Lobbyists in the Bush Camp | Bob Edwards Redux | New Jobs for Two Heroes

Washington for Sale—More that 1,300 corporate lobbyists have given more than $1.8 million to George W. Bush’s campaign apparatus since 1998, according to a detailed study by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity. Fifty-two of those donors have done additional fund-raising for Bush’s 2004 campaign, raising more than $6 million of the Bush organization’s projected $200 million.

In the same time period (1998 to the present), the Center found, 442 lobbyists gave Senator John Kerry $520,000. Last month Kerry voluntarily released a list of 300 lobbyists with whom he has personally met in the last 15 years.

Nothing like that has come from the Bush White House, probably because some of the names revealed would be shown to have been given appointments to top jobs in government agencies or to the so-called “transition teams” that shape regulatory policies to suit business clients.

You can read the detailed report of the watchdog Center for Public Integrity on the web at www.publicintegrity.org.

Loading the Board—Several readers have asked us for more on the eight-member board of directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which finances much of the work of National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Although the Bush budget failed to offer any funding for the CPB this year, it was given $379 million by Congress.

As we noted in the May 1 FYI, shortly before the longtime newscaster Bob Edwards lost his job at NPR, the Bush White House had added two big-bucks Republican campaign contributors to the CPB board. Edwards had anchored the popular Morning Edition news program. When we asked about the decision to dismiss Edwards, whose audience greatly regretted his departure, an NPR spokeswoman said it was “absolutely not” a result of CPB pressure.

The two new board members, both appointed by President Bush, are not identified as Republicans in their CPB biographies but have been described by Common Cause as G.O.P. donors. The eight-member board, whose unpaid time in office is six years, incudes one other Bush appointee. The other five were appointed by President Clinton and are presumed to be Democrats.

A Geezer, but Not a Wheezer—Former Representative Ken Hechler (D-WV), whose 90th birthday is four months away, narrowly won a Democratic primary election in West Virginia on May 11. That puts him in a winning position to become the Mountain State’s secretary of state again, a job he held from 1985 to 2001 after 18 years in the U.S. House.

In taking office in the West Virginia state house in 1985, Hechler declared himself “the people’s ombudsman” and posted a stuffed teddy bear—the state animal—at his office door to entertain the children of visiting citizens.

We wouldn’t use the “geezer” word if it didn’t fit—and if we hadn’t joined him ourselves in getting along in years. Our younger years included many as a New York Times reporter covering his heroic struggles to get coal mine safety and strip mine control legislation through Congress. He called the existing strip mine reclamation laws “like putting lipstick on a corpse.”

Before that, Hechler was a college professor, a research director in the Adlai E. Stevenson presidential campaign, a staff assistant to President Harry S. Truman and a busy bureaucrat in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, with time off to win the army’s Bronze Star in World War II. The victory of an octogenarian liberal is good news in what is so far a bad news year.

Another Riser—In our October 1, 2002, issue we deplored the departure of Mary Robinson as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. It was a role from which the former first woman president of Ireland, an anti-violence liberal, was maneuvered out of. The Bush White House and the U.N. bureaucracy can be credited with depriving this “voice for the voiceless” of her second term.

That Bush blackball followed Robinson’s public criticism of the American imprisonment of Afghan war “detainees” at Guantánamo Bay and her praise of the International Criminal Court, which President Bush deplored, maintaining that the U.S. should not be a member.

Now, at age 60, Robinson has joined the faculty of Columbia University in New York to teach a course on human rights. She will be a professor at its School of International and Public Affairs, and also a research scholar at the Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute. That’s good news.