Facing Waxman, the Goal Is Survival
How many lawyers, lobbyists, and publicists does it take to plug a congressional investigation? Thankfully for Washington's K Street, a heck of a lot. With 460 full committee and subcommittee oversight hearings having already taken place in just the House since January, the legal business is exploding to handle the new business sparked by the Democratic takeover in Congress and one chairman in particular: Rep. Henry Waxman, head of the Oversight and Government Reform panel. "We call it the 'Waxman Industrial Complex,'" says one lobbyist. "It's a little bit like being a kid in a candy store," Abbe Lowell of McDermott Will & Emery says.
Unlike a normal court, Hill hearings pose a web of problems for the defense, drug, energy, and financial firms now under the microscope. "Nobody wins," says Ty Cobb of Hogan & Hartson. "The goal is survival." A slip-up by a CEO, and the stock could plummet, business dry up, and jittery workers leave. PR agencies are brought in to help save a company's image. "Headlines happen to a lot of people," says Dale Leibach, head of Prism Public Affairs, a PR firm, "but most of our best work never appears." Being Washington, connections count. Lowell, who has worked for Democrats and defended shamed GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, says "you can't substitute for knowing people."
Bloomberg's 'Rove' Also His Party Guy
Kevin Sheekey isn't just New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's political guru pushing him to run for president as an independent. He's also the mayor's image-maker and party guy. We've learned that it was Sheekey who dreamed up the now famous Bloomberg Party that caps events surrounding the annual star-studded White House Correspondents' Association dinner every spring. The very day Vanity Fair announced it was dropping its sponsorship, Sheekey moved in. His goal: Raise the profile of Bloomberg News. At the time, 2000, Bloomberg wasn't mayor. "Sheekey's like Karl Rove and Michael Deaver all in one," says one ally, in a reference to President Bush's political boss and Reagan's image-maker.
Obama's Plan Is Coming Together
It shouldn't have surprised Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama or top aides when he won the Politico straw poll after giving a passionate, even inspirational speech at a convention of progressives. That's because despite his repeated statements that he wouldn't run for presidentseveral times since his 2004 Senate electiona new book says he planned his White House bid the day he came to Washington. "The plan," writes Chicago Tribune author David Mendell, was meant to put Obama in the best position if he wanted to run in 2008. It's obviously worked, though aides say we're reading too much into Mendell's well-researched report on "the plan."
Before Fox, He Was the Evil 'Eggnog'
Now known as the Washington face of Fox News, Brit Hume back in the 1970s was a staffer for muckraker Jack Anderson. We hear that when the CIA releases its secret files on covert actions, like spying on Anderson's staff, Hume's code name will be revealed: "Eggnog." It must have been boring for the spies, he says. "I was clean for once back then!"
Conservative, Even in Self-Promotion
He has probably published more conservative books than anyone else, but when Alfred Regnery decided to write his take on the political movement, he shopped it to a publishing house other than his Regnery Publishing. "You can't have your name on the top and the bottom of the book's spine," he demurs. So come January, Upstream: The Ascendance of American Conservatism will be published by Simon & Schuster. Simon's Mary Matalin raves that it will be a wake-up call for conservatives. For Regnery, going to Simon was more than just ducking what some might have seen as simple self-promotion. He says the mainstream publishing house's purchase of Upstream proves the importance of the conservative movement. "Ten years ago they would have told me: 'Get out of here.'"
It's a Very Small Political World
"Hey, Ken Walsh," our surprised White House correspondent heard June 13 when he and his wife, Barclay, were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary at a hilltop restaurant overlooking the Athens Acropolis. "It was Al Gore," says Walsh. The former veep was in town to show off his global warming slide show to the Greek president. "It really is a small world," says Gore's spokeswoman, Kalee Kreider.
What's an 'L' Among Political Foes?
In the strange bedfellows department this week, we've got the hand-holding of the right-leaning American Conservative Union and left-tilting American Civil Liberties Union. Come June 26, in front of the Senate, ACU boss David Keene will join with ACLU's Anthony Romero to demand the return of basic rightshabeas corpus in constitutional lingoto prisoners long held at GuantánamoBay. "Many people might be shocked to see a tag-team of the ACLU and the ACU," says Romero. "But, hey, what's an 'L' between friends?"
Speed Has Limits, Even for Powell
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is a freak for speedthe kind delivered under the hood of a Chevy Corvette. He owns a 400 horsepower 2005 Vette and is hunting for one of the new sports cars with a pepped-up 440 horsepower engine. But it's a compromise choice, he concedes. "You know they have this Z06 that's 500 horsepower," he says with awe. "They loaned me a Z06 for three days to see if I liked it," he tells us. "I loved it, but I would be in jail by the end of the week because that thing was going 90 mph in second gear, and I didn't know how I was going to use the other four gears." Afterward, he made this mental note: "Powell, you are 70 years old. Stick to 400 horsepower. You don't need 500."
Paul Bedard's blog is at www.usnews.com/whispers
This story appears in the July 2, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.