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Introduction

By Robert G. Kaiser

For Gerald Sylvester Joseph Cassidy, creator and proprietor of the most lucrative lobbying firm in Washington, May 17, 2005, was a day to exult. That bright, clear spring Tuesday marked the 30th birthday of Cassidy & Associates, and an impressive crowd had come to pay tribute to a godfather of the influence business.

Hundreds of guests gathered on the rooftop terrace of a handsome new office building at the foot of Capitol Hill, 13 stories above Constitution Avenue. A vivid orange sun descended gently behind the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial at the western end of the Mall, casting angular beams of light across the assembled throng. The guests' view from the roof was filled by the United States Capitol, which from this startling vantage point could be seen, from end to end, in a single field of vision. The Capitol looked contained and compact, almost a plaything within easy reach.

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

As the setting sun illuminated the scene, the party illuminated a new Washington -- a capital transformed by big money in the 30 years since Cassidy became a lobbyist. This new Washington operated on new ethical norms, embraced new standards of risk and reward and offered tempting new career choices for former officials, members of Congress, their spouses and their aides.

Cassidy helped invent the new Washington, which had made him seriously rich. His personal fortune exceeded $125 million. He and his original partner, whom he forced out of the firm 20 years earlier, devised a new kind of business, subsequently mimicked by many others. Their innovation was the first modern "earmarked appropriations" -- federal funds directed by Congress to private institutions when no federal agency had proposed spending the money. Over the subsequent three decades, the government dispensed billions of dollars in "earmarks," and lobbying for such appropriations became a booming Washington industry.

Cassidy may be the richest Washington lobbyist, but he is far from the best-known. Since a scandal erupted that bears his name, that title belongs to Jack Abramoff, the confessed felon, bribe-payer and tax evader who is now an inmate in the federal prison camp in Cumberland, Md. He is still cooperating in a widening federal probe of corruption on Capitol Hill.

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

Abramoff's brazen behavior fit a stereotypical caricature of the Washington lobbyist as a willful rogue eager to corrupt members of Congress. The Abramoff story is a crude pulp thriller punctuated by free dinners, lavish golfing outings, big campaign contributions, arm-twisting and old-fashioned bribery.

Cassidy's is a subtler epic that probably reveals more about the culture of Washington, D.C. It, too, involves favors, gifts and contributions, but they are supplemented by the disciplined application of intellect, hard work, salesmanship and connections. In Cassidy's story, all these can influence the decisions of government to the benefit of private parties -- Cassidy's clients.

On a personal level, Cassidy's saga is a variation on the classic American myth: A determined man from nowhere accumulates great wealth and rises to the top. At different moments it evokes Charles Foster Kane, Jay Gatsby or a character from a Horatio Alger tale. Like them, Cassidy is a self-made man who fulfilled many of his most ambitious dreams. But material success has not pacified all of his personal demons. He is tough, temperamental, driven and, according to many around him, rather lonely.

Over the next five weeks, The Washington Post will tell Gerald Cassidy's story in a unique way. On Monday, the series will jump to the newspaper's Web site, washingtonpost.com, to begin a 25-chapter serial narrative that will describe how Cassidy built his business, how he made the deals that earned his millions, how he and his fellow-lobbyists influenced decisions of government and helped create the money-centric culture of modern Washington.

A Gatsbyesque Affair

Charlie Palmer Steak, the gleaming Washington outpost of a famous Las Vegas restaurant, had catered Cassidy's party. Restaurant staff circulated with platters of miniature hamburgers and tartlets of goat cheese and mushrooms. The restaurant occupies much of the ground floor of the building at 101 Constitution Ave., where the rooftop party was held. One of the restaurant's owners is the same Gerald S. J. Cassidy, a man of many investments.

He had turned 65 a month before the party, and he looked spiffing. His full beard of uniformly short whiskers was trimmed to a triangle of white. His fullback's frame was perfectly draped in a dark gray, double-breasted and pin-striped suit made by Alan Flusser in New York, Cassidy's home town. Flusser's custom suits start at $3,800. A white shirt with French cuffs and a silk tie in a pattern of black and white checks completed the ensemble. The checked tie set against the suit's prominent pin stripes evoked a Las Vegas defense attorney.

The outfit advertised the distance Cassidy had come from his difficult childhood in a troubled Irish-American family. None of its other members, denizens of Brooklyn and Queens, wore custom-made suits; none had even graduated from college before Cassidy did in 1963. Cassidy's memories of his youth are short on nostalgia, long on deprivation. "I remember evictions, repossessions, things you never forget." Jack Cassidy, his stepfather, was a pugnacious Navy veteran and former boxer who sometimes threw a punch at his son.

