About This Series | Chapters:

Chapter 2

Born into a tough working class family in New York City, Gerry Cassidy made his way to Villanova University and Cornell Law School, determined to leave his humble origins behind. Inspired by he idealism of the 1960s, he decided to sign up as a legal aid lawyer for migrant workers.

By Robert G. Kaiser

In 1967, Gerald S. J. Cassidy, then 27, and three other young lawyers opened the Fort Myers office of South Florida Migrant Legal Services in Lee County on the lower Gulf Coast. Immokalee, in Lee County, was in one of the poorest areas in America. Fred Friendly and Edward R. Murrow of CBS News used Immokalee as the setting for "Harvest of Shame," a 1960 documentary that brought the squalid living conditions of Florida's migrant workers into America's living rooms, challenging the country's image of itself.

This was fruit and vegetable country. The crops were tended and harvested by gangs of migrants -- either of black Americans or Mexicans. The two didn't mix. They lived in shacks, often denied basic services. Cassidy recalled Immokalee in an interview:

"It was really a dangerous place, in terms of violence and disease. It was just terribly poor ..... It was a lot like the coal-mining situation: The workers owed their life to the company store. They were always in debt to the crew boss, or to the farm account. They weren't welcome many places. Living conditions were terrible. They wanted them out as fast as they could get them out of town, once the harvest was finished."

South Florida Migrant Legal Services was funded by the new Office of Economic Opportunity in Washington, the agency created to wage Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty. These young attorneys pioneered a kind of legal practice that later transformed the American legal system when the neighborhood legal services movement spread across the country.

From left, Pete and Elma Gomez, Loretta and Gerald Cassidy in Immokalee, Fla. Cassidy won a lawsuit in which Gomez was the plaintiff, allowing Gomez to return home to Texas and open a grocery store. (Family photo)

Cassidy and his colleagues worked on scores of cases simultaneously. Many of them grew out of the conditions the migrants faced. "They really weren't welcome in the local schools, though they should have been," Cassidy remembered. "They couldn't get benefits that they were entitled to. ..... There was a federal feeding program, one of our lawsuits was to get them into that. Labor standards were not enforced, and we sued them about labor standards."

The four young lawyers handled disputes ranging from divorces to landlord-tenant disputes to a civil rights action seeking to desegregate a local nursing home to a 13th Amendment slavery case involving crew bosses who were dealing in black Mississippi migrant workers for $20 a head. This list was recalled by Mickey Kantor, one of Cassidy's three colleagues in Fort Myers, who went on to become U.S. trade representative and secretary of commerce in the Clinton administrations. Kantor is now a Washington lawyer.

Cassidy's other colleagues were Michael Foster, now a lawyer in private practice in Tampa, and William Dow, who practices as a white-collar defense lawyer in New Haven, Conn. All of them remember Cassidy as an aggressive and competent lawyer-sometimes too aggressive.

"Gerry was known for standing his ground," Foster said. "He wouldn't stand down for anybody. A couple of times [in court] I had to suggest that maybe we ought to convene in the corner for a minute before things got out of hand."

The Cassidys lived in a small rented house near the river in Fort Myers. "We socialized together, went to Busch Gardens together, stuff like that," Dow remembered. The locals treated them warily "because we were northerners, outsiders, when George Wallace was carrying the county," Dow said.

Cassidy was squarely built and strong. His wife, Loretta, had a radiant smile and thick black hair. She reminded some people of Sophia Loren-a smaller version. "They were fun-loving people," Diana Dow, William's wife, remembered.

Cassidy was moved by the plight of the migrants. He'd first been exposed to southern racial segregation in Dallas, where he lived with his sister and brother-in-law when he was a boy not yet 6. He asked his brother-in-law, "a wonderful person" named Ed Milkey who flew in the Air Force out of Love Field, why the black neighborhoods they drove through in Dallas looked so awful. "And he explained to me that this was just something that was wrong in our world, and that there was no reason for it, and it was something I should never engage in in any way," Cassidy recalled.

