About This Series | Chapters:

Conclusion

Big money creates a new capital city. As lobbying booms, Washington and politics are transformed.

Web Q&A: Monday, 1 p.m. ET
» Robert G. Kaiser, the reporter for the Citizen K Street series, will be online on Monday, April 9 to answer readers' questions about this project. Submit a Question Here.

By Robert G. Kaiser

Last November, Gerald S. J. Cassidy took a guest duck hunting on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The location was the lobbyist's $8 million, 165-acre estate on the Chesapeake Bay. The guest was a former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter.

[Photo]
Gerald Cassidy's estate on the Chesapeake Bay. (Susan Biddle/TWP)

For Cassidy, a shy man, this must have been a high point in a 38-year career in Washington. It surely demonstrated his status as a member of a new Washington aristocracy, whose members enjoy access to the powerful, influence on the deal-making of government and great personal wealth. Cassidy's fortune exceeds $125 million.

The upward arc of his career also delineates the way money has altered Washington during the last three decades. Money has transformed American politics, the career choices available here and even the landscape of the nation's capital. Raising money has become a key to electoral success, while spending taxpayers' dollars has helped incumbents get reelected.

For the past five weeks, The Washington Post has recounted Cassidy's journey from an impoverished childhood in Brooklyn to service under Sen. George McGovern on hunger issues to his pioneering lobbying career. This series, which began in the newspaper on March 4, then continued in 25 installments on washingtonpost.com, the paper's Internet site, concludes with this article.

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

Cassidy helped change Washington by shaping the culture of congressional earmarks that became so important in the last dozen years. Earmarks directly transfer the government's money to particular institutions and interests. He and his original partner helped invent the idea of lobbying for earmarked appropriations -- an idea that made Cassidy rich and fed a system of interdependence between lobbyists and Congress that thrives today.

Cassidy's success has been remarkable -- even his competitors acknowledge awe at the size of his fortune. But this self-invented man, though proud of his wealth, is not comfortable boasting. In interviews for these articles, some of his most poignant remarks concerned his failures and disappointments.

In a blog he launched this year on his company's Web site, which he used to respond to installments of this series, Cassidy offered a warning about the future of lobbying: "Our profession is at a critical point where we can either embrace the constructive changes and reforms by Congress or we can seek out loopholes and continue the slippery slide into history along side the ranks of snake oil salesmen."

Making Millions

The first lobbying firms were established in the mid-'70s, just when Cassidy left McGovern's select committee on nutrition to begin his lobbying career. As the reach of the federal government extended into more corners of American life, opportunities for lobbyists proliferated. "The issues have multiplied," as Cassidy put it. Over these three decades the amount of money spent on Washington lobbying increased from tens of millions to billions a year. The number of free-lance lobbyists offering services to paying clients has grown from scores to thousands. Cassidy was one of the first to become a millionaire by lobbying; he now has plenty of company.

The term "lobbyist" does not do full justice to the complex status of today's most successful practitioners, who can play the roles of influence peddlers, campaign contributors and fundraisers, political advisers, restaurateurs, benefactors of local cultural and charitable institutions, country gentlemen and more. They have helped make greater Washington one of the wealthiest regions in America.

During his time in Washington, Cassidy said in one of many interviews he gave for these articles that the United States has experienced "a huge redistribution of income, and you can't blame just the Republicans, because it has happened through Democratic presidencies, and through Democratic and Republican congresses."

So the rich have gotten richer, the weak weaker? "I refuse to argue the obvious. ... It's just true, largely because they have less representation. You look at the movements out there, there is no anti-hunger movement, there is no committee on the Hill looking into poverty." Representation, of course, is Cassidy's line of work. It is as old as the republic, but only in Cassidy's time has lobbying become the biggest Washington industry.

This happened because lobbying works so well. Cassidy and his original partner, Kenneth Schlossberg, demonstrated its efficacy by devising ways to win earmarked appropriations from Congress for their clients, originally colleges, universities and medical centers. As Cassidy's clients began to win appropriations of $10 million, $15 million, $20 million and more in the 1980s, new lobbying firms emerged to compete with Cassidy. An increasing number of institutions and local governments looked for help to win earmarks of their own. The lobbying boom had begun.