At his big party Cassidy's shyness was displaced by pride; he was virtually preening. He presided with a certain dignified formality, greeting guests with a warm smile but never slipping out of character. Like Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald's self-invented tycoon, Cassidy seemed to enjoy the idea of the party at least as much as the party itself.

Gatsby sought riches to reclaim a lost love who had rejected him when he was young and poor; Cassidy, too, sought riches as armor against poverty and rejection. Both were dreamers who would be forced by circumstances to become realists.

For Cassidy, the urge to accumulate money drove him to succeed. "I'm a big fan of financial security," he said in one of numerous extended interviews. "I didn't have a lot of it as a kid, so I wanted to be successful and financially secure." He never pretended not to be interested in money nor tried to deny who he was or how he made his cash. He proudly, though quietly, made large donations to numerous charities.

His candor about his business and his pursuit of wealth set him apart from the most successful lobbyists of earlier generations, who often were reticent about their trade. Washington powerbroker Clark Clifford was a good example; he never registered as a lobbyist and would deny heatedly that he was one, even as he helped his law firm's corporate clients solve problems in Washington for handsome fees. Clifford wanted to be known as an elder statesman.

Cassidy made no bones about his work. He liked to talk about his ability to get things done: winning hundreds of millions in federal dollars for his university clients, getting Ocean Spray Cranberry juice into school lunches, helping General Dynamics save the billion-dollar Seawolf submarine, smoothing the way for the president of Taiwan to make a speech at Cornell despite a U.S. ban on such visits.

Cassidy's career has spanned an astounding boom in the lobbying business. When Cassidy became a lobbyist in 1975, the total revenue of Washington lobbyists was less than $100 million a year. In 2006 the fees paid to registered lobbyists surpassed $2.5 billion; the Cassidy firm's 51 lobbyists earned about $29 million. In 1975 the rare hiring of a former member of Congress as a lobbyist made eyebrows rise. Today 200 former members of the House and Senate are registered lobbyists. Two of them, tall, gregarious men named Marty Russo and Jack Quinn, work for Cassidy, and at the 30th birthday party they worked the crowd with relish.

The business involves giving as well as receiving. As lobbying became more and more lucrative, Cassidy realized that members of Congress who helped his clients could be thanked with campaign contributions. "You can't be in this business and not give," he once explained.

He encouraged his colleagues to give, and he gave prolifically himself. In the quarter century leading up to his party, Cassidy, his employees and their spouses had personally given at least $5.3 million to candidates for the House and Senate and to the two major parties. Cassidy and his wife, Loretta, donated more than a million of that themselves. The lobbyists of Cassidy & Associates had received many times that much in fees from their clients - almost always in the form of monthly retainers. The clients had received hundreds of millions in earmarked appropriations and other benefits worth hundreds of millions more.

Cassidy's appetite for lobbying revenue could lead him into trouble. It was the cause of one of the few public mistakes of his career: his 2004 offer to the soon-to-be notorious Abramoff to join Cassidy & Associates as a consultant just after the law firm of Greenberg Traurig had fired him. Abramoff accepted the offer, but then Cassidy had to withdraw it. Abramoff was not invited to the 30th birthday party.

Starting with McGovern

The party crowd looked like a typical A-List Washington gathering, sprinkled with past and present senators, House members and Washington hangers-on of many varieties. But there was a story up on the roof that evening that wasn't obvious to most of the guests -- the story of Gerry Cassidy's remarkable career.

The crowd included figures from every stage of Cassidy's life in Washington, beginning with George McGovern. The long-retired former Senator and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee had flown in from South Dakota to toast Cassidy, whom he had first met 36 years earlier in Immokalee, Fla., when McGovern chaired the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs.

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

In 1969, Cassidy, then a young legal aid lawyer for migrant workers, helped McGovern's staff organize hearings in Immokalee on hunger among those workers. Cassidy then escorted the senator around one of the most impoverished areas in the United States. The hearings drew extensive television and newspaper coverage, one of McGovern's first moments in a national spotlight (view a newspaper article, pdf). Just two months later, Cassidy made his way to Washington and knocked on the Nutrition Committee's door. Could he have a job? In April 1969, Gerry Cassidy arrived in the nation's capital to join the staff of McGovern's committee. He has been here ever since.

When Cassidy moved up from Florida, he and Loretta rented a small apartment in Arlington. Today, they own grand houses in McLean and on the Eastern Shore and a condo on Key West.

Cassidy and McGovern have maintained friendly if not close relations over the years -- a typical pattern for Cassidy, who has many acquaintances but few real friends. McGovern expresses personal amazement at Cassidy's financial success, and also gratitude for it. The lobbyist has contributed $100,000 to the George and Eleanor McGovern Library, which was dedicated in October at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D.

