Saturday, July 13, 2002

It's Time for the Daschles to Come Clean!
I'm sure that Sinkmeister Clinton wasn't the first to figure out that a perfect way to profit from public office is through a spouse, but when he did it, "he done good". While Bubba the Arkansas "public servant" kept his hands clean (or at least out of sight), Hillary hauled in the dough via commodity "trading tips" from Tyson (HQ: Arkansas) and a seat on the board of directors of Wal-Mart (HQ: Arkansas).

But that Arkansas stuff is peanuts compared to what a boy and girl can do in the big city. Just look at little Tommy Daschle and his wife, Linda. As we all know, Tommy is the Senate majority leader and has a more than trivial effect on what legislation gets passed and which bureaucracies get funded. His wife, Linda, a former high level FAA bureaucrat now hauls down even bigger bucks as an industrial lobbyist in Washington for
American Airlines
American Assn of Airport Executives
American Trucking Assn
Boeing Co
City of Cleveland - Hopkins Intl Airport
L-3 Communications
Loral Spacecom
Northwest Airlines
Schering-Plough Corp
United Technologies
Notice the specialization in the transportation industry.

As Deborah Orrin reveals in the NY Post, Tommy and Linda refuse to divulge her income as a lobbyist (other than it is above $1000). Tommy also claims that his wife only lobbies in the House of Representatives which does not present a conflict because Tommy just runs the Senate. However, if you can stand the bogon radiation streaming off the Golden Couple, there are some interesting hints as to what exactly is going on. As Orrin reports:
L-3 hired Linda Daschle and her firm when airlines balked at buying L-3 bomb-detecting devices to screen airline baggage because they were inferior to a competitor, The Washington Post reported last fall.

But after Linda Daschle got on the case, Congress inserted an "unusually explicit directive" ordering the FAA to buy one device from L-3 for every rival model from InVision.

"The connections apparently paid off . . . but [last October] the Transportation Department's inspector general agreed with industry critics that L-3's machines were not performing," the newspaper reported.

The Washington Post reported back in 1997 that, unlike ordinary citizens who have to view Mt. Rushmore from below, "Big contributors to Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) are personally escorted to the top of George Washington's head by the park superintendent himself". This was a minor scandal while Linda was still at the FAA. It's funny how many of the big contributors had FAA business at the time and are now Linda's clients in her lobbying career. For that matter, it's funny how many of Linda's clients are currently big contributors to Tommy's campaign funds. The most notable is Northwest Airlines, Tommy's top sponsor.

Then there is the scandal about the rattletrap air service run by a Daschle family friend which managed to avoid FAA sanctions until they killed some people, and Linda's current clients who are lobbying for airline bailouts and lessened safety regulations and more. Read all the details in the Washington Monthly article, "Tom Daschle's Hillary" which offers the following summary:
So here's a case where a senator's wife gets a high-ranking government job, which in turn boosts her earning power as a lobbyist. She then represents clients who have business with and give money to her husband. Those clients pay her big bucks to help fight safety regulations and to win government money---money which helps pay the senator's mortgage. Yet so far, the press and congressional ethics hawks have largely given the Daschles a pass. So why isn't this a bigger story?

Mostly because no one in Congress has the slightest interest in raising it. Democrats certainly don't want to attack one of their own, and as they point out in defending the Daschles, Republicans are married to lobbyists, too. In addition, both Republicans and Democrats are beneficiaries of Linda Daschle's clients. "This town is so bizarre that Linda Daschle may even deliver campaign contributions to Trent Lott," says the Heritage Foundation's Ron Utt. Indeed, she freely admits to giving campaign contributions to Republicans.

So who's left to scrutinize the relationship? The answer is the press. But Daschle has them covered too. Unlike Hillary a decade ago, Linda Daschle is a Beltway insider who understands the rules of the game. The main rule is that the effects of your actions, no matter how dubious---say, weakening airline safety---are never grounds for a scandal so long as you first, disclose your actions, and then, don't violate the ethics rules in the process. If Tom or Linda Daschle had secretly taken a free pair of Superbowl tickets from Northwest Airlines and then pushed the airline bailout plan, that would be a big story. But the fact that Tom Daschle takes thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Northwest and his wife's firm collects $200,000 a year to lobby for them is no problem at all.

Congress has no rules prohibiting members' spouses from lobbying. Notoriously porous, congressional ethics rules were written on the not so unreasonable theory that it's impossible to forbid each and every potential conflict of interest, and that in the end, the voters are the ultimate arbiters of congressional behavior.

Since we are the ultimate arbiters, it's time for Tommy and Linda to publish every detail of their financial activities so we can decide. Okay Tommy, where's the data?