It created a new career option for the men and women who had come to Washington to work in the government and could now cash in on their experience. Until the 1980s, the typical career of an aide on Capitol Hill lasted many years, even decades; today the average is probably a few years. "Going downtown" -- becoming a lobbyist -- has become a ritual, and not just for staff assistants. Numerous members of the House and Senate who retire or lose reelection bids have become lobbyists as well. More than 200 former members of Congress are registered to lobby their former colleagues. This is a new phenomenon in American history.

The young men who left the Hill to work for Cassidy in the 1980s were pioneers in this migration. Members of that group, mostly Democrats, liked representing universities and medical centers. "I always felt I was lobbying on the side of the good guys," said Elliott Fiedler, one of Cassidy's early associates.

From the outset Cassidy was also interested in corporate clients. One of his first was the Ocean Spray cranberry cooperative, for which he organized a political action committee, then supervised the distribution of its contributions to favored members of Congress. At the time that he did this, in the early '80s, a corporate PAC was a relatively new phenomenon; now, they're ubiquitous.

Cassidy likes representing corporate clients on what he calls policy issues. In his view, corporate representation is good business because the issues at play rarely resonate with the public.

"In a lot of areas, the stakes are between big companies, and it's hard to argue that one solution is better than another solution with regard to the consumer's interest," Cassidy said. "The issue," he added, "is whether Company A's solution, or Company B's solution, based on their technology or their footprint, is the right one." Corporations are by far the biggest employers of Washington lobbyists, and in recent years, corporate representation has displaced appropriations business as the biggest category for Cassidy & Associates.

Fundraising Gone Wild

Lobbyists, including Cassidy, have been central figures in the political fundraising that has reconfigured American politics in the last generation. In 1976, the cost of the average winning campaign for the House of Representatives was about $86,000; last year, it was nearly $1.3 million. In the same period, the average cost of winning a Senate seat rose from $609,000 to $8.8 million. Just last week, Democratic and Republican candidates for president reported raising more than $130 million in the first three months of the year prior to the election, numbers without precedent.

[Photo]
Gerald Cassidy, left, with Sen. Joe Biden, center, and fellow lobbyist Marty Russo. (Susan Biddle/TWP)

Incumbent members of the House and Senate complain that they have to spend a third or more of their working hours raising money for their next elections. To help with this task, lobbyists have become campaign treasurers and fundraisers for members and have been responsible for scores of millions in political contributions.

Cassidy and his wife, Loretta, have given more than $1 million to politicians since he became a lobbyist. His employees have given at least $5 million, according to Federal Election Commission records. Lobbyists consider this part of their business. For years, Cassidy and his colleagues have organized fundraising events, typically breakfasts, in a board room of their federal-style offices at 700 13th Street NW. The graphics and databases below show political contributions from Gerald and Loretta Cassidy, as well as Cassidy & Associates employees.

A Democratic Start for Cassidy Contributions

Employees' giving to Republicans increases with change in Congress

[Graph: Comparing Cassidy & Associates political contributions to Republicans and Democrats from 1980 to 2006]

Database: All Cassidy & Associates political contributions, 1979-2006 »

SOURCE: Federal Election Commission data
GRAPHIC: Alyson Hurt and Derek Willis, washingtonpost.com - April 3, 2007

Top Recipients of Cassidy Cash

RecipientTotalFirst Contribution
DSCC$229,200Sept. 1984
DNC221,120Sept. 1992
DCCC186,050March 1982
John Murtha (D-Pa.)95,300July 1987
Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.)79,551Nov. 1979
Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)73,881July 1984
Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.)69,787June 1988
Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii)66,211Oct. 1985
Tom Daschle (D-S.D.)64,086Sept. 1989
Ray LaHood (R-Ill.)63,797May 1994

Full List of Recipients »

Cassidy understands the low regard many Americans have for his profession but thinks it is unfair. "Lobbying is no more perfect than is the practice of law or the practice of medicine," he observed -- implying that it is no worse, either. He prides himself on his firm's "tradition of ethics and integrity," trumpeted on the firm's Web site. Since 1988, Cassidy's lawyers have given his employees annual ethics seminars.