Both men say they have forgotten that McGovern fired Cassidy from the nutrition committee in early 1975 to make room on the staff for Bob Shrum, at the time a young political operative who McGovern hoped could help him run for president again in 1976. Shrum went on to advise eight losing Democratic presidential candidates.

McGovern's order to fire Cassidy, in a letter to Kenneth Schlossberg, staff director of the nutrition committee, can be found in McGovern's papers at Princeton University (view the letter, pdf). Schlossberg interpreted that letter as a cue that it was also time for him to find a new job. He proposed to Cassidy that they start a consulting business, he recalled in an interview. They became 50-50 partners in a firm called Schlossberg-Cassidy & Associates, though they had no associates.

When they first set up shop in a tiny, one-room office, Schlossberg and Cassidy sent letters to everyone they knew offering to provide whatever assistance might be needed in Washington. One of the first to respond was Jean Mayer, a renowned nutritionist, who had just become president of Tufts University in Medford, Mass., outside Boston. Mayer summoned Schlossberg to Tufts to talk about his dream of building a human nutrition research center. He recounted how House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill had once told him about the childhood days when he and his brother sneaked onto Tufts' playing fields to play ball. "If I can do anything to help you, let me know," O'Neill had said.

Mayer hired Schlossberg-Cassidy to figure out how O'Neill might help him. And they did. After two years of work by the young lobbyists, Congress appropriated $27 million for the human nutrition center. Over the course of the next three decades, that $27 million would be followed by hundreds of millions more in directed, earmarked appropriations to Cassidy clients -- colleges, universities, hospitals, corporations and state and local governments.

The Absent Alumni

Many of Cassidy's Democratic friends were in attendance at the rooftop party. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), for example, came prancing across the canvas "carpet" that had been laid on the roof to greet his host: "My Cassidy!" he proclaimed with a mischievous Irish grin, "I'm a fan of yours!"

[Photo]
Gerald Cassidy, right, and Marty Russo at the 30th anniversary party for Cassidy & Associates. (Susan Biddle/TWP)

Cassidy has long had good relations with members of the Massachusetts delegation, going back to his friend O'Neill, the speaker from 1977 to 1987, boom years for Cassidy's firm. Many of the early clients were Massachusetts institutions. By the end of that period, Cassidy was paying himself as much as $5 million a year, several times more than the earnings of even Washington's fanciest lawyers.

One of the loudest guests at the party was Russo, the former Congressman from the suburbs of Chicago who was defeated in 1992 and joined Cassidy the next year. At the party, Russo greeted his pals from the House with a booming voice, and had hugs and pats on the back for many -- a Chicago pol of the old school. On his Cassidy & Associates calling card, Russo has put an embossed, golden Seal of the United States and identifies himself as "Marty Russo, Member of Congress, Retired." (view Russo's business card)

The guest list for the party was long, but so was the list of people who had played a prominent part in building the Cassidy firm but had not been invited. Many of the professional and personal relationships Cassidy developed over three decades had not survived. His mercurial personality and sometimes violent temper put an end to some of them; his ways of doing business ended others. Some left him for greener pastures.

Members of a large Cassidy alumni association could be found in lobby shops and public relations firms all around town. When someone left the firm, Cassidy tended to take it badly. He got into a prolonged legal action with one former employee and forced him into a settlement, a story that quickly made the rounds and had the desired effect. Only a fraction of the former employees was invited to the party on the roof, though the event had been the talk of the alumni for weeks.

[Photo]
Gerald Cassidy, right, and James Fabiani outside the offices of Cassidy & Associates in 1989. (Frank Johnston/TWP)

The uninvited included some of the most important people in the history of the firm -- first of all James P. Fabiani. Fabiani was the third person to join the firm, after Schlossberg and Cassidy. He designed many of its procedures; he became its most successful marketer, luring in dozens of clients. But he and Cassidy fell out after 15 years working together. Fabiani thought the firm had changed: "It went from ... hard-charging, driven, we're-going-to-succeed-for-our-clients to a company preoccupied with money.'"

Schlossberg was absent, too, an ironic status for the actual founder of the firm -- despite many references in the firm's literature and on its Web site to Cassidy as its founder. The two men's gradual estrangement had culminated in 1984, when they agreed on a settlement that dissolved their partnership. Schlossberg left with $812,600 as his share of the enterprise. Today he runs a family business, the Schlossberg Memorial Chapel, providing funeral services to the Jewish community on Boston's South Shore. He and Cassidy haven't spoken in 22 years.

The two had an achingly complicated relationship. "He only agreed to the deal we finally settled on," Schlossberg said recently of Cassidy, "because he knew that if we actually ended up in court I would make sure the whole city knew every last detail about our business and no clients would be left after that." The money Schlossberg received proved to be a piddling amount. Eventually, in a series of complicated financial transactions from 1989 to 1999, Cassidy sold his interest in the firm for a total of $30 million, while staying in place to run the business for a handsome salary.

