Date assigned: 31 July 2002
Assigned to: The Washington Post
What: Investigate the ethical problems inherent in Majority Leader's Daschle's marriage to a lobbyist. Daschle is at least the third most powerful man in Washington, and probably the second. (The other contender for second is Speaker Hastert. His office is more powerful than Daschle's, but Daschle gets extra strength from being the highest ranking Democratic official.) As Majority Leader, he is involved in literally every issue and every vote in the Senate. His wife has been, for many years, a lobbyist on Capitol Hill. She claims to now lobby only House members, but since every bill must be passed in both House and Senate, this seems insufficient to me. It is impossible for Senators not to know that a bill may benefit the Majority Leader's wife, even if she speaks only to their House colleagues.
Conservative opponents have charged that her lobbying has already had detrimental effects. In particular, there have been charges that, as a result of her lobbying, we have given far too much to the airlines, chosen the wrong airport scanning machine, and protected a small flying operation that was unsafe. Let me say immediately that I do not know whether these charges are true. But, I think it incontrovertible that were First Lady Laura Bush to hold a lobbying job like this, it would be necessary to investigate her actions.
Why the Washington Post? Because they have the best understanding of Washington lobbying of any American newspaper. And, because, as a Democratic and liberal newspaper, any criticisms they make would have credibility. Sadly, I must concede that, were they to conclude that her lobbying is not a blatant conflict of interest, few conservatives would accept the conclusion.