Nevertheless, Cassidy nearly got tainted by the biggest lobbying scandal ever. This was the Abramoff affair, named for Jack Abramoff, a cunning operator who had a brief but amazingly lucrative lobbying career. The Abramoff story featured revelations of bribery and conniving, all lubricated with campaign contributions, that ended some congressional careers. The scandal sent Abramoff to federal prison, and sent the reputation of Washington lobbyists reeling. Congress has adopted several reforms since to try to limit earmarks and identify their sponsors.

[Photo]
Jack Abramoff with attorney Abbe Lowell. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

The Post introduced the Abramoff affair in February 2004 with a front page story describing how Abramoff and public relations man Michael Scanlon had made $45 million over three years for doing what looked like very little for four Indian tribes. A month later, Cassidy offered Abramoff a job as a consultant to bring new business to the firm. They struck a deal just days after Abramoff's law firm had forced him to resign and issued a statement citing "personal transactions and related conduct which are unacceptable to the firm."

"There was no criminal allegation," Cassidy emphasized when he discussed his decision to hire Abramoff. "There was simply [criticism] that his rates and so forth were offensive." Soon there was also a full-blown investigation by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

Cassidy ended his relationship with Abramoff only after Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii ), a member of the Indian Affairs Committee, told him bluntly that he had to do so. Cassidy felt close to Inouye and did what he instructed three months after offering Abramoff a job. The timeline below shows key events in the Abramoff investigation and the Abramoff-Cassidy relationship.

Gerry Cassidy and Jack Abramoff

Gerald S.J. Cassidy, head of the powerful Cassidy & Associates lobbying firm, hired Jack Abramoff in March 2004 even though Abramoff was embroiled in a burgeoning lobbying scandal broken by The Washington Post in the previous month. Cassidy let Abramoff go in July. Here are Post articles that tracked Abramoff during that time.

GRAPHIC: Alice Crites and Cristina Rivero, The Washington Post - April 5, 2007

In the first entry in his blog on his firm's Web site, Cassidy wrote: "Sure, I've made mistakes along the way, among them was falling for the smoke and mirrors of the man at the center of the worst violation of our profession, of the public's trust and the Constitution."

Two Disappointments

In hours of conversation, Cassidy repeatedly portrayed himself as a regular guy who came up with a few original ideas and got a lot of good advice. Many of those ideas had little or nothing to do with lobbying. From the beginning, Cassidy has been on alert for new opportunities: "I was looking toward making more money from my investments than I was going to make lobbying," he explained. And he did.

Cassidy's reaction to his own wealth has been complicated. He lives large, riding around town in his chauffeured car, spending thousands on custom-made clothes, investing big money in, for example, the Charlie Palmer Steak restaurant at the foot of Capitol Hill just for the fun of it. He has fashioned a wine cellar of more than 7,000 bottles. He loves to go to England and live like a gentleman of the kind his Irish antecedents would have considered an anathema. Chuck Dolan, a friend and former colleague and also an Irish American, recalled a lunch he and Cassidy once had at the House of Lords in London as the guests of the Earl of Clanwilliam and his son, Lord Guilford. The earl sneaked them onto the floor of Lords. "We said we wished our fathers could see us now!" Dolan recounted.

Cassidy's business successes have obviously meant more to him than any political machinations. He expressed great pride in those successes. But he also confessed to two big disappointments.

The first involved football, which for the adolescent Gerry Cassidy was more than a game. He was a fullback and linebacker. As a senior at Holy Cross High School in Flushing, Queens, he met Alex Bell, Villanova's head coach in an era when the school played big-time football. Bell expressed interest in him, Cassidy recalled. "I thought I understood the coach ... to say that if I showed up I would have a scholarship."