Ten-Percenters

One of the alumni who did make it to the rooftop terrace was William M. Cloherty, a feisty little fireplug of a man who came up with an idea that helped Cassidy soar. Cloherty had been working in the Tufts administration when Cassidy and Schlossberg won that first earmark for Jean Mayer. He quickly grasped that what Schlossberg-Cassidy had accomplished for Tufts could become the basis of a real business.

Through a connection with John Silber, the resourceful president of Boston University, Cloherty got to know Cassidy. Intense, bright, disheveled and hopelessly disorganized, Cloherty quickly bonded with Cassidy, a fellow hustling Irishman.

Cloherty proposed to work for Cassidy on a commission basis. He would receive ten percent of whatever fees the clients he brought in paid to the firm. By 1985 Cloherty had signed up 10 clients, eight of them universities. Over the years Cloherty collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in commissions without doing any lobbying himself. Cloherty's success prompted Cassidy and Fabiani to build a large stable of "ten-percenters," who became critical to the firm's early growth.

At the party, Cloherty spent a long time chatting with Silber, who had flown to Washington for the occasion. Prior to joining Cassidy, Cloherty had worked for Schlossberg as BU's government liaison. Over a quarter century, BU has paid Cassidy millions of dollars in lobbying fees, and the school has received $106.5 million in earmarks from the federal government.

[Photo]
William Cloherty, left, talks with Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) at the 30th anniversary party for Cassidy & Associates. (Susan Biddle/TWP)

Cloherty's success reflected the firm's. For years in the 1980s, Cassidy and his colleagues could truthfully tell prospective clients that they never failed to win an earmark for an institution that had retained them. "Sometimes it took longer than we expected," admitted Elliott Fiedler, who worked at the firm from 1987 to 1995, "and sometimes the client had to settle for a good deal less than it hoped for. But for years every client eventually got something."

From its inception the firm also represented businesses. One of Cassidy's earliest corporate clients was the Ocean Spray Cranberry cooperative, a national organization of cranberry and grapefruit growers. Ocean Spray got him into the political contributions business; he set up a political action committee for the group and decided which members of Congress would receive its largesse. That only increased Cassidy's influence.

His firm has also organized hundreds of fundraisers for members of Congress, many of them breakfasts in the firm's conference room. Cassidy believes in giving money to his friends for their election campaigns. The system doesn't bother him in the least. "Lobbyists have always been contributors; they always will be," he said in an interview. "It's like if you lived in a rural community and you wanted to be part of that community, and they had a volunteer fire department. If you didn't participate, you wouldn't be very well accepted in the community. It's as simple as that."

Selling the Firm Again and Again

In the decade that began in 1989, Cassidy & Associates was transformed. Cassidy was able to fulfill his dream of becoming not just prosperous and successful, but rich. In two stages, he sold a portion of the firm to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, an unusual financial transaction that put $15 million in his pocket.

He used some of the money to greatly expand his business. He created Powell-Tate, a public relations firm named for its key partners, Jody Powell, President Jimmy Carter's press secretary, and Sheila Tate, press secretary to first lady Nancy Reagan. Cassidy also acquired a Republican lobbying firm, a polling firm and a grass-roots lobbying firm.

The Republican victory in 1994, taking control of Congress from the Democrats whom Cassidy had spent more than 20 years befriending, cost the firm about $6 million in revenue, or roughly 20 percent of what it had been making. Cassidy cut his own salary way back; for a couple of years he earned no bonus. But he survived, and business slowly picked up again.

In 1999, Cassidy sold the firm to InterPublic Group (IPG), a British advertising and public relations conglomerate, in a stock transaction that netted about $60 million. Cassidy's share would total just over $15 million. His timing was impeccable; he used a financial device called a collar to sell the IPG shares he received in the deal at what turned out to be a historic high. Within months, the IPG shares lost half their value. Most of Cassidy's associates held on to their shares and suffered heavy losses.

For an entrepreneur who had created a business and shaped it in his own image, becoming the property of an international conglomerate was not easy. At first Cassidy's relationship with IPG was rocky. Some executives working for the new owner thought it might be best to ease Cassidy out of the firm and turn it over to his longtime associate, Fabiani.

The gambit failed with the new owner, and Cassidy remained the boss. But the firm fell on hard times. Fabiani left, and the earmarked appropriations business was suddenly crowded with new competitors. And Congress, which loved earmarks, loved them so well that their number burgeoned, but their average size shrank radically.