One of Cassidy's proudest moments in Florida was his victory in a damages case he brought on behalf of Pedro Gomez of McAllen, Tex. "He was a crew boss," Cassidy remembered, "but the crew were all his family." A Florida farmer provided housing for Gomez's workers that was in dreadful condition. When Gomez complained, the farmer had him forcibly evicted, injuring some workers and damaging their personal property. "It was my case," Cassidy said. He won a settlement from the farmer of $45,000, money Gomez took home to McAllen where he opened his own grocery store. That was a rare moment of real accomplishment. Mostly their work was frustrating: "Around the edges we were helpful to them, but I don't think we changed their situation."

In fact, the young lawyers indirectly made quite a contribution. While they were working in Lee and Collier counties the legendary Homer Bigart, a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune and later the New York Times, came to their part of Florida to write about migrant workers. The lawyers showed him around and helped him see what was going on. Bigart published a vivid series of articles in The Times on the appalling conditions migrant workers endured nearly a decade after Murrow's "Harvest of Shame." The articles impressed a new panel in Washington, the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, chaired by George McGovern (D-S.D.).

McGovern's staff had been looking for ways to get attention for the hunger issue. Bigart's series, which appeared in February 1969, led to the idea of holding hearings in Florida to publicize the plight of poorly-fed migrants. McGovern sent staff to Florida to prepare such a hearing.

Two men made the trip: Bill Smith, the staff director, and a brand-new member of the committee's staff named Kenneth Schlossberg, then 30. Schlossberg had come to Washington to work as a reporter for the Washington Daily News, a tabloid paper owned by the Scripps-Howard chain. (It died in 1972.) From there he had moved to the Office of Economic Opportunity. While at OEO he was offered a job on the new McGovern committee.

Gerald Cassidy, right, guides Sen. George McGovern, center, on a tour of labor camps in Immokalee, Fla. (Courtesy Gerald Cassidy)

The young lawyers in the South Florida Migrant Legal Services program introduced Smith and Schlossberg to local conditions. One of them, Foster, agreed to testify himself on the many chronic health problems of the migrant workers' children, an issue the lawyers were pursuing. With the lawyers' help, Smith and Schlossberg found other witnesses for the hearings, which they designed to attract maximum possible attention from the news media. McGovern flew into Florida with a collection of prominent colleagues, including Sens. Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.), Walter F. Mondale (D-Minn.), Charles Percy (R-Ill.) and Alan J. Ellender (D-La.), an unpredictable southerner who later made hunger a personal priority and helped pass the first Food Stamp legislation in 1970. All the television networks covered the hearings. The Washington Post published two substantial stories, the New York Times one. (view the Washington Post articles: March 11, 1969 [pdf] March 12, 1969 [pdf]) Local and state officials reacted angrily to the senators' emphasis on the bad conditions in Immokalee, but it was all wonderful publicity for McGovern. The Immokalee hearings helped him become a national politician.

The young lawyers ushered the senators around Immokalee during their visit. By "the luck of the draw," Cassidy was assigned to McGovern. They got along well. Their conversations got Cassidy thinking about moving to Washington.

The idea of working on poverty, food stamps and such excited Cassidy, but only as a temporary undertaking. "I thought I'd do that for a couple of years then come back to Florida and get a real job." He called Bill Smith a few weeks after the Immokalee hearings to ask if there might be a place for him on the committee staff.

Schlossberg remembers that he liked the idea of hiring Cassidy. "We had so many things on our agenda.....food stamp legislation and the national school lunch program. ..... " McGovern remembers Schlossberg praising Cassidy as an unusually capable person. They all agreed to hire him. "We weren't quite sure where we would use him," McGovern recalled, "but I was just sure he could be used."

So in the summer of 1969, Gerry and Loretta Cassidy moved from their bungalow on the river in Fort Myers to a small apartment in Arlington, Va. It was an exciting time in Washington, with anti-war demonstrators regularly in the streets, and liberals still fighting to expand the anti-poverty campaign LBJ had launched. The new president, Richard Nixon, was unexpectedly sympathetic to these efforts.

Soon after Cassidy arrived Smith left the committee and McGovern made Schlossberg its staff director; Cassidy was named general counsel. Schlossberg and Cassidy became a team. Cassidy developed a specialty in the school lunch program, while Schlossberg devoted most of his time to food stamps.

