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AnnInLa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-14-05 11:13 AM
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John Breaux: Hero or Hack....LA Times
This op-ed piece by Jonathan Chait appeared in Friday's Los Angeles

John Breaux, Hero or Hack?

January 14, 2005

When the White House appointed retired Sen. John B. Breaux (D-La.) to
co-chair its commission on tax reform last week, newspapers described
him, as they always do, with phrases like "moderate," "valuable broker
between the parties" and "legendary dealmaker." Given the conventions
of objective journalism, a truly accurate description, like "repellent
sleazebag," might be too much to expect. But was it truly necessary to
shower him with such lofty descriptions?

It's typical of the unfathomable esteem in which Breaux is held that
only one news outlet saw fit to mention his current occupation:
Washington lawyer, which is code for lobbyist. Breaux works for the law
firm Patton Boggs, a notorious influence broker, and also represents
two New York investment firms. These are pretty important details,
given that his clients could have a strong stake in whatever tax
changes Breaux's commission recommends.

To the one newspaper that noted Breaux's lobbying conflict of interest
the New Orleans Times-Picayune Breaux offered four insipid
defenses. First, he noted that the law prohibits him from lobbying for
a year after leaving the Senate, by which time his commission will have
expired. But what's against the law is a narrow category of activity
directly contacting federal officials, a tiny part of what lobbyists
do. It wouldn't stop him from using the commission to benefit his

Second, Breaux said that at Patton Boggs and in his own practice he
"will be careful not to represent clients with tax- related issues." Of
course, since every business would like to pay less in taxes, that
means either Breaux will have no clients or he's lying.

Third, Breaux told the Times-Picayune "we are talking about future tax
reform." His clients "would all play by whatever rules are in existence
at the time." But the worry isn't that Breaux's clients will break the
law; it's that they'll prevail upon him to recommend laws favorable to

Finally, Breaux offered up this gem: "I talked with the White House
about this." Somehow, relying on the Bush administration's sensitivity
to the dangers of lobbyists wielding undue clout fails to put one's
mind at ease.

It's sadly unsurprising that Breaux's conflict of interest escaped the
media's attention. He has made a career of passing off tawdriness as
statesmanship, all because he brilliantly identified himself with two
concepts that make official Washington swoon. The first is moderation.
It is always effective to identify yourself as a centrist willing to
transcend party dogma. But Breaux was no Clinton-style New Democrat,
thoughtfully searching for new ways his party could solve the nation's
problems. He was moderate in the very Old Democrat style 1950s old
loyally and unapologetically carrying water for his state's business

Breaux has likewise identified himself with "governing," that is to
say, passing laws. Establishment Washington identifies passing bills as
progress, especially if those bills enjoy support from both parties.
Breaux embraced this notion with zeal. In almost every instance, he
found legislation preferable to no legislation. By a further
coincidence, he almost always found himself halfway between the two
parties, so that he became a central player in the negotiations.

Here, for instance, is Breaux's defense of the Bush tax cuts, which he
helped broker: "Is this budget a perfect document? Of course not. But
does it advance the cause of governing in a democracy that is almost
evenly divided among the two parties? I think the answer is yes, it
does." Got that? "Governing" means passing a bill, regardless of its
effect on the national interest. If communists had won the election,
Breaux would have urged both parties to sit down and work out the best
forced farm collectivization bill they could.

In 1981, Breaux supported one of President Reagan's budgets on the
condition that Reagan preserve tariffs on imported sugar a loathsome
form of corporate welfare that raises food prices and hurts the poor in
order to subsidize the sugar industry, much of which is based in

At the time, he commented that his vote could not be bought, "but it
can be rented." National Public Radio host Michele Norris cited this
line last year in the course of flattering Breaux in a valedictory
interview. Amazingly, Norris interpreted this episode not as corruption
but as bipartisanship.

"It's a wonderful story, but it is also a snapshot of a time there, a
time when you could work both sides of the aisle," she sighed
wistfully. Ah. What a valuable broker he is.

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times

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GR Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-14-05 11:16 AM
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1. Definitely A Hack...Not To Be Trusted....
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eg101 Donating Member (371 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-14-05 11:17 AM
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2. How about "traitor" or "treasonous"?
How about we put his corrupt ass on trial for treason?
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BlueManDude Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-14-05 11:20 AM
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3. Everytime the GOP needs "bi-partisan" cover - they call Mr. Breaux
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fertilizeonarbusto Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-14-05 11:45 AM
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4. "repellent sleazebag"
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