Representative Steve Scalise might not be for sale, but he is available for long-term lease.
The lease is straightforward: Lobbyists pony up millions of corporate dollars to “keep and expand our [Republican] majority in Congress,” as Scalise puts it. Then that majority delivers billions of dollars worth of legislative favors to the lease holders.
Yes, it’s appallingly corrupt. But the transaction is “legal,” since lawmakers like Scalise write the rules that give such corruption a pass.
The Louisiana tea partier is the new No. 3 House Republican leader, but he’s an old hand at playing a legislative take-and-give game with what he lovingly calls the “K Street community.” And that community loves him back by stuffing his “Leadership PAC” with regular payments.
In January, some 300 lobbyists and corporate operatives jammed into a room at the swank Capitol Hill Club to cheer on No. 3 as he laid out his corporate legislative agenda — which just happened to come in tandem with his political fundraising program.
Lobbyists for American Airlines, Comcast, T-Mobile, and others with big items on Scalise’s legislative list were winking, nodding, and cheering as their congressman explained that he was “looking forward to a good year” for both the lessees and the lessor.
One attendee who beamed with approval was Bill Hughes, who serves as the formal seal on this scandalous money-for-legislation deal.
Until January, Hughes was lobbyist for a slew of big-box retail chains. He was a major player last year in preventing the House from even considering an increase in America’s minimum wage.
This year, he’s Steve Scalise’s policy director.
And they wonder why people think Congress and lobbyists are scoundrels.