Sunday Column: Louie Lobbyist and Harp Music

Dressed in a three-piece suit, Louie Lobbyist was sipping on a glass of Chablis, leaning against one of the stately columns in the courtyard of the War Memorial Building and listening — seemingly intently — to a legislator’s talented wife strum a harp and produce soothing sounds.
The occasion was a Republican Caucus fundraiser, which started with a reception where a curious reporter could drop by and be tolerated without paying the price of admission, to witness an event where other folks had, collectively, paid $400,000 or so for the privilege of being present. There were maybe 100 or so people milling around at the moment.
“Hey, you (expletive adjective deleted) media moron,” said Louie. “I thought you were too old to go to these rock concerts.”
“Well, yeah, it has been awhile since I infiltrated a lobbyist shakedown,” I replied. “But, hey, this one was in a public place and held early in the evening, so I thought I’d wander by and see how these things go nowadays. Is this typical? It does seem a contrast to watching you cut a rug with (former female legislator’s name withheld) to Jimmy’s Church Street Band playing ‘Soul Man.’ ”

“That was when I was younger and a Democrat,” declared Louie. “Today, this is fairly typical, except for the harp music. You ought to come down to the Standard Club sometime. I can probably get you in, if you’ll stay off the record.”
“I’ve been invited a time or two, but it was too late of an evening,” I said. “I understood that was just a conversational watering hole. I did notice there’s been a PAC set up with that name. What’s that all about?”
Louie took a gulp of his wine and was silent as a couple of veteran legislators walked up and greeted us. We exchanged pleasantries and I eventually remarked that the fundraiser appeared a success, certainly as compared to the GOP fundraisers back in the old days.
“Yes,” said Ronnie Republican, one of the veterans, smiling. “I can remember years when we didn’t raise as much as we’re raising this afternoon — and when you (looking at Louie) didn’t show up and nosy reporters (looking at me) did. But then we’d show up at the Democratic fundraisers. And some Democrats would show up at ours. More bipartisan camaraderie then, I guess.”
“Different times. Different clients,” said Louie. “And you know what Winston Churchill said: ‘He who is young and not liberal has no heart; he who is old and not conservative has no brains.’ In Tennessee, he who lobbies and does not go with the flow is both stupid and heartless.”
“Well, OK, I can follow on the stupid part,” I said. “But heartless?
“Your clients are your heart,” Louie said. “I don’t want to be heartless.”
“I’ve been looking at campaign finance disclosures — and at the folks in the crowd here — and it is striking how much more money goes to the majority,” I said. “Some of the Democrats say it’s more than that, by the way, that PACs and the lobbyists are being told not to give to Democrats and feel kind of intimidated.”
“Surely not,” said Ronnie. “These good citizens simply appreciate the direction that Tennessee is headed and they want to keep it headed that way.”
“I guess,” I said. “But it is remarkable to look at an old standard PAC, say AT&T, and see $100,000 or so going to Republican causes — ten grand just to RAAMPAC — and maybe $5,000 total to Democrats. My recollection is that, when the Democrats ran the show, they gave most of their money to Democrats, but not by that big a margin. Your client PACs are doing pretty much the same, right, Louie?”
“I think AT&T has some big bill they’re wanting to push next year,” said Louie. “I think we’ll just be playing defense. And promoting good government.”
A legislative staffer and a freshman legislator strolled over. The staffer advised that it was time to start heading inside the War Memorial Building for the main event.
Louie put his arm around the freshman lawmaker, asked him about a football team’s recent game, said, “See you ’round, media moron,” and strolled past the harp toward the open door.

One thought on “Sunday Column: Louie Lobbyist and Harp Music

Leave a Reply