During the years I lobbied for Indian tribal government clients, I would frequently be asked to provide campaign advice. This was not counsel as to what was going on in the national elections – it was advice to keep my clients in office. My clients were elected members of tribal councils, and they seemed to be constantly running for re-election. Some had to run annually, others biannually. A few were elected for four-year terms.
When asked for help, I almost always agreed. This was not unusual in the lobbying world, since many lobbyists have extensive campaign experience, and it is frequently made available to clients. Sometimes, I would offer advice on speeches the candidates would give. Sometimes I would review their campaign literature. Often I would work with my colleagues to plan out their election in its entirety. When our clients won, they continued to retain our services. When they lost, we were fired. It seemed pretty simple to us. We didn’t see any real issues in offering to help our clients. They were our friends, and we wanted them to stay in power. As important, we wanted to continue to be paid. We never charged anyone for these services, because it was, to us, business development.
Yet, when my career ended in infamy, one of the attacks launched on me was that I engaged in the immoral and unethical practice of working to elect those who would be negotiating my contracts, and paying us millions of dollars. My accusers in the media and on Capitol Hill posited that it was the ultimate conflict of interest.
The accusation stung at first, but after thinking about it, I came to a conclusion: They were right. I had no business impacting an election for someone who was going to hire my firm and me. In fact, as I examined my past deeds, I recalled that I didn’t merely work hard to elect those tribal council members who were likely to hire us. I even aided efforts by some of my defeated clients to recall their opponents since they had the nerve to terminate our contracts! My misuse of a valuable campaign skill set was wrong and corrupt. I paid a heavy price for this skullduggery and had to sit many moons in a federal prison.
He raked in millions as a lobbyist in D.C., then served time behind bars — don’t miss Jack Abramoff’s eye-opening autobiography, “Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth about Washington Corruption from America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist”
I was thinking about my past chicanery when reading about the recall effort confronting Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Gov. Walker and I have never met, and he never received one penny from any of my political operations, but I have admired him from afar. His spunk and moxie is rare in a politician. He has stood firm against his state’s public employee union and has since been subjected to their relentless bombardment. They are running a recall campaign to remove him from office, hoping to replace him with a political patsy who will acquiesce to their every whim.
Union agitprop avers they are only trying to help the working class and that they are on the side of goodness and light. Walker, they contend, is the force of darkness, plunging the formerly fertile haven of progressivism in Wisconsin into the entropic abyss. Viewing this political rhubarb through the union prism, one could only heap praise on these intrepid guardians of righteousness. But that’s not the real story.
What’s really going on in the Badger State has far more in common with my efforts to ensure a friendly tribal council client than it does with the legitimate aspirations of the common worker. The unions are employing a play from my old playbook. They’re trying to elect their boss. Once they have their person in position, all their demands will be met. Pesky Scott Walker will be shunted aside, and their personal stooge will be installed, so they can continue to bleed Wisconsin taxpayers and send the state into economic dystopia.
I was rightly purloined for my efforts to control the tribal councils. I wanted a friendly in power who would grant the fees we requested for our lobbying services. The unions want a friendly in power in Wisconsin, who will grant them the power, benefits and fortune they demand. Is there really a difference? Of course not.
Public employee unions should never be able to engage in political activity. Every dollar they spend, every action they take to elect someone who will be negotiating their pay and benefits is an outrageous conflict of interest and the most venal form of corruption. Were the world fair, the same media outlets who feasted on my flesh for years, highlighting each of my regrettable actions, would be pillorying the Wisconsin unions for their temerity and arrogance. But the world is not fair.
Moreover, the organizations concerned with reforming political corruption in our nation, formerly unsparing in their harsh aspersions cast at me, should be rallying their troops to descend on Madison, the state capital, to protest this egregious and unscrupulous union display. But, alas, they are all silent. Indeed, as copycat public employee unions in Indiana and Ohio gear up to duplicate the iniquitous endeavor in Wisconsin, they are more likely to receive support from these groups, than their condemnation.
The unions should be ashamed for their present activities, in the same way I am ashamed for my past activities. If the taxpayers of Wisconsin disagree with Gov. Walker’s termination of union collective bargaining power, they would remove him from office without the interference of meddling state employees. Every dollar expended by these unions to install a political hack who will give in to their unreasonable financial and power demands is a dollar spent to corrupt the system and further destroy faith in our polity.
Few know this better than I. I wish it were not the case.