In a brief period of time Cassidy found himself in the role of a real Washington player, cultivating senators and their staffs, working with the Catholic bishops on ways to include their schools in the school lunch program, making friends with the young Jesse Jackson. "I actually built a very nice relationship with Ellender," he remembered years later.

This was heady stuff. "It all happened so fast. I had never thought about coming to Washington, I wasn't particularly politically-minded, and all of a sudden ..... " He loved it.

Schlossberg and Cassidy spent more time together. Schlossberg particularly remembered a period of weeks at the end of 1969 during prolonged deliberations on the food stamps bill in a House-Senate conference committee. McGovern was determined to out-wait the conservative House members on the committee; Cassidy and Schlossberg came to meeting after meeting with their boss. "This is where Gerry and I really got to know each other," Schlossberg said. Eventually a bill was approved and passed both houses-not the bill McGovern wanted, but he declared victory anyhow (and actually won it a year late when Congress approved a big expansion of food stamps).

The Cassidy who first came to Washington was a big, well-built guy who wore sideburns and a mustache. Even then he liked to dress well. "He was always the most stylish member of the committee," McGovern remembered. But he was quiet, and played second fiddle to the loud and gregarious Schlossberg.

Cassidy was affable and easy-going; the strong-willed Schlossberg "had an edge and was clearly in charge," said Judah C. Sommer, the senior Republican aide on the committee staff at the time. "Without question, Schlossberg was the senior figure." And so he would remain-for a few more years.

Washington Post research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

Tomorrow: Heady experiences in the corridors of power introduce Cassidy to the world of Washington insiders.

Key Related Materials

Documents / Newspaper Stories

About This Series | Chapters:

Photo Gallery

An overview of Gerald Cassidy's life and career.

Key Players

A "cast of characters" in the life and career of Gerald Cassidy.


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Please email us to report offensive comments.

It seems like Congress had a conscience back then. At what point in the Cassidy saga do we slide down the slippery slope of tax money being used to hire Cassidy to persuade Congress to give tax money to Cassidy's special interest group. Without our hard earned State and Federal tax contributions, earmarks wouldn't exist, right? Specifically, a Governor uses State Taxes to hire Cassidy so that Cassidy can persuade Congress to ear mark Federal Taxes to give to the Governor for her water project. Do I have this right?

Posted by: Sonja Poet | March 5, 2007 11:08 PM

So, how do I get Chapt 1. The print ed does not seem to be noting it under metro, style or business. It would be nice to collect all chapters

Posted by: brucerealtor@gmail.com | March 6, 2007 05:55 AM

Breaking Story!

No evidence of a commercial airplane were found at the Pentagon on 911. No investigation was performed by the FAA. Structural engineers say damage looks like cause is from a missile or detonated from within. Report on that POST.

Posted by: nick | March 6, 2007 06:56 AM

Nick is obviously a Cassidy employee trying to change the subject here. No rational person actually believes what he wrote, especially after seeing the security camera footage of the JET HITTING THE BUILDING ON CNN, or the EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS. Oh, wait that's alllll part of the conspiracy.

Posted by: JimBob | March 6, 2007 07:17 AM

To quote Richard Pryor, "You can scrub it and powder it and put some perfume on it but an a--hole is still an a--hole." Lobbyists are an anathema to the democratic process that relies on the lie and a SCOTUS bad decision that money somehow equates to free speech and the right to equal representation. Lobbying is the root of almost every single system ill we see in the Federal government. Lobbyists are intrinsically evil and they and their "profession" need to go. And they don't have to go home, they just need to get the hell out of here. So keep trying to butter these vermin up, WaPo. Your PR campaign is backfiring.

Posted by: Todd | March 6, 2007 07:27 AM

Please note that the link to the link to the two stories published March 11 and 12 1969 both open to the March 11 story.

Posted by: vmhawelPrague | March 6, 2007 08:38 AM

Todd's rantings are a kin to blaming football players for the NFL rule book. What this story seems to portray is a very successful player within the established rules of government. Changes in the system will require adaptation of the players, don't blame individuals that are successful within the system,penalize those (on both sides of the table) that operate outside the system.

