Friday, July 17, 2009


On The Right Side of Shakedown Street

Two weeks ago, The Washington Post was caught "inviting" lobbyists to cozy off-the-record "salons" with various Obama administration VIPs -- for prices ranging from $25K-$250K.

Now, Politico discovers that conservative interest groups have plunged into the pay-to-play waters:
The American Conservative Union asked FedEx for a check for $2 million to $3 million in return for the group’s endorsement in a bitter legislative dispute, then flipped and sided with UPS after FedEx refused to pay.

For the $2 million plus, ACU offered a range of services that included: “Producing op-eds and articles written by ACU’s Chairman David Keene and/or other members of the ACU’s board of directors. (Note that Mr. Keene writes a weekly column that appears in The Hill.)”

The conservative group’s remarkable demand — black-and-white proof of the longtime Washington practice known as “pay for play” — was contained in a private letter to FedEx , which was provided to POLITICO.
FedEx currently has one U.S. union contract for its entire express business. Under a change passed by the House and awaiting action in the Senate, FedEx — like UPS — would have to negotiate union contracts for individual locations, which FedEx claims would make it much more difficult to promise worldwide regularity for deliveries.

The American Conservative Union, which calls itself “the nation's oldest and largest grass-roots conservative lobbying organization,” took UPS’s side on Wednesday as part of a conservative consortium that accused FedEx of “misleading the public and legislators.” ACU's logo is at the top of the letter, along with those of six other conservative groups.

Just two weeks earlier, ACU had offered its endorsement to FedEx, saying in a letter to the company: “We stand with FedEx in opposition to this legislation.”

But there was a catch — an expensive one. ACU asked FedEx to pay as much as $3.4 million for e-mail and other services for “an aggressive grass-roots campaign to stop the legislation in the Senate.”

“For the activist contact portion of the plan, we will contact over 150,000 people per state multiple times at a cost of $1.39 per name or $2,147,550 to implement the entire program,” the letter says. “If we incorporate the targeted, senator-personalized radio effort into the plan, you can figure an additional $125,000 on average, per state” for an estimated 10 states. The total would be $3,397,550.”
Lane, the FedEx official, said the offer was refused. "The proposal didn’t fit with our strategy of taking a straightforward approach to discussing the issue,” he said.

After the rebuff, American Conservative Union changed sides. ACU Chairman David A. Keene was one of eight conservative leaders who signed a letter to FedEx Chairman Frederick W. Smith, a champion of capitalism who in the past has been a favorite of conservatives.

The letter accuses FedEx of “falsely and disingenuously” labeling the rules change a “bailout” for UPS, since FedEx would become subject to the same arduous union structure.

The letter is also signed by Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, who is also on ACU’s board. FedEx is pushing its case with a website called
Good conservative help is hard to come by these days -- so, obviously, when it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight, it's gonna cost you. And, if you can't pay up, well, you'll find out what brown can do to you. It's quite obvious that in these corporate battles, there is ultimately little difference for some conservatives between "principle" and "interest."

If one party shows enough $$$ "interest", the principle will be found.

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