But he had to make the team to get the scholarship. The competition was fierce. "So I didn't get to play," he said. "It was probably the singular disappointment in my life. ... It was the thing I most wanted to do. If you could take everything else I've done in my life and roll it up into a ball, the thing I would have liked to have done was that."

[Photo]
Gerald Cassidy at his firm's 30th anniversary celebration. (Susan Biddle/TWP)

The second disappointment involved his business. It was an event that didn't happen -- the failure in 1998 of his attempt to go public, to sell shares in his lobbying firm on the stock market. This was Cassidy's ultimate dream, the gambit that could have made him a true master of the Washington universe.

Cassidy's plan was to raise $40 million to $60 million in the stock sale so he could buy numerous other companies -- "some of the other premier lobbying operations in town ... a radio station or two, a political publication or two. I thought we could perhaps buy some advertising [agencies], that would be radio and print advertising, all-around companies that had done elections, but require them to do public affairs to complement lobbying ... ."

With an empire like this, Cassidy said, he could have increased revenues from $50 million a year to $250 million.

"I think we could have done some very smart things and made a lot of money. But it didn't happen," he said. He blamed the Asian and Russian economic crises for ruining the market for initial public offerings. Instead, he sold his company to a global public relations and advertising conglomerate. This made him still wealthier, but he no longer owns the firm that bears his name.

Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

Key Related Materials

Documents / Web sites / 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.

Feedback

Share your thoughts about this project. Send us an e-mail, or post a comment beneath any chapter.

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



During my lifetime, the numbers racket and buying votes have evolved, respectively, into the state government sponsored lottery and government initiatives on behalf of special interests. This evolution stems from the middlemen business goals of those who run the lottery and those who lobby for special interests. Our form of government has become dysfuntional. We need constitutional reform.

Posted by: buckl001 | April 8, 2007 06:45 AM

"fascist corporations"

Is that you, Todd? Would you care to explain why private businesses are "fascist"? I can't quite tell through the spittle.

Fool Superior, you do seem to be a fool who imagines himself superior to others. But you're still a fool.

Posted by: sportsfan | April 8, 2007 08:22 AM

Who's your boss? Robert Kaiser? Haha, just kidding.

Fool, I'm guessing you didn't really read today's installment, or much of the series. I just did (paper version, natch). Overall it's a pretty nuanced article, no? Reminds me of the title of the Tom Wolfe book, "A Man in Full." Not entirely laudatory, but gives him a fair shake in the end.

I also think it's interesting how the events of the past five weeks have actually impacted the story writing. For example, Kaiser quoting Cassidy's blog today, that might be unprecedented.

Posted by: sportsfan | April 8, 2007 08:46 AM

It is sickening to see what our democracy has become. this is a plutocracy - government of the rich,by the rich, and for the rich. The only solution is public financing of campaigns. That will put these parasites out of business.

Posted by: philbq | April 8, 2007 09:04 AM

The best government money can by - as a small start we need a LAW BANNING EARMARKS. Any legislation must be for the purpose of the legislation only.

Posted by: jgh88 | April 8, 2007 09:42 AM

Phil, if you'd read the Cassidy blog you'd know he supports public financing.

Besides, everybody has a lobbyist. If you're over 65, the AARP. If you're in a trade union, you've got one, too. You say plutocracy, I say pluralism.

Posted by: sportsfan | April 8, 2007 09:42 AM

Gerry is the classic American capitalist. Willing to take money for anything while turning a blind eye to the lack of ethics left in his wake. A rule bender, he is the hero of people like sportsfan, another shallow word twister.
They both place their priorities on the almighty dollar and would mortgage their mother's home given half a chance. As they see things it's just a fact of life that the rich prey upon the poor and that is how it should be. They will do everything in their power to maintain that particular status quo and, if possible, manipulate it and enhance it to fit their predatory methods.

Posted by: bovid4585 | April 8, 2007 10:26 AM

bovid=fool_superior

The sour grapes in this thread sure must be tasty!

