Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rahm's Greatest Hit Has Done All The Damage He Can As A Congressmember-- Now He's Ambling Off To K Street: Heath Shuler DC's Latest Revolving Door Lobbyist


Sleazy lobbyist Heath Shuler-- the ultimate lame duck

If you're a DWT regular, I don't have to tell you who North Carolina Blue Dog Heath Shuler is. We've been following him with trepidation since Rahm Emanuel plucked him away from Tennessee Republicans to run as a North Carolina "Democrat" in 2006. Since then he racked up a dismal 37.93 critical vote score from ProgressivePunch, even worse than the other two North Carolina Blue Dogs, Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell. Shuler, an anti-Choice, antigay, anti-immigrant bigot has voted more frequently with Boehner than with Pelosi and has consistently been one of the Blue Dogs allowing Boehner and Cantor to call their extremist right-wing proposals "bipartisan."

But conservative Republicans in the North Carolina state legislature weren't satisfied that Shuler voted like a Republican; they wanted a real Republican. So last year they gerrymandered his district in such a way-- removing most of bright blue Asheville-- to make it very difficult for him to win again. Rather than accept the challenge and go out like a man, Shuler-- who just days earlier had been talking about running for governor and senator-- decided he had had it with politics. He applied for a job as a college gym teacher but wound up announcing this week-- while still serving as a congressman-- that he would be the chief lobbyist for American's biggest utility, Duke Energy. Over the years, he has served their interests slavishly.

“Heath is well known in Washington for working with leaders from both political parties and for bringing people together in his district in Western North Carolina,” said Keith Trent, a vice president with Duke Energy's regulated utilities. Citing ludicrously lax House ethics rules, he chuckled that Shuler would not be “actively lobbying” for a whole year but would jump into the fray right after the cooling off period. Duke's interests lie in coal, natural gas and nuclear energy and in undermining the EPA-- all things that come naturally to Shuler.

When Shuler first ran in 2006, Duke's PAC gave his opponent, crooked banker/incumbent Charles Taylor, $7,000. But when Shuler managed to beat him in a Democratic wave election, Duke was more than happy to buy the easily bribed Shuler off immediately. In the very next election cycle, Shuler got a $5,000 check from Duke's PAC and the following year he got another $3,000. This year, before he announced he wouldn't be running again, they had already given him $1,000. Shuler is Big Energy's kind of congressman, consistently putting their predatory, anti-family agenda above the interests of his own constituents. His career in Congress may have been short but he had already scooped up $70,000 in legalistic bribes from energy companies by the time he signed on as a Duke lobbyist.

Yesterday, investigative journalist Lee Fang, looked into the scandal of Shuler accepting the Duke lobbyist job right in the midst of his attempts to defund social programs for working families. Here's the video of him and Zaid Jilani interviewing Shuler when he was still kind of trying to keep the negotiations secret about his lobbying job:

Though Shuler has already accepted the position with Duke Energy, he is still helping to lead a bipartisan coalition, along with Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID), to deal with the “fiscal cliff.” Shuler has promised an “all options” approach, one that will undoubtedly affect his soon to be employer. Duke Energy benefits from a host of tax subsidies, so much so that Citizens for Tax Justice found that the company paid an effective tax rate of negative 3.9 percent from 2008–10 while making over $5.5 billion in profit.

...Thousands of former congressmen, federal regulators and staff regularly head to K Street to collect high-paying salaries, often from businesses that have benefited from their actions in government. There are dozens of high-profile examples of this form of corruption, from former Senator Tom Daschle to former Representative Billy Tauzin, all securing multimillion-dollar paydays from industries they cultivated while in office. A new report shows how military contractors routinely court retired generals, some with wide sway over weapon purchases, with lavish paydays.

The sum of this dynamic is that people in government have much bigger incentives to sell out to industry, even when doing so hurts the public interest. While it seems likely in some cases, behind the scene job negotiations for officeholders become little more than bribery; we haven’t seen federal prosecutors too eager to prosecute this type of corruption. Part of the problem is actually cultural. In Washington, the sell-outs, the men and women who make the most money as industry hacks, are the winners. From high society tabloids like Washington Life to the Beltway media, those who spin through the revolving door are adulated and celebrated.

Maybe that’s why Shuler seemed so certain of a gleaming post-congressional career path.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home