'A Republican Lobbying Firm'

Another guest at the 30th birthday party was Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Republican whip in the House. Ten years earlier, a Republican as important as Blunt probably would not have attended an event honoring a Democratic lobbyist. But times changed after the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, forcing Cassidy to adapt to Republican tastes.

His latest adaptation had been the hiring of Gregg Hartley, an open, friendly Missourian like Blunt, who had worked as Blunt's right-hand man for nearly all his political career. In 2003, following a path trod by countless other Congressional aides, Hartley had decided to "go downtown" -- to become a lobbyist. A bidding war for his services ensued. Cassidy had won it with an offer of just under $1 million a year plus a substantial percentage of the lobbying fees paid by clients Hartley could bring to the firm.

Hartley had earned $150,000 as Blunt's senior aide. Now he was the chief operating officer of Cassidy & Associates. Hartley worked the crowd at the party with a friendly, low-key style. A number of the guests represented corporate clients he had attracted to the firm.

[Photo]
Gerald Cassidy, right, and Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) at the 30th anniversary party for Cassidy & Associates. (Susan Biddle/TWP)

Blunt was a nice catch for the Cassidy party, but not in the class of the man who arrived soon afterward, surrounded by a bustling entourage. That was Tom DeLay of Texas, then still the House majority leader. His presence was probably a favor to Hartley, who had belonged to the House leadership's inner circle.

To have someone with Hartley's connections essentially running Cassidy's firm, as he has since 2005, showed how the times had changed Cassidy. "I'm running a Republican lobbying firm," Cassidy quipped sheepishly to an old friend.

One of the most influential guests at the party was a senior senator who once went after Cassidy in public -- Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), ranking Democratic member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In 1989, just after Byrd became that committee's chairman, he threw a theatrical temper tantrum when The Washington Post reported that the University of West Virginia had hired the Cassidy firm to help win an earmarked appropriation for an $18 million facility to study the uses of coal. When this became public knowledge, Byrd decided he was furious. He actually blocked the $18 million, which the House had already approved, and forced his home state university to fire Cassidy. In a speech on the Senate floor he denounced "lobbyists who collect exorbitant fees to create projects and have them earmarked in appropriation bills... for the benefit of their clients," a thinly veiled reference to Cassidy.

[Photo]
Gerald Cassidy, center, and wife Loretta, left, greet Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) at the 30th anniversary party for Cassidy & Associates. (Susan Biddle/TWP)

The episode created a political opportunity, prompting Byrd to draft the "Byrd Amendment," putting new restrictions on all lobbyists. It appeared to be a memorial to his anger at Cassidy.

So why, 16 years later, when he was 87 and frail, had Byrd come to a party to celebrate Cassidy? He responded to that question a little testily: "I'm here because I'm here. I was invited, and I decided to come."

Soon after the party another successful Washington lobbyist ventured an explanation: "That's simple. It's his cycle. He's up." Indeed he was. Republicans thought Byrd might be vulnerable, and they had targeted him in 2006. He was busily raising money to defend his seat, and Cassidy, it turned out, was doing his best to help.

Byrd's re-election committee later reported to the Federal Elections Commission that six weeks before his party, Gerald S.J. Cassidy had made a $2,000 contribution. Then in November 2006, six months after the 30th birthday party, Cassidy & Associates' Political Action Committee made a $938 "in-kind" contribution to organize and pay the tab for a Byrd fundraiser at Finemondo, an Italian restaurant downtown. That event raised $16,645 more for Byrd, nearly all of it from employees of the Cassidy firm. One $2,000 donation was recorded in the name of Loretta Cassidy, the lobbyist's wife, whose pretty smile and high spirits lit up the party on the roof on May 17.

As the sun set and the party wound down, Cassidy took a microphone and spoke, very briefly:

"All I want to say is it's been a great time, I've enjoyed it. I've had a great time over the years because of all of you. I've loved being in Washington working on important issues. My boss is here, Senator McGovern. He brought me to Washington 35 years ago and opened the door to a great life. Thank you."

Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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What a cancerous growth on representative democracy.

Posted by: Tupac Goldstein | March 4, 2007 12:32 AM

It doesn't take 25 chapters to show that the members of our increasingly venal and corrupt Congress, almost to a man and woman, are bought and sold by people such as Cassidy. So much for principle, so much for democracy.

Posted by: mikeasr | March 4, 2007 02:05 AM

Great story...I guess there's bipartisanship to be found in Washington after all /sarcasm.

Posted by: va8thdem | March 4, 2007 02:36 AM

The selling of American is represented by the financial incentives to shape the US government in the name of those who have the most money. This is not democracy! But, rather the selected few who can buy their way into Congress for the benefit not of and by the people, but those who would sell just about anything to gain and sustain power. We must take back America from these people who would do great harm to American if the profit motivate was apparent.