Posted by: sportsfan | April 8, 2007 10:57 AM

I'm a small government conservative. I'm inclined to see a severe limitation on earmarks -- like the PorkBusters effort, led by conservative bloggers like NZ Bear and Glenn Reynolds. So I am sympathetic to some commenters here who don't like lobbyists. Hey, I agree -- it's rent-seeking and restribution of money we pay in taxes. By definition that money cannot be worth as much to the recipients as those who paid it, since they didn't earn it the same way. But the character assassination is pretty counterproductive, and so is the attack on capitalism. Lobbying isn't capitalism, it's socialism.

Posted by: cosmoreaxer | April 8, 2007 10:58 AM

Cosmo: Sounds like ideology blinds you to the good that is actually done with some of those earmarked dollars. If you read the start of the series, you'd see, the Cassidy work was originally to build university medical centers and research facilities.

And there's more to it. See TNR from last September:

"And, while it's easy to see why small-government conservatives and knee-jerk deficit hawks dislike earmarks, there's a liberal case for supporting pork. It's not because pork projects are defensible on the merits, although they sometimes can be. It's not because they create jobs, although they can do that, too. Rather, it's because, without pork, activist government would wither and die."

And:

"Any big-government program on the progressive wish list will likely prove even more difficult to pass than the 1986 tax reform or 1993 budget. Single-payer health care? Card check for unions? Reductions in carbon emissions? It won't get done without an orgy of earmarks to entice the inevitable skeptics in Congress. That won't be pretty, but if the price of, say, universal insurance is a bit of borderline corruption here and there, it's a tradeoff worth making."

Earmarking may not always be pretty, but it has its place. And if you think earmarks are all "bridges to nowhere" then I don't think you know too much about K Street at all.

Posted by: sportsfan | April 8, 2007 11:05 AM

Interesting article on the beginning of the lobbying industry. What was dismaying was the transformation of the industry from earmarks of good deeds to the current status of lobbyist "government raider" for special interest. The Bush administration has shredded the Chinese wall between government service and lobbying firm by
going directly from the White HOuse to K Street. One of the many things we need to do is prohibit government servants from
doing this.

Posted by: asabatini | April 8, 2007 11:43 AM

Campaign Finance Reform is possibly the most crucial need that we MUST initiate if we intend to save our democracy. The practice of corporations controlling our government through cash payouts has reached epidemic proportions and will destroy democracy in the U.S., unless we do something about it, and FAST. It amazes me how the American people have been dumbed down to the point where we just don't realize the threat that this practice is to our freedom. We MUST force our legislators to push through reform amendments that will provide opportunity for all candidates to get their message out, while shutting out the cash carrying lobbyists from our capitol.

Posted by: ctmont | April 8, 2007 01:32 PM

If memory serves, Congress did pass Campaign Finance Reform in 2001, and unless my mind is totally playing tricks on me, I could swear the president signed it.

Tell me, ctmont, how did that turn out?

Posted by: cosmoreaxer | April 8, 2007 02:27 PM

This is what the volunteers in the Army and Marines are dying for in Iraq. Take a good look at the mansion on the Chesapeake Bay. Until blue collar America figures the game out their sons will continue to die for an illusion. Look at the money Democrats have already raised for the next presidential race. Is so called public financing of elections goig to change all this? Figure it out. Populist candidates never get to first base--look at what happened to the Huey Pierce Longs and George Wallaces--the ones who knew there "wasn't a dime's worth of difference between Democrats and Republicans."

Posted by: jrharr46872 | April 8, 2007 04:17 PM

What Gerald Cassidy has done is nothing short of revolutionizing American politics. He is to be congratulated. It needs only 3 small adjustments to make it more fair to the average citizen.