Posted by: Batman | March 6, 2007 09:05 AM

How many times can you work the phrase "young lawyers" (or variations thereof) into a single article? They were young. They were lawyers. We get the point.

Posted by: Scott | March 6, 2007 09:09 AM

"Lobbyists are an anathema to the democratic process that relies on the lie and a SCOTUS bad decision that money somehow equates to free speech and the right to equal representation."

Todd, you would not consider it an infringement on your liberty to be told how you may and may not spend your money? If you can't make decisions about how it is used, is it truly yours?

Posted by: Staples | March 6, 2007 09:15 AM

What does it take to get cassidy into action these days in 2007. He did some good things back in the 60's how can we get him to take action in 2007 ?

Posted by: Nicklan | March 6, 2007 09:19 AM

"an infringement on your liberty to be told how you may and may not spend your money? If you can't make decisions about how it is used, is it truly yours?"

* I may not use my money to purchase weapons for Al-queda

* I may not use my money to buy child sex slaves

* I may not use my money to manipulate illegally commodities markets

* I may not use my money to bankroll a bank heist

* I may not use my money in a murder for hire scheme

* I may not use my money usuriously

* I may not use my money to bribe public officials

Posted by: Craig | March 6, 2007 10:52 AM

Todd, I worked in the US Senate for several years, and regardless of how you feel about lobbyists, little would get accomplished on the Hill without them. Unlike Congressional offices (especially on the House side) that have limited funds for personnel, lobbying firms have the resources to employ top experts on the countless topics that senators and representatives face day in and day out. To think that a representative with a staff of only five or six (at least two of whom are probably in administrative roles) could possibly amass the knowledge and understanding necessary to address the myriad issues addressed on the Hill is simply unrealistic.

Posted by: Richard | March 6, 2007 11:12 AM

So that's what lobbyists are: experts. Like when the $24 million worth of experts from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, talking points from the American Immigration Liars, oops, Lawyers Assn in hand, come calling on the immigration L.A. for Senator Jesse B. Fuddlement, and expertly inform her that the amnesty in the McCain-Kennedy guest-worker amnesty bill isn't really an amnesty because, see, the undocumented taxpayers have to learn English and stuff and do, like, 20 push-ups. So, Sen. Fuddlement can co-sponsor McCain-Kennedy and tell the folks back home their democracy is working just like it's suppose to.

Posted by: Craig | March 6, 2007 11:26 AM

I found the retelling of Mr. Cassidy and his friend fleeing restaurants without paying highly offensive. In addition to his obvious myriad of immoral activities, stealing directly from hard working people only seems to fit his M.O. To earn money while working my way through college, if anyone left without paying, I was responsible for making up the difference. Not a joke, not funny to steal other people's hard earned money.

Posted by: Rachael | March 6, 2007 11:38 AM

Rachel- Did you read the article or just come straight to the bottom to post? If you'll scroll up and actually read the above article, you'll find that Cassidy spent the prime of his life defending the less fortunate, the only criticism being that he was often "too aggressive" in his efforts to expose racial and economic inequality. To focus on youthful indiscretion may fit your M.O., but in doing so you're seriously missing the bigger picture.

Posted by: Holden | March 6, 2007 12:19 PM

Holden - Are you suggesting Cassidy's prime was a mere few years? He was in Florida in '67 and started working on the Hill in '69. By '75 he opened his lobbying shop. That's less than 10 years - quite a short "prime of his life" to be spent "defending the less fortunate." The bigger picture is he wanted to be wealthy and he realized he could get it by dealing with appropriations.

And really, for all of you out there bemoaning lobbyists, not all lobbyists are millionaires set about destroying the lives of the average American. Those devoted almost exclusively to appropriations are the ones that the public generally hears about - after all, they're the ones typically making the big bucks. Some of us are actually involved in trying to change policy. And a lot of us are working two jobs just to make ends meet.

Posted by: InDCaWhile | March 6, 2007 12:34 PM

Apologists for lobbying: You either don't understand, or you're so steeped in it that you can't see it. It's one thing to use the right guaranteed to *citizens* to petition our elected representatives. It's quite another to insist that corporations and other organizations should enjoy this same right.

