Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why Not A Single Sitting Senator Is Willing To Endorse Santorum


We started this post on Sunday-- Why Won't Santorum's Former Senate Colleagues Endorse Him?-- but there's more to it than just the desire of Republican senators to stay out of the way of the still presumptive party nominee and the choice of most GOP Big Money. First of all, many Republican senators don't view Santorum's off-the-tracks extremism and radical right vision as anything foreign to their own crabbed world views. Among the 14 senators who have endorsed Romney-- who, unlike Santorum, never served a day in the Senate-- there are both former Santorum colleagues like Thad Cochran (MS), Richard Burr (NC), Orrin Hatch (UT) and John McCain (AZ) and extreme right fanatics who are just as far from the American mainstream as he is, from Jim Risch (ID) and Roy Blunt (MO) to Mike Johanns (NE) and Kelly Ayotte (NH). So what's keeping the whole lot of them away from the surging Santorum?

And it's more than just the conservative consensus in Washington that if Santorum gets the nomination, the Republicans will lose any chance they have to regain control of the Senate and that they will lose control of the House as Obama rides a tidal wave of revulsion to a second term. It's Santorum himself-- or rather his record of astounding personal corruption. That's right... it hasn't been mentioned in the Republican primary battles, but every senator knows that Santorum, for all his moralistic posturing, is one of the most corrupt men to have sat in the U.S. Senate in decades.

Do you recall the K Street Project? Criminally indicted Tom DeLay, forced to resign his leadership post and then from Congress altogether-- and barely keeping himself out of prison-- usually gets all the "credit" for the K Street Project. But as every senator knows, half the credit belongs to DeLay's (and Grover Norquist's) partner in crime, Rick Santorum. In short, the K Street Project was an effort by the congressional Republicans to pressure Washington lobbying firms to hire Republican staffers in top positions and to defund the Democratic Party. Norquist and Abramoff were the overall masterminds and DeLay was their cat's paw in the House while Santorum had the same role in the Senate.

Last month, the Washington Post examined Santorum's role and his preposterous denials of involvement.
“I had absolutely nothing to do-- never met, never talked, never coordinated, never did anything-- with Grover Norquist and the, quote, K Street Project.”

-- Rick Santorum, during an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Jan. 25, 2006

“I have never called anybody or talked to anyone to try to get anybody a position on K Street with one exception, and that is if someone from my office is applying for a job and an employer calls me.”

-- Santorum, in an interview with the Washington Times, Jan. 30, 2006

Santorum made these comments while trying to distance himself from the so-called “K Street Project,” an effort by key Republicans to place party loyalists in top lobbying positions. The program, led by conservative activist Grover Norquist and former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas), took place to varying degrees from roughly 1995 until about 2006. Its name refers to the D.C. corridor where lobbyists have set up shop in large numbers.

Santorum and other Republicans first defended the project as a mere job-listing program, but critics said lawmakers were threatening to block government access and jobs from those who didn’t cooperate. The effort turned politically toxic after federal authorities indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff for corrupting public officials. Most lawmakers disassociated themselves from the program at that point.

We reviewed the K Street Project to determine whether Santorum and Norquist were involved in identical efforts. We also wanted to know whether the former senator violated any rules while trying to strengthen the GOP lobbying presence.

Santorum has not publicly discussed the K Street Project since 2006, so his quotes are obviously dated. We’ll re-visit the issue if more information emerges or if he characterizes his involvement differently.

...Norquist asked lobbyists for help completing the profiles during a private meeting in June 2002, according to a report that year from the Post. Santorum, who was serving as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, hosted the gathering, the article said.

The previous year, Santorum had started holding twice-monthly conferences with handpicked lobbyists and GOP officials to review job openings in the lobbying world. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted the former senator referring to those discussions as the “K Street meetings.”

Former GOP congressman and lobbyist Rod Chandler explained to Washington Monthly how the gatherings worked. “The underlying theme was [to] place Republicans in key positions on K Street,” he said. “Everybody taking part was a Republican and understood that that was the purpose of what we were doing.”

Santorum acknowledged his involvement with the routine lobbyist meetings, and even admitted to holding conferences with Senate Republicans to discuss the appointment of Democrat Dan Glickman as head of the Motion Picture Association of America.

“Yeah we had a meeting, and yeah, we talked about making sure that we have fair representation on K Street,” he told Roll Call in 2004. “I admit that I pay attention to who is hiring, and I think it’s important for leadership to pay attention.”

Santorum also used the term “K Street Project” at one point to describe his job-placement discussions. “The K Street Project is purely to make sure we have qualified applicants for positions that are in town,” he told the Post-Gazette in 2005. “From my perspective, it’s a good government thing.”

The former senator later said he had thought of the term as a generic reference that could include his outreach efforts, suggesting he believed Norquist’s initiative was separate from his own.

The Senate ethics committee issued a letter in 2002 warning lawmakers not to use the lobbyist dossiers to block people from government access or jobs based on party affiliation, which would violate Senate rules.

The Post gave Santorum "2 Pinocchios" for his pattern of lying about his role in the K Street Project and for his refusal to answer questions about it this year. "No one," they conclude, "has established that the surging GOP candidate threatened to limit government access for Democrats, but we know that he took steps to improve the odds of a strong Republican presence in the lobbying game... Santorum’s remarks about Norquist don’t match the facts. Norquist himself acknowledged that he attended at least one meeting with the former senator to discuss the K Street Program."

Senators know, from first hand experience, how corrupt the K Street project really was and while they were grateful to Santorum for the corporate and lobbyist money it brought them... the unsavory nature of the whole project is nothing anyone familiar with the sordid details wants to embrace. (In his own failed reelection bid in 2006, Santorum vacuumed up $496,683 from his K Street lobbyists, the most of any candidate during the cycle, and over his career he took $731,937 from DC lobbyists). Still... some of them may well be asking the same question David Atkins did yesterday, is Santorum more stupid or more crazy? Atkins wonders aloud if Rick is "a power-mad situational ethicist who simply doesn't give credence to any spiritual beliefs that might reject other things government pays for that people find morally objectionable, such as illegal wars, capital punishment, faith-based initiatives, etc. In which case he intends to rule with a dominionist iron fist of theocracy in which government needn't pay a dime for anything his narrow of band co-religionists find objectionable, but must pay for things that others might well find immoral. In which case he shouldn't be allowed anywhere near power of any kind, even as a manager at McDonalds, to say nothing of Commander-in-Chief." And, yes, there are even some Republican senators uncomfortable with that notion. Although... I don't know what's holding back DeMint and Inhofe.

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home