1. Remove all contribution limits. Politicians can accept money from any source in any amount.

2. Politicians may not vote on, submit legislation for, or use executive branch power, to substantially affect any issue on which they have accepted more than $1000. The only exception is direct political contributions from constituents up to $10000. All persons who make contributions in excess of the limits are assumed to represent issues. All persons must identify their employment and source of their funds when making a contribution. If more than 25 people have the same employment, the same source of funds, or belong to an organization that maintains a lobby group will be assumed to represent an issue

3. Politicians will continue to receive their elected salary for 15 years after leaving office. Politicians, their extended family members, or business associates may not receive money from any organization which they substantially affected during their time in office for a period of 15 years after they have left office.

Posted by: sehrenbe | April 8, 2007 04:41 PM

Jrharr, you mean the "segregation forever" guy? That list should also include well known paranoiac and unwitting Republican ally Ralph Nader. Some heroes!

I'll stop now, before Johnny Bravo shows up and starts yammering on about Obama.

Posted by: sportsfan | April 8, 2007 05:00 PM

Recall that big business as a slogan existed long before the phrase big government was fashioned from it.

Posted by: russell | April 8, 2007 05:03 PM

Having spent some time as a lobbyist myself I can tell you all from personal experience that the practice itself is no more corrupt than any other walk of life. There are rules to follow when you lobby, break them you go to jail; just like the practice of law, medicine or plumbing. Honorable people will lobby honorably, dishonest people well, become Jack Abramoff.
In my opinion the most egregious violations occur when elected officials determine their offices become entitlements. The perks, the sycophants and the power all become an all too influential aphrodesiac
that infects every decision and paralyzes Congress into inaction on some very important issues.
Tackling provacative issues in an election year is a joke. Why? Because the fear of alienating some segment of a constituency could jeopardize a re-election bid and the funds necessary to run a credible campaign.
In my opinion term limits would solve a lot of problems. Three terms for a Senator, nine for a member of the House and one six year term for the President. Take a look at most of the recent public corruption cases in Congress. All involve lifers. Watergate occured because Nixon needed inside information for his re-election campaign.
If you can't make your mark in eighteen years then you won't - ever. As for presidents, most them wear out their welcome at about six years anyway. So send them packing.
I don't fear lobbyists, I fear government without them. There are tens of thousands of bills introduced each session. There is no way congress can keep up with that work load without someone explaining the implications of this stuff. Almost all of us are represented by lobbyists and in turn are part of the "special interests" that many so lustily condemn.
You want to clean up DC? Then clean it out
periodically - by law.

Jim

Posted by: jamesm | April 8, 2007 07:38 PM

The system, not the people in it is responsible for the growing separation of the rich and poor in this country. Do not spend time attacking lobbyists, politicians, business owners, or any group of individuals. Each of these people generally act honorably and responsibly relative to the situation in which they find themselves. They cannot beat out the competition and survive while also trying to think about what's best for humanity or the country in the long run. It's not their fault that they're screwing up the country, in other words. The system needs to change!

Do you know about Clean Elections? Do you know what you can do to encourage Clean Elections in your area? When politicians are truly responsible to the masses, only then will legislation for the masses be considered and enacted. Are you doing what you can to promote Clean Elections in your area?

Posted by: gma02001 | April 8, 2007 08:52 PM

I always laugh when some pol/lobbyist defends their actions as "legal"-of course what they do is "legal", they get to write the rules.

The only way to put Gerald Cassidy's of the world out of business is to take the money and influence out of Washington. State politicians have for years passed the political buck to the Feds, with the resulting concentration of power in Washington, DC.

Cassidy's life and home are hideous monuments to what happens when individuals turn-over more and more of their rights to a centralized power. As long as the pols in DC are allowed to regulate our lives to the degree they do, there will always be thieves like Cassidy and Abramhoff, finding their way to publicly funded feeding trough.

Posted by: skshrewsmail | April 8, 2007 09:10 PM

I quote from todays final installment:

"During his time in Washington, Cassidy said in one of many interviews he gave for these articles that the United States has experienced "a huge redistribution of income, and you can't blame just the Republicans, because it has happened through Democratic presidencies, and through Democratic and Republican congresses."