When these groups have the same responsibilities and assume the same risks as citizens, I'll be among the first to stand up for their right to influence members of the Congress. Until that time, in my view, they are simply greedy people hiding behind the name of their organization. I'd like to have my interests to be seriously and thoughtfully considered by my elected representatives, but they're too busy meeting with lobbyists because they know they need the money to be re-elected.

Surely you can see how corporations have taken more and more control over how laws are passed--and enforced. Consider that the myriad issues mentioned are largely composed of corporate wish lists.

Why is it, do you suppose, that no progress is being made on the handful of issues which are important to American citizens? Could it be that these vital issues are obscured by the wants and needs of corporations?

We Americans tolerated this happily back when American corporations actually took care of us. Now that corporations have pushed so much responsibility onto our shoulders, we cry "foul" because we foolishly believed that these same corporations would look out for us. Sadly, regrettably, corporate interests have been demonstrated to be at odds with the interests of the electorate. Whether through incompetence or by pernicious design, salaries are stagnant, pensions are nearly non-existent, and corporations are rewarded with tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas.

Is it the lobbyists' fault? Hardly. Yet these highly skilled--and highly paid individuals chose to continue to do their masters' bidding. Either they're ignorant, or they knew and simply chose to ignore. Whichever explanation you choose, it's foolish to continue to be blindly faithful to those who have betrayed our interests.

It's time to pay the piper.

Posted by: Brad Eleven | March 6, 2007 12:59 PM

I think it is funny that all these people are on the site bashing lobbyists. However, when it fits your crappy cause, be it saving the whales or cutting taxes on imported petulie oil for you to wear to your crappy rallies that bash someone, than your rights are protected because you are doing what is right. Talk about hypocrisy!!

Posted by: left wing posers | March 6, 2007 01:11 PM

If it was possible to separate lobbying from political contributing, there would not be a problem. It's the linkage between the two, tantamount to bribery, that causes the problems.

Posted by: | March 6, 2007 01:21 PM

Interesting how with all its might, the media can't find anything bad to say about Gerry Cassidy ... His life story is fascinating -- am glad the Post is telling us about him. Reminds me of that Dan Quayle series a long time ago. The Post actually said good things about him, too. Glad someone's showing us the real Gerry Cassidy.

Posted by: Lou | March 6, 2007 01:24 PM

I admire Cassidy's conviction. His desire to help people rings true today.

Posted by: ayuda | March 6, 2007 01:25 PM

I like the line "Cassidy was moved by the plight of the migrants." Nice to know that even though Gerry Cassidy is all powerful and successful now, at his core he must still have a heart of gold.

Posted by: Hank | March 6, 2007 01:28 PM

I enjoyed reading the piece on Sunday, as well as following the story into today. The most interesting background about Cassidy for me is the rags-to-riches aspect. I have a lot of respect for people like Gerry who come from working class backgrounds yet are able to find financial and business success even as the first in their family to go to college. No matter what industry you work in, it is always fascinating to learn about those who helped an entire industry and profession evolve like he did.

Posted by: John | March 6, 2007 01:32 PM

Hey, did you all see that picture of Gerry Cassidy and George McGovern? I read the other day that Thomas Eagleton died, McGovern's original running mate. Boy, that picture brings back memories.

Posted by: Gonzo | March 6, 2007 01:35 PM

It's good to see that his brother-in-law's advice only partially stuck, as Cassidy understood that the inequalities were wrong and dedicated himself to engaging and redressing the situation. I have to admit that I'm impressed with Cassidy so far.

Posted by: Bobby | March 6, 2007 01:42 PM

hey Rachel -- stealing people's hard earned money? What are you talking about -- haven't you ever heard of taxes? That's what Congress does all the time! That's not what this series is talking about...

Posted by: | March 6, 2007 01:44 PM

I had certainly heard of Gerry Cassidy, but didn't know much about his background. This series has been fascinating so far and as was noted in the introduction, his story is very reminiscent of a Horatio Alger tale.

Posted by: Drake | March 6, 2007 01:46 PM

"Why is it, do you suppose, that no progress is being made on the handful of issues which are important to American citizens? Could it be that these vital issues are obscured by the wants and needs of corporations?"

