The Establishment – Who is it?
I was at a Republican meeting in late March and the speaker, a member of the RNC, asked us who is The Establishment of the Republican Party? She said that there was no “Establishment”, which got a chuckle and some knowing glances.
One fellow did not agree and had the stones to speak up. He took a stab at defining the Republican Establishment, essentially saying that it was the long serving members of the House and Senate. That is a good start point. Both parties have an Establishment. It is a group of people, both elected and out of government that set the general policy directions of the parties over a sustained time period.
Both parties have establishments, separate, like cousins who don’t agree but have parallel infrastructure, and shared infrastructure, like neighboring farms that cooperate on fencing and water and grain storage. The establishment is not necessarily bad or good, it just is. It has inertia, with entrenched ideas, a slowly changing cast of characters playing musical chairs with one another. It has interests in who gets elected and some financial interests. The financial interests center around campaign contributions, government related employment and some scandalous self-dealing, steering money to themselves or cronies. They share three revolving doors right next to each other. One between congress and their staffs and lobbyist firms. Another between procurement agencies and the big firms selling the goods and services to the government. Another between regulatory agencies and the industries they regulate. There is another revolving door, mostly for Democrats, from the EPA to the various Green lobbying groups that get EPA funds to finance environmental lawsuits against the EPA and other government agencies. The key to all of these doors is being in the establishment or in the favor of the establishment. Get elected a few times and strive for a leadership position and you are solidly in the establishment. Another path is to go through these doors a couple times advancing up the career ladder and you are solidly in the establishment. Once you are firmly in the establishment you have other opportunities in Think Tanks, Media and Academia, and you remain in the establishment.
Once people get into the Establishment, for most of them staying in is very important. It may be the money, or the status, or the personal relationships, or all three, so they go along with their establishments train of ideas and policies. They surrender some of their independence to stay in the good graces of this establishment that has become important to them. Some of them set the tone and policies of the establishment but most just go along not adding much to the brainpower engaged in the effort.
A politician in “The Establishment” can expect help with re-election fund raising. One not in the Establishment can expect a well funded primary challenger. A bureaucrat in the Establishment can expect advancement in career and income and influence each time he passes through the revolving doors.
Examples of establishment people:
- Eric Cantor, Republican, congressman from Richmond Va. 2001 – 2014. Before politics he worked as a lawyer for his father’s firm doing real estate development. House Republican Majority leader 2011 – 2014, with a salary of $190,000 per year. Defeated in primary election to everyone’s surprise in June of 2014. Resigned from the house and by Sept 2014 was working for an investment bank at a salary of $3.4 Million per year. Cantor was smart and influential in the House and obviously made some good connections in the Banking industry. He screwed up losing touch with his district on “Comprehensive Immigration Reform”. No blatant self-dealing. Now reportedly he is getting back into the game in Washington holding court with former colleagues.
- Tom Daschle, Democrat, 26 years in the US House and Senate combined service. Senate Majority Leader 2001 to 2003. He was touted as being a healthcare issue expert. He was narrowly defeated in 2004 and went to work for a lobbyist firm with healthcare clients. He was tapped to be Secretary of HHS in the Obama Administration but had to withdraw when it turned out that he had accepted the services of a Limo and chauffer for several years from a client without reporting it as income. Apparently he thought tax law did not apply to him, or that a limo and chauffer were his natural due.
- Ted Stevens, Republican – 40 year US Senator from Alaska. Died shortly after being defeated due to a corruption scandal for which he was convicted, but the conviction was thrown out due to prosecutorial misconduct. However, that does not mean he was actually innocent of the charge, and he probably was not innocent. He was also implicated in other crony deals that put taxpayer money in his son’s pocket and some that would have increased the value of land owned by his cronies. He seemed to have had an attitude that our money was his money.
- Robert Byrd, Democrat, 50 years in US Senate, 6 in US House. KKK Exalted Cyclops prior to being elected to the House in 1952. Wikipedia says that in West Virginia 50 buildings, and 11 major pieces of transportation infrastructure are named for him and 8 more for his wife. It is kind of a joke, but it is not funny. Due to his long service and position on the Senate Appropriations committee and the Pork Barrel politics practiced all of his career, he was able to steer a disproportionate share of Federal funds to West Virginia, and much of the resulting brick and steel was named after him. Other than that, no blatant self-dealing.
- Henry Kissinger, Republican. Academic, Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, Lobbyist / Consultant. Long a fixture in Republican foreign policy circles. Now sells his influence and advice. Is this self-dealing? Yes, in that he is selling his influence and fame that he would not have but for the taxpayer. Is this illegal? No, that is what he has to sell. Does it pass the smell test? Sometimes it does not. For example: Henry had to resign from leading the 9/11 Commission because he would have had to disclose his client list. Some of his clients, probably Saudi Arabia, came under the scrutiny of the 9/11 commission. 28 pages of the eventual report remain secret, much of it reportedly dealing with Saudi Arabia.
- Bill and Hilary Clinton, Democrats. As private citizens — high speaking fees. High pay for “Consulting” work, meaning buying access to government officials around the world. As a candidate for President, lots of campaign funds from cronys. See my LACKIES page, up next week for details.
- Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican. In her 6th term in the House. She is 80th in Republican Seniority in the House and has held a leadership title since the start of her 3rd term. Seniority is usually important in this outfit. Now she is 4th ranking Republican in the House. Is she a great leader, adding experience and brainpower to the mix, or is she just an obligatory female token? Her only adult jobs have been in politics and working in a small family orchard. No legislative accomplishments on vital issues to point to. She likes to tell us about her vision in content free Miss Congeniality speeches. Had to throw this in since I am running against her.
- Big Lobbyist firms, and “consulting firms” staffed with former Congressmen and Senators and former staffers.
- Think Tanks, staffed with former Congressmen, Senators, former staffers, and ambassadors. Some of these Think Tanks don’t pass a smell test as they are funded by foreign governments, like Saudi Arabia, but they are staffed with influential people, some of whom are establishment. See my LACKIES page up in a week or so.
Examples of non-establishment people and groups:
- Ted Cruz, Republican, first term Texas Senator, elected in 2012. Substantial legal career prior to going into politics. Defeated the sitting Lieutenant Governor, who was favored by the Texas Republican party in the Republican primary. Takes unpopular stands in the Senate and does real filibusters to stop legislation. Jumped the que to run for President “It wasn’t his turn” according to the Republican establishment. No self-dealing, but he is only in his first term.
- Tom Coburn, Republican, Oklahoma. 6 years in the US House and 10 in the US Senate. Retired due to cancer in 2015. Career as an MD, Obstetrician, prior to politics. Ran for Senate for an open seat against the State Republican favorite and won. Strong conservative in both House and Senate often bucking his party on social issues and budget issues. No self-dealing.
- Congressional Freedom Caucus. 41 Members, Tea Party types.
- House Liberty Caucus. 36 members, Tea Party types. Lots of crossover membership with the Congressional Freedom Caucus.