program, found enrollment to be easy and think it's saving them money.
Here's the full memo, in case you're curious. Carter Eskew was the chief strategist for the Gore campaign in 2000, and his colleagues at the Glover Park group include Joel Johnson, a top Clinton White House advisor on communications and policy, Joe Lockhart, who was Clinton's spokesman from 1998-2000, and Howard Wolfson, a key Hillary Clinton advisor. If you're looking for a more accessible sense of who these people are, it's the senior team type characters from the West Wing. They all went into lobbying after the Clinton show was canceled. This is a HUGE problem. The people who know how to run campaigns are not politicians, they are the people who run campaigns. The fact that this class of operative/consultant is working for corporate interests and not for Democratic gain means that there is little to no infrastructure that can effectively push for legislative and political victories. That infrastructure is too busy getting rich off of corporate payola. Had this infrastructure been focusing on winning for Democrats, we'd have a campaign ready to go based on the donut hole. It's not like we didn't know this was coming.
This machine is incredibly powerful, but it's vulnerable, and that's why DC is freaking out about the Lieberman challenge. How does this machine tie directly into Connecticut? Well, Carter Eskew is Lieberman's ad man.
It doesn't stop there, of course. The corporate Democratic machine extends far into the structure of how camapigns operate. For instance, we have senior Kerry and Dukakis advisor Michael Whouley, who is apparently building a $3 million model on how to win in the battleground states in 2008 in preparation for Yet Another Insider Presidential Losing Campaign. Whouley runs Dewey Square, a premier lobby and PR shop whose clients include the Chamber of Commerce and corporate health care interests. Dewey Square employed three separate 2004 Demoratic campaign managers; the campaign manager for Edwards, Gephardt, and Lieberman all did time at Dewey Square. It's also worth pointing out that diversity doesn't seem to be a, well, primary goal of this group.
All of these lobbyists/PR people (including Steve Elmendorf) have telecom companies as their clients, and are working against net neutrality. If you want to know why the Democratic party has a muddled message, look no further than the conflicts of interest in trying to run a populist campaign when your other clients have a direct financial interest in not seeing a campaign like that succeed.