More specifically, it's because Sen. Frist wouldn't let any real issues come onto the Senate floor in '06 because he thought spending a week debating flag burning would be better for the Republicans in November. Alas, those guys lost and the Dems have come in and gone to work on minimum wage, the war, and so on.

Posted by: Sveiks | March 6, 2007 01:59 PM

I have some sympathy with the many criticismns of lobbyists on this formum. However, most who write critically about lobbying seem not to recognize that it is simply one manifestation of the huge expansion of the position of broker in the twentieth century economy. Indeed the flacks, real estate agents, insurance men, stock brokers were all there in force much before the lobbyists and paved the way for them in ethical and commercial terms. Sure, criticize the lobbyists but obsessing over the political system to the exclsion of other forms of power leads to exaggerated claims about the significance of lobbying.

Posted by: Cameron | March 6, 2007 02:07 PM

After reading this, I am weeping for this Cassidy guy and his hard-luck story. He has had a tough life in his youth, so clearly he and his firm's employees are justified in ripping off the taxpayers and bilking the federal government out of billions of dollars. I can see why all of his employees have written into this site to defend him, because they must be so proud of their occupations. I am just weeping right now with such empathy for this man and his employees.

Posted by: Jan | March 6, 2007 02:08 PM

"Interesting how with all its might, the media can't find anything bad to say about Gerry Cassidy"

We've only seen the Intro and first two chapters so far. When somebody's been in DC politics as long as he has, I'm sure they'll find something.

Posted by: Scott | March 6, 2007 02:18 PM

Hey Scott -- you miss one important point when you say "I'm sure they'll find something." Wouldn't the Post have led with anything like that? So far this all reads like chapters in a book, not an expose.

Posted by: Response to Scott | March 6, 2007 02:38 PM

That's real neat footage of the Immokalee hearings -- I didn't know anything about that before reading this Cassidy series. Thank you WaPost for putting up the cool video.

Posted by: IMHO | March 6, 2007 02:54 PM

The First Amendment reads, in its entirety:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

If you want to ban corporate lobbying you need to add "...unless they are doing it on behalf of someone else for pay." The Framers intended that lawmakers would be lobbied and persuaded on issues by interested persons, they just assumed it would be other white land-owning men behind closed doors, not a regulated business subject to public scrutiny.

Posted by: Patrick | March 6, 2007 02:55 PM

Yeah, IMHO -- wonder if the Post will put these Cassidy and McGovern videos on YouTube! Anyone seen?

Posted by: Gen X | March 6, 2007 02:55 PM

Yes "Patrick"! That's why we need public disclosure. Cassidy's for that, right?

Posted by: Patrick Sways Me | March 6, 2007 02:57 PM

"Hey Scott -- you miss one important point when you say "I'm sure they'll find something." Wouldn't the Post have led with anything like that? So far this all reads like chapters in a book, not an expose."

I don't know how the Post decided to structure the series, so I can't answer what they would/should lead with. But they do mention a few things in the "Absent Alumni" section of the Intro. It talks about relationships that have not survived, his "mercurial personality" and "sometimes violent temper", and "his ways of doing business". It also mentions that he took it badly whenever someone left the firm and an instance of "prolonged legal action".

I would be surprised if the Post let all of those things drop after just mentioning them in the Intro, especially since they have 27 articles to fill. We'll have to wait until the story gets to that point, I guess.

I do agree with your point about it reading more like a book than expose so far. I don't know if that trend will continue throughout the series. Someone posted some quotes of what they thought was some shoddy and melodramatic writing in describing "Young Cassidy" (my quotes). I'd agree with that as well.

Posted by: Scott | March 6, 2007 03:01 PM

Cassidy's story is about hard work and great success, achieving the american dream. A very fascinating life indeed.

Posted by: Jim | March 6, 2007 03:03 PM

Wow -- lookit all the comments here. Good discussion about Gerry Cassidy, but how did the conspiracy theorists get through?

Posted by: Late to the dance | March 6, 2007 03:04 PM

Love the photo of Gerry Cassidy guiding George McGovern on a tour of Florida labor camps. What a shot. But who's the ABC News guy with the microphone? Doesn't look familiar.

