Monday, July 03, 2006

Ted Turner, D.C. and $1 Billion

By habit, I always arrive first at high-level meetings – about five minutes before the Senator. This way I can make any adjustments necessary and preempt any snafus. The senior aids for the Democratic and Republican leadership of both the House and the Senate, plus the heads of the DNC, RNC and their respective election committees weren’t snafus, they were “realignments”. All of the presidential contenders were there also. I Blackberried the Senator. By the fact that the other aids were all talking nervously on their cells or emailing their own bosses suggested that they were as unprepared as I was.

I never would have guessed that Ted Turner would have the ability to pull off a stunt like this. Perhaps the president is the only one capable of pulling all of these players into the same room at the same time, but to do it without our knowledge takes Beltway resources outside of Turner’s grasp.

There were rumblings that Turner was seeding political muscle. He hired large swaths of lobbying firms; many of which were diametrically opposed to each other. Through the invitation-only blogs our junior aids have been trolling, they’ve learned that the firms have all signed nondisclosure agreements with Turner.

The congressmen had all arrived and sat around the industrial-sized board room table and their aids sat behind them around the wall. Turner came in and went right to work on us.

“Thanks for coming. I’m offering to completely and fully finance every single congressional election and the presidential election if you meet with my conditions. First, you’ll have to make it legal. The two grand cap won’t work.” He slipped a piece of paper to each head of the RNC and DNC. “A half a billion dollars,” Howard Dean said dryly.

“Second,” continued Turner. “I will be you’re sole source of funding. All monies raised for the next election cannot be used for that election. Send it back; give it away to charity – fine. It cannot be used for electioneering.”

“Third, you will pass a law requiring that all future federal campaigns will be fully and completely financed by the public.” Groans filled the room. They all realized what this was really about.

“Did you really think that you could force us all to pass your bill with a massive bribe?” asked a Republican senator.

“Morgan told me that you did that for his clients all the time,” Turner said.

Nervous laughter came from the other party. Morgan is the lobbying point-man for the asbestos legislation that was designed to bail out the industry from their employee’s lawsuits, at the taxpayer’s expense. Turner must have hired his firm. The laughter was nervous because they realized that their lobbyists might have relayed some of their dubious practices also.

During the next couple of weeks, our respective lobbying firms let us know of the extent of Turner’s bought knowledge of our past dealings. The weight of the unspoken blackmail pushed down on D.C. like a low pressure front. Not much work was done in moving forward; too much energy was spent retracing our steps.

The bill was pased with many bland statements, no one willing to openly support it or directly oppose it; that was left to the Freshmen who knew not of the subsurface typhoon. The few lobbying firms that opposed it retracted their statements shortly after making them. Even the President seemed to roll over without much fuss. No one group should have this much power.

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