So the rich have gotten richer, the weak weaker? "I refuse to argue the obvious. ... It's just true, largely because they have less representation. You look at the movements out there, there is no anti-hunger movement, there is no committee on the Hill looking into poverty." Representation, of course, is Cassidy's line of work. It is as old as the republic, but only in Cassidy's time has lobbying become the biggest Washington industry."

Now, why do YOU think there is less representation? Because unless a politician really screws up, i.e. Delay, Cunningham etc, no one gets caught red handed poisening democracy, allowing legislation to be sold to the highest bidder. A Capitialist society does NOT equate to personal wealth at the expense of the common man or the Constitution. People, read a litte more about our history, about the very idea of this bold new idea called America and its democracy. Hey Gerry Cassidy, if you are so heartbroken about the little guy not being represented anymore, the people fighting Dominion Power in Virginia need some pro bono lobbying help. Here is a unique opportunity to redeem yourself.

Dominion Power has bought and paid for its representation in the VA General Assembly, to the tune of 3.75 million dollars in campaign contributions. Citizens understand how money talks and politicans walk, to the bank that is. Lobbyists and politicians are like the sperm and the egg. Given the right match, they make the perfect union. Union of corruption that is.

Posted by: elenalouise | April 8, 2007 09:17 PM

Gerald Cassidy and Jack Abramoff are what they are--influence peddler pimps. In a way that is acceptable. The Washington Landscape has changed such that now our elected leaders whether they win or lose an election, face long term prospects as influence peddlers for hire. Washington DC and the United States for sale. Every Congressmen and the Executive Branch are not above reproach, but are open to solicitation from the highest bidder. We wonder why our laws are being made by the judicial branch. May God Help Us.

Posted by: fadeddreams | April 8, 2007 10:06 PM

Fade, comparing anybody to Abramoff is this side of libelous. Abramoff is not the typical lobbyist, not even close. And his behavior was so far afield of what is accepted, well, as soon as it became clear what was really going on, Cassidy cut him loose and Abramoff was swiftly on his way to cooperation with the authorities, and then jail.

Meanwhile, I rather like this passage from the conclusion:

"In a lot of areas, the stakes are between big companies, and it's hard to argue that one solution is better than another solution with regard to the consumer's interest," Cassidy said. "The issue," he added, "is whether Company A's solution, or Company B's solution, based on their technology or their footprint, is the right one."

He's right. And those companies are spending their own dollars to put themselves at the best competitive advantage. There is plainly fierce competition here. And competition is the best for all. Company A and Company B both have legitimate interests. It's somebody's job -- scratch that, it's TWO somebodies' job to represent them. You may not like it, but it's a free country.

Posted by: sportsfan | April 9, 2007 07:24 AM

Money, power and congressional politics have long been nefariously intertwined. Certainly, long before Hubert Humphrey termed it "the mother's milk of politics."

More than a century before Cassidy & Co. raised it to a fine art via earmarks, as the Post's series documents, money's central role in our national polity was summed up by Simon Cameron, Lincoln's first secretary of war, who defined an honest politician as one, "who when bought stays bought."

The modern connection dates to the 1950s when the Cold War spawned what President Eisenhower warned was the machinations of, "the military-industrial complex," better known as "Beltway Bandits." That's what truly established lobbying as Washington's premiere industry long before the first earmark.

As a former Hill staffer, I had a front row seat at the markup process, which might better be described as the congressional supper table. I deal with aspects of the process and the personalities in my 2005 novel, Inquisition (www.jackeddinger.com), as well as with the symbiosis between the corrupting power of money and manipulation of the process by a cynical committee chairman.

(By the way, I'd love to hear Joe Califano weigh in on the subject. An honest man, Joe had it right from the beginning.)

