Monday, January 01, 2007

The Establishmentarian (Washington Monthly Article)

This is an insightful piece about Hoyer that, besides providing a decent political bio of the man, gives a good idea of some of his strengths and weaknesses - concentrating on his weaknesses more than his strengths, but it's very worth reading. It concentrates on two aspects of Hoyer's nature - that of Hoyer as an old-school politician who may be a roadblock to reform of how politicians do things (focusing on lobbying reform in particular) and who is a bit overfriendly with the lobbying and business communities, hence more likely to see their side of things than the average Democrat.

An excerpt:

When lobbying reform resurfaced as an issue in Washington last year in the wake of the Abramoff scandal, congressional Democrats at first seized on it. They knew that Republicans, responding to the need to appear to be doing something, would put out a watered-down “reform” proposal that would do little to curb the outsized influence business lobbyists currently enjoy. By rallying around a far tougher platform of their own, Democrats hoped to burnish their party’s image with voters as an honest, responsive alternative to the GOP’s fealty to corporate interests. Emanuel, the DCCC chair, announced that he intended to make the issues raised by the Abramoff scandal the centerpiece of the Democratic effort to retake the House, and Pelosi struck a similar note.

But the Democrats’ hoped-for unity did not materialize, thanks in part to Hoyer. In the summer of 2005, Pelosi and a host of other Democrats co-sponsored a bill introduced by Emanuel and Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) that would have prohibited lobbyists from paying for members’ non-campaign-related travel, required members to disclose all congressional trips, and increased penalties for violations of lobbying disclosure laws, among other steps. But Hoyer announced that he preferred an approach that addressed misconduct by individual members, rather than cracking down on the activities of lobbyists—and pointedly did not co-sponsor the measure (though he did endorse it). Ultimately, Hoyer did come around to supporting another strong proposal that Pelosi announced in January 2006, but even here, his heart didn’t seem to be in it: He was the only Democrat in a leadership position in either chamber to miss the package’s press rollout event. And that same week he was still expressing a reluctance to crack down. “It is not the rules that are the issue, it’s the character of the players,” he told Bloomberg News.

More broadly, Democrats have not made lobbying reform or congressional ethics central to their national message for the upcoming midterms, as Pelosi and Emanuel had indicated they would. There are several reasons for this: For one thing, most of the evidence suggests that voters care far more about Iraq and gas prices. But some Democratic insiders say another factor has been the unwillingness of certain members of the caucus to risk losing some of the perks of office, or to offend their corporate backers, by taking a strong stand in favor of reform. That position was no doubt strengthened by the presence in leadership of a politician with a record of publicly touting his close ties to K Street, and a stated reluctance to seriously tighten lobbying rules.