Posted by: ABC News fan | March 6, 2007 03:10 PM

Staples - That is specious reasoning and not germane to the issue of free speech and equal access. And Congress CAN tell you how you can spend your money. It is called the Commerce Clause.

Craig - You say you worked in the Senate like that makes you an authority. To most people, myself included, that makes you part of the problem. In the information age, the function of lobbyist is nothing more than legal graft. Issue petitions for Senators and Representatives should be a free form ANYONE can submit to their Congressional members if they get enough registered voter signatures. IF the Senators and Representatives are too stupid not to have their hands held on everything or so greedy they need to be spoon fed money to keep them interested, well, then they are not the right people for the job in the first place. And I will not even go into how this whole lobby system has interacted with the concept of a corporation that has been distorted over the years to where corporations - a legally fictitious person - usually has superior rights to a natural person. Lobbyists are where the rubber meets the road of fascism. Think what you like, but money needs to be OUT of the system. The way the current K-Street mafia operates, the only way to do that is to tear it all down and start from scratch. Now how was that because something is moderately functional but a systemic flaw impairing the functionality of everything else (from contracting to invasion management to emergency response, ad infinitum) that it should be maintained instead of fixed? Sounds like another person with a vested interest trying to protect the status quo when the status quo is not only broken, but wrong.

Posted by: | March 6, 2007 03:20 PM

The note above says "tear it all down and start from scratch" about Congress and lobbying. That's why I agree with Gerry Cassidy: public disclosure. I'll take his years of experience any day in explaining the need to reform.

Posted by: | March 6, 2007 03:37 PM

"separate lobbying from political contributing"
--anonymous @ 1:21

You DO know that Gerry Cassidy supports public financing of federal campaigns, right?

Posted by: sportsfan | March 6, 2007 03:41 PM

I wonder how many people are drawn to lobbying because of the power/prestige/money aspect of it. The fact that Cassidy initially got into politics because of the issues of poverty and food stamps probably runs counter to the issues that the average lobbyist gets started on.

Posted by: JS | March 6, 2007 03:55 PM

JS, good point. I would agree with you in assuming that Cassidy's entry into the profession is under unique circumstances and different than the average lobbyist starting today.

"Lobbyists are where the rubber meets the road of fascism. Think what you like, but money needs to be OUT of the system."

And how do you propose we reach this Marxist utopia? If as you propose we tear the system down and start over how do we remove money from the equation. Whether you like it or not, lobbyists serve a legitimate purpose. Sure there is and can be abuse, but that is true of any profession.

Posted by: Jake | March 6, 2007 04:19 PM

I'd like to see those Homer Bigart articles. I guess the Wash Post is probably not likely to run them. But if someone who worked on this story is reading this, do you know if Gerald Cassidy was in those? That would be interesting to know. And does anyone know if he is in the Murrow documentary? And let me know if it's on Google Video or something. I've never seen it but I hear its famous

Posted by: Steve H in DC | March 6, 2007 04:27 PM

Marxist utopia? Heck, I'd settle for more transparency -- which is what Gerry Cassidy says he wants. Me too!

Posted by: Agree With Jake | March 6, 2007 04:29 PM

Migrant worker problems then....

Seems like some times have not changed.

I'm still fascinated by this whole saga and look fwd to the next chapter. Kudos to the WaPo for such an interesting series...I hope more like it are to come!

Posted by: Bryan | March 6, 2007 04:32 PM

Migrant workers, indeed. Times may not have changed, but gotta love the caption on this Gerry Cassidy photo above: "Cassidy won a lawsuit in which Gomez was the plaintiff, allowing Gomez to return home to Texas and open a grocery store." Does anyone do that any more? Alas, those times have changed.

Posted by: | March 6, 2007 04:38 PM

hey I have an interesting life story.. How come the Post doesn't do a 17 part article on me?? Who cares who Cassidy is...just another boring white guy here in DC Zzzzzzzzz. I think the Post should interview and put pics up of DC/Va/Md Hooters waitresses and the gals at Coyote Ugly.. That's what I want to see in the Post

Posted by: Mike T | March 6, 2007 04:39 PM

I interned at Cassidy a few years ago, and while I didn't see him much myself I also heard only good things about him. It was a nice place to work. If this whole public sector thing doesn't work out for me, I'd love to go back and work there again.