Jack Eddinger
Baltimore, MD

Posted by: jweddinger | April 9, 2007 10:32 AM

Influence peddlers and pimps are by far too kind a term for the lobbyists that have seized control of our government in the last 50 years. We need a thorough house cleaning on both sides of the aisle to remove this shadow government and its experts from charting the course of our future. Is the power of the purse a political reality today? Absolutely. What is legal is not and never should be confused with what is right, what is fair, and what is decent. Grass roots populism may have its excesses and make mistakes, but I'd sooner take my chances with having a government that reflects the will of the majority of the voters and find ways for more people to become enfranchised, than to trust our survival to rapacious, unprincipled snake oil salesmen that represent neither the best or the brightest, but sell outs with only the self interest of the privileged few to guide them. Time to gut the whole bloody mess and begin rebuilding from the ground up. Re-elect NO ONE!

Posted by: redlily | April 9, 2007 02:38 PM

Cassidy is a brilliant, hard working innovator with good intentions who made himself wealthy and probably broke no laws while doing more harm to the American political system than any individual in history.

Posted by: eric | April 9, 2007 04:21 PM

I'm particularly intrigued by Cassidy's quote about corporate representation: "In a lot of areas, the stakes are between big companies, and it's hard to argue that one solution is better than another solution with regard to the consumer's interest," Cassidy said. "The issue," he added, "is whether Company A's solution, or Company B's solution, based on their technology or their footprint, is the right one."

Am I to presume that the "big companies" and our legislators, guided by Mr. Cassidy and his ilk, are capable of finding those "right solutions"???? And mainly whose "interests" will those "solutions" benefit???? Our system of government looks good from far, but it seems far from good to me....

I'd also like to thank the Post for running this series and helping to illuminate some of these issues.


Posted by: asdfghjkl1 | April 10, 2007 02:40 AM

I agree. Some of these issues do need to be illuminated. In particular we need public financing of campaigns and limits on what lobbyists can contribute.
Roll Call itself made this point when they interviewed Gery Cassidy on Jan. 22, 2007. Here's an interesting excerpt from the Roll Story:
"Cassidy himself, in an interview last week, declared that he not only supports many of the reforms but would go further when it comes to money in politics. "I would love to see public financing," he said in an interview at Cassidy & Associates headquarters, which are decorated in the deep blues and golden yellows of official Washington. "And I would go along with limits on the contributions from lobbyists. It would take away any public suspicion that money makes a difference."

Posted by: Steveford114 | April 12, 2007 03:19 PM

As an IPG stockholder, I have been troubled by the Washington Post series about one of the IPG subordinate companies. A friend had suggested that the series might be of interest to me.
I know nothing about government relations or related Washington activities, but I do know about liabilities to which publicly-traded companies are exposed. The articles, particularly Chapter 20, tell me that IPG has a problem.
No amount of money given to charities will mitigate the fact that the Cassidy Companies chairman, Gerald Cassidy, seems to have behavior problems, as indicated by incidents that are on the record. I am shocked that IPG has allowed this individual to remain in his current managerial capacity - which indicated to me that IPG tolerates this type of behavior. Even more troubling is Mr. Cassidy's refusal to meet with IPG representatives after the incident involving Mr. Whitmore, an IPG employee. I find this astonishing. I wonder if any other victims ever notified IPG of their incidents.
Now that IPG appears to have been given some notice by way of these articles, I trust that IPG senior management will take a look at this situation. The reason: I worry that the next time, maybe inevitable, that this man even raises his voice to an employee at the wrong time, a multi-million dollar lawsuit might be in the offing.
I presume that company management has discussed this, at some point, and concluded that dismissing this man from this current position would be costly because of a large severance package. Nevertheless, it might be a good topic at the next stockholder meeting.

Posted by: lbross27 | April 12, 2007 07:07 PM

Bob Kaiser said it best, in his own words, in chapter 11:

"They did it according to plan -- more precisely, by following a lobbying template that evolved in the first half-dozen years of the firm's history and is still in use today. The key to their success was not their personal influence over members of Congress, though they had some of that; nor was it their contributions to members' reelection campaigns, though they made many such contributions. The keys to their success were careful preparation, effective presentation of proposals, and persistent adherence to the template."

Posted by: Steveford114 | April 18, 2007 09:26 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2006-2007 The Washington Post Company