April 09, 2007

"Citizen K Street"

The Washington Post wraps up its five week series on lobbyist Gerald S.J. Cassidy today. Here is the introductory material:

    Thirty-eight years ago, a young lawyer named Gerald S. J. Cassidy left his job in Florida on a legal aid project for migrant workers to come to Washington. He went to work on the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, chaired by Sen. George McGovern (D.-S.D.). Cassidy worked for McGovern on food stamps, school lunch programs and the like for six years, then left with a colleague to establish a consulting business. They thought they could use their knowledge of Congress and the federal bureaucracy to help businesses and institutions navigate the nation's capital. Instead, they ended up helping to change Washington itself.

    They developed one big idea for a business that proved amazingly successful: the earmarked appropriation for individual institutions. Tufts University was their first client to win an earmark, $27 million to build a human nutrition research center. This success was the first recorded example of lobbyists making money by persuading Congress to send money to a private institution that had asked for the money without any government agency proposing the project. Within a few years this upstart lobbying firm had dozens of clients and was making millions of dollars.

    The original partnership broke up after ten years, but the business boomed. Cassidy & Associates became the biggest lobbying firm in town. Its success contributed to an explosion of lobbying as imitators tried to copy the Cassidy method. Lobbyists became important sources of cash for the politicians they lobbied, and as campaigns became ever more expensive, lobbyists' contributions became ever more important. Over time, the rise of lobbying helped create a new culture of wealth in the nation's capital. And Gerald Cassidy himself amassed a fortune of more than $100 million.

Posted by Rick Hasen at April 9, 2007 11:36 AM