Posted by: Randall | March 4, 2007 05:45 AM

The mere existence of lobbying firms, like Mr. Cassidy's, is a confirmation of the lack of morality and true democracy where it should count more!!!

Posted by: | March 4, 2007 07:42 AM

Dear Mr. Kaiser, Thanks so much for this article. It's fascinating. Can't wait for the rest of it.

Posted by: Nancy Kirk | March 4, 2007 08:36 AM

riveting reading.

Posted by: brenda rossini | March 4, 2007 08:38 AM

So this guy is the anit-christ, right?

Posted by: DC Native | March 4, 2007 08:39 AM

It seems that the WP is honouring another free loader that is taking the american tax dollors to enrich themselves, may not do it direct but is instrumental in the missapropeation of taxes to his clients and getting his cut. Is he too rich for this newspaper to tell the truth about him and the people he services and the way he works, is it not time people like him that inhabit Washington join Jack Abramoff in his Holiday Camp in Cumberland then they can have a real get together, Companies may pay him a fee, but that fee is a percentage of the money they the companies recieve from the tax payer.

Posted by: r.l.bradley | March 4, 2007 09:22 AM

Wow, thanks for the in-depth report on the men and women who are destroying the Republic for personal gain. Here's to the hope that in the next life, these parasites will suffer immeasurably for their crimes against our Nation and humanity. Along with the elected men and women who yield to their demands. Ah! How far we have drifted away from the lives and needs of the vast majority of Americans.

Posted by: Hank Hill | March 4, 2007 10:08 AM

"For Cassidy, the urge to accumulate money drove him to succeed."

Success at any cost: corruption, poisoned air - food - water, environmental devastation, selling out childhood to benefit corporations...

Yes, correct, he is the Anti-Christ.

So, how much did he pay to the WP to get this article printed (esp the cute Horatio Alger line)?

Posted by: Flargia Bonappetio | March 4, 2007 10:13 AM

And the role of one Gerald Warburg in the firm?

Posted by: Elias Jackson | March 4, 2007 10:40 AM

Perhaps readers should wait to hear the entire story before passing judgement. (The anti-Christ? Give me a break.) So far, Cassidy sounds to me like an innovative business man who found a way to help organizations get what they wanted from their government and make a nice living while doing it. This is capitalism at it's best, although one can certainly see the potential for corruption (which may have more to do with campaign finance laws than lobbyists). Who doesn't need an intermediary when dealing with the US government? Don't a lot of you have someone prepare your taxes, because it's impossible to do it yourself? Cassidy found a way to help people get money from the government, because without those connections and knowledge of the appropriations process, it's impossible to do it yourself.

Posted by: Jessica W | March 4, 2007 11:40 AM

Washington Post's K Street Connections

We hope the Post fully discloses its own relationships with lobbyists as it unfolds its major "Citizen K Street" series. Right from the beginning, readers should have learned that the Washington Post has had a long relationship with super-lobbyist Tony Podesta. All the various wheeling and dealing which Tony has and is doing for the company must be disclosed. The Post should also identify how it is supporting the lobbying agendas of the newspaper, broadcast, and cable industries. For example, through its Cable One subsidiary, the Washington Post plays a leading role aiding the National Cable & Telecommunications Association political agenda (such as opposition to broadband network neutrality). Via its Post-Newsweek TV group, the Post is on the board of directors for the National Association of Broadcasters (think opposition to media ownership rules). Finally, the Post is a member of the Newspaper Association of America; that trade group is fighting to eliminate the broadcast-newspaper cross-ownership safeguard. Finally, the Post Co. has a representative on the board of the Interactive Advertising Association (opposed to online privacy rules, etc).

We hope the series will examine the role Cassidy has played in weakening media ownership safeguards, including its work for NBC, Fox and CBS back in 2003. As Cassidy's firm stated on its web site at the time, it had key connections to the then top GOP leaders, including "the Speaker, Majority Leader Conference Chair and seven other leadership offices."

Posted by: Jeffrey Chester | March 4, 2007 11:55 AM

Interesting article. I'll look forward to reading the series, thinking about the implications, and making up my mind.
The issues here are much more subtle than some readers seem ready to accept. It certainly wouldn't be the first time that dogma stood in the way of learning.

Posted by: Ken C | March 4, 2007 12:06 PM

Time for a constitutional amendment to cap taxes and spending. If Congress wants to play this game--so be it--but not by piling on debt and taking the country down.