Posted by: skintern | March 6, 2007 04:49 PM

Hey Mike T: Funny comment. I would suspect this was the Post's idea, not Gerry Cassidy's, despite the fact that the series is turning out good for him. Although I love your idea of Hooters pics, too. Maybe that's next month's series.

Posted by: He Said Hooters | March 6, 2007 04:52 PM

Yeah, Hooters would be great, too. But this Gerry Cassidy series is a nice change of pace from all those stories about powerful folks with no heart.

Posted by: Frankie | March 6, 2007 05:00 PM

Reading the comments from the last couple days, I can't help but notice that those who defend lobbyists and the lobbying profession, are lobbyists themselves, or former Hill staffers. Just an observation.

One of the comments said greater transparency would be good - not only in Congress (with a database - proposed or in the works, searchable where grants and federal spending goes) but also transparency among lobbysits themselved. The People should be able to go to a lobbyist central web site to see how much each firm donates to congressional campaigns, how much clients pay the lobbyists (to make this less controversial, keep it to corporate, state, local, and foreign governments), and a link to earmarks that firm helped get and the amount. For example, as the Introduction noted, Cassidy's first client was Tufts Univ, which Cassidy helped get the $27M earmark for the Nutrition Center.

Posted by: DC Dave | March 6, 2007 05:03 PM

I'm not a lobbyist, but I agree with DC Dave. Cassidy's idea for transparency seems to be the way to go to solve so much of this.

Posted by: Not A Lobbyist | March 6, 2007 05:27 PM

The Democrats should starve the K-Street lobbyists into oblivion. Don't employ them, don't take their calls, just don't give them access. Period.

Posted by: gbush | March 6, 2007 08:13 PM

This is a great series. A lot of hard work and research went into this and it shows. I appreciate learning all about Mr. Cassidy before he became so rich and powerful-when he was motivated by injustice.

Posted by: mitchell kaplan | March 6, 2007 09:10 PM

No doubt the profile is being covered in detail. I'd suggest a brief history of lobbying would add to the readers' information in looking at this person in a bigger picture.

Posted by: Fawad | March 6, 2007 09:52 PM

Jake - Marxist utopia? No. Marxism is a proven ineffective but it is nice to know your Western Civ classes came in handy for throwing insults you think sound intelligent. Read up on old Karl before you start calling someone's point you are too GREEDY to understand because you are too blindly enamored of consumerist commercial capitalism to understand an example of Marxist Utopian thinking if you saw one. You see something that mentions taking money out of A system, not ALL systems, and you get your panties in a bunch. Methinks the lady doth protest too much. Free market capitalism is fine for some things. Most things in fact. Democratic governance and equal representation are are not some of those things that a free market improves. As we have in fact historically seen in the evolution of this country alone, it leads to a culture of corruption and bad/ineffective/criminal governance. What was the number one issue on exit polls at the last midterm election? Corruption. Where does corruption come from? Money influencing decisions of public trust. Where does the money come from? Lobbyists. How do you remove or mitigate the corruption? Remove the money and lobbyists as they now operate from the decision making framework.

Posted by: Todd | March 6, 2007 09:54 PM

Lobbying is a dirty word here in INDIA.no body publicly declares that he is a lobbyist for this or that cause.

Posted by: vasudevarao_v | March 7, 2007 06:15 AM

No one in India declares that he is a lobbyist? Then you seriously need public transparency, Cassidy style!

Posted by: Hello India | March 7, 2007 03:41 PM

>Love the photo of Gerry Cassidy guiding George McGovern on a tour of Florida labor camps. What a shot. But who's the ABC News guy with the microphone? Doesn't look familiar.

Nice photo, indeed. I think the ABC News guy is Robert Clark, who retired about ten years ago.

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Posted by: utdv lwjfxgpn | March 11, 2007 08:33 AM

I work with the legislature and lobbiests in Annapolis. If DC is anything like MD, money talks and everything else walks. No bill moves forward unless the highest paying interest group lets it. I can't imagine the public's interests are any better served in DC. We mock third world bribery like it doesn't happen here?

Posted by: Naptown | March 11, 2007 12:57 PM

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