Posted by: TM, Fairfax, VA | March 4, 2007 12:55 PM

Excellent, as far as it goes. But the $2.5 billion per year registered by the DC lobby industry merely is anywhere from ten to twenty percent of what actually is spent. For instance, most lobby-related DC public relations and legal fees do not have to be reported under the 1995 Lobby & Disclosure Act (LDA). Also, virtually none of the "marketing" or "business development" expenditures need be filed under the LDA, and in the case of communications, defense firms and many industries, that's ten times what they report under the LDA. Also, virtually none of the dues and expenses of national business associations have to be reported. And there are countless other examples.

So if we assume that "real" lobby expenses are at least $15-25 billion a year, we can begin to appreciate that the lobby industry in Washington (and most state capitals and countless cities and counties) is far more powerful than government itself, outspending policy-making government by at least five to ten to one. This IS a relatively recent development, pretty much tracking the time span recounted in the Kaiser/Cassidy piece.

The latest entry into power lobbying? Try virtually totally unregulated hedge funds and private equity partners. Already, they are approaching the combined political cloat of the investment and commercial bankers.

This thing already is out of control, and is not likely to be held in check. As one of the readers above has suggested, most of the media is heavily commited to a lobbying agenda itself, thus highly likely to "pull its punches" when it gets too close for comfort. It also helps to explain why the press has been silent for so long.

Too bad, Mr Kaiser. Your story is too late to have any material impact. And yes, Jerry Cassidy's fees will go up even higher as a result.

Many years ago DC lobbyists bought the Democrats, then the GOP in 1994. They totally owned the Bush White House from the beginning (how many hundreds of top Bushies came from the lobby industry, and are already back home), and already have long tongs into the new Democratis Congress and all 2008 presidential hopefuls.

This isn't meant to be cynical. It's a sad fact. The Barbarians were welcomed at the gates, and are likely to remain. Sounds like Rome.

Posted by: Kelsey | March 4, 2007 02:09 PM

The story is perfect proof that bribery is illegal everywhere except in Washington.

The only answer is to limit government so the money is not available for politicians to put on the auction block.

Posted by: DF Chicago | March 4, 2007 02:13 PM

The Hill and Roll Call already ran stories on Cassidy a few weeks ago, so those are worth looking at too. This is all history anyway, and doesn't (yet) get into Cassidy pushing for more public disclosure as Roll Call did.

Look, you don't have to *like* lobbying, but calling it undemocratic is -- listen up, kids -- undemocratic! The right to petition is an important principle of open government. THe only problem is if those agreements are not diclosed and that doesn't seem to be a problem here.

If any good can come from the Abramoff scandal it's more transparency. As Ken C says above, the issues are subtler than the morons flinging "anti-Christ" around can deal with.

Posted by: sportsfan | March 4, 2007 02:43 PM

Can you imagine if they " Congress & Senate" would
do these nice things for people who put them there in the first place.....

Bankruptcy bill > for bankers
Big media >corporations
Jobs > for overseas markets
The American cant win anymore
but you cant vote them out
Notice its a both sides now issue
Nothing wrong witha little lobbying
but how about one for the people ?

Throw the dogs a bone !

Posted by: The Patriot | March 4, 2007 04:15 PM

Then he is evil and needs to go.

Posted by: Todd | March 4, 2007 07:31 PM

Besides the sycophantic tone of the article (Jay Gatsby comparisons?), the writing is some of the worst I've seen in the Post:

"Jack Cassidy, his stepfather, was a pugnacious Navy veteran and former boxer who sometimes threw a punch at his son."

"As the setting sun illuminated the scene, the party illuminated a new Washington -- a capital transformed by big money in the 30 years since Cassidy became a lobbyist."

"But there was a story up on the roof that evening that wasn't obvious to most of the guests -- the story of Gerry Cassidy's remarkable career."

... I can hear the violins in the background.

Posted by: Maria | March 4, 2007 08:15 PM

Great piece--well written. Can't wait for future installments. Could it be that the problem lies in the style of government we have -- bicameral legislature, independent administration (no daily accountability on floor of lelgislature) frequent elections, primary election system???

Posted by: David Jewell-Philadelphia | March 4, 2007 08:29 PM

Proof positive that prostitution is indeed completely legal in America.

This is sick.

Any self-respecting person would need to take a shower after reading this article.

How can these people sleep at night? They have no souls.

Posted by: Sandy | March 4, 2007 08:42 PM

This is the start of what I'm sure will be an engrossing and revelatory series. Bob Kaiser, I know from my days at the Post, would not deliver less. Cassidy's company has been instrumental in the stunning growth of city's (and metro area's) super-lobbying industry over the past 20 years. It's an industry that has created thousands of jobs (beyond making Cassidy very wealthy). But it's essentially a parasitic industry. Its wheelers and dealers, movers and shakers, don't create any Stanford or Berkeley or Cal Tech that are essential for a local, entrepreneurial-based knowledge industry. They don't register high-tech patents. They certainly don't tinker with computer algorithms in a garage in Gaithersburg! No, they're too busy hosting dinners at Citronelle. Upholstered in their tailored suits and blessed with continually flowing "earmarked" revenues, they are on the top of the world that is, as one ex-Cassidy partner says, is "preoccupied with money."

Posted by: Tom Grubisich | March 4, 2007 09:01 PM

Tom Grubisich's comments are interesting, and I would agree with most of his points, but the DC lobby industry has produced a "higher education" of its own in DC. GW, AU, Georgetown, George Mason and all the rest are turning out hundreds of lobby recruits every year. In fact, it's the highest growth industry in the area.

Posted by: Kelsey | March 4, 2007 09:41 PM

Wow. Great reading; great and timely subject. Now we--out here in the provinces-- know why the federal budget is such a mess. Perhaps our cash starved public education system should hire some of these people--Oh yeah, that's right they already work for the text book industry. Lord knows, there is no income stream in all creation that rivals what you can get our of the government. I know--as this article so artfully made clear--that these individuals come as Democrats and Republicans, that they believe in themselves, and that they are doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people--or something like that. However, as a reader of history both ancient and modern, it is hard to not wonder about our moral compass. What would Tocqueville think. How rich is rich enough in a nation that can't even figure out health care for a large portion of it's poplation. Keep up the good work WaPo. It is astounding that these people will even talk to you. I can't wait to read more. When this series is finished, How about an expose on the AEI and the Think Tank phenomenon? I think their rise roughly parallels the rise of the influence industry. What a century!

Posted by: | March 4, 2007 10:04 PM

I think this story is one of the most interesting I've read in a long time. How dare those folks with all those negative comments. Most of them know nothing about a true American dream much less about lobbying, politics, or what an Anti-Crist is. Even more, those who critizise, call names,etc. are just jealous because they do not have the education, strength, and spunk to accomplish what Gerry and Loretta have in the past 30 years. I bet if anyone of these mean people who publically make bad cooments about them, would have a different tune if they were given a chance to work for such a successful company. I know Mr. & Mrs. Cassidy and they ae truly wonderful giving people. They help alot of people but do not seek glory for their kindness to others. The best part of being an American is to be able to work in whatever field one might find to their liking. We all work for money. That's part of hard work and dedication. So, unless you know the facts, you should keep your nasty comments to yourself. I applaud the Washington Post.

Posted by: Carol | March 5, 2007 02:59 PM

Why do we think lobbyists (who represent clients in the first and branches of government, the legislature and executive) are bad, but lawyers (who represent clients before the third branch of government, i.e. the Judicary) are good?

Posted by: ADR | March 9, 2007 02:16 PM

Yeah, Erin Go Braugh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Vito | March 10, 2007 10:59 AM

Posted by: abortion | March 10, 2007 02:11 PM

Posted by: abortion | March 10, 2007 02:17 PM

There is something to be said about the fact that the right to solicit the government is one of the three protected professions in the first amendment of our constitution. The other two are, of course, journalists and clergymen.

The government needs to be made aware of any issues of importance to the private sector. Wasn't it President Taft who established the Chamber of Commerce, now the largest campaign funding machine by far, by way of executive order back in 1917? He did it because he realized how important a role business plays in a country founded on the model of capitalism. For our government to maintain its legitimacy and avoid civil unrest they must ensure that the economy prospers. The nation's families are dependent on the order that is a product of prosperity. What better way to ensure this than for there to be knowledgeable professionals that represent these interests?

Lobbyists take many forms in Washington but they always occupy the same median, they are the bridge between private interest and government. More than anything else, they are educators. It's a shame that lobbyists like Abramoff have tainted the face of something which, despite what is now popular opinion, really is a necessity in a country which doubles as the largest bureaucracy in the world.

Posted by: Maxwell | March 15, 2007 11:26 AM

Disagreed with many of our commentators. Profound and riveting. A personal perspective on the changing economy and an individual's pursuit to better himself and others. If anything, a heartfelt perspective on an entrepreneur dedicated to changing himself, the role of lobbying, and the future of Washington politics.

Posted by: Mike | March 15, 2007 12:07 PM

I noticed almost all of these comments are about how bad and corrupt lobbyists are ruining our country and I had two comments. One, not all lobbyists are evil and lobbying does play a role that is not always bad. I know on a state level constituents can get in to see their legislators very easily, where businesses have to go through different chanels. I work for lobbyists, and so far have not had to work on anything that I didn't think was a good idea.
Secondly, I think the fact that we have a pretty inactive citizenry is a larger problem, maybe if citizens were actually involved they'd have an equal amount of influence as lobbyists.

Posted by: Jennifer L | March 16, 2007 09:00 AM

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