Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Where are they now...the Tom Allen episode

Am I the only one who wonders what became of 6 term congressman Tom Allen?

Tom comes as close to being a certified beautiful person and charter member of the permanent ruling aristocracy as you can be in Maine. His resume is impeccable: a staff job for Ed Muskie; Bowdoin College, Rhodes Scholar, and Harvard Law credentials; big Portland law firm experience (all the right power and money connections); and Portland bona fides - years on the council, and a stint as Mayor.

Allen, of course, was thoroughly trounced by incumbent Susan Collins when he attempted to elevate himself to the U. S. Senate.

Silly me, I thought he'd brush away his tears, and return to Maine and take his rightful place as our next governor. It seemed to be his due, just as Baldacci did nearly 8 years ago.

Stop and think about it. Allen mastered the tall, benevolent look, and the "he's such a nice young man" persona so endearing to the AARP demographic. The record surely shows that he was a supporter of "working families" and the usual populist themes, and a staunch opponent of "special interests, big money, and unprincipled lobbyists."

No doubt he's an inspiration for his successor, one Chellie Pingree, who railed against "corporate special interests" in a recent press release. (I'll have more to say about that in a few days.)

Growing in nuance and sophistication, Allen learned to ride both sides of the fence, renouncing his position on the House Armed Services Committee, but hustling over to BIW for a giant "I support shipbuilders" rally for his senate campaign.

Apparently, though, Tom wasn't raised washing dishes and making meatballs, and his sights were not set on the same meager target as Baldacci.

All the above said, who'd have guessed I would run across an editorial item in yesterday's New York Times titled "Really Big Money Politics?" You can find it here.

It begins with these words:

The nation’s hard times are proving to be boom times for the lobbying industry in Washington. Lobbyists are expected to easily break their record of $3.3 billion in annual business, raising an inevitable question: How much more in special-interest donations will be bagged by lawmakers as they are furiously lobbied on everything from health care reform to economic regulation?

No one confesses to explicit quid pro quo crudity. But the power of lobbyists as they channel money and urge favor for rich clients is a gripping, and so far immutable, fact of political life. It needs to change.

And so we come full circle, and address the opening question: what became of Tom Allen?

Well, dad gummit, he's become what he couldn't abide, which seems to be the easy out for elected officials once they've tasted the forbidden fruits of Washington.

Our champion of working people, our enemy of entrenched big money, corporate special interests, and evil lobbyists has found a new calling.

He is, dear readers, the successor to one very memorable congresswoman from Colorado, the tearful Patricia Schroeder. Tom has succeeded Pat as the President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, located, as you might have guessed, in Washington.

This organization is about a $10 million a year operation, and I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that it advocates for the "special interests" of publishing "corporations," or what you might call "lobbying." I'll go further out on the same limb and suggest that Allen was hired because of his "connections," and that his priority is ensuring that his organization's money is used to influence policy outcomes.

So much for populism, cleaning up "the system," and looking out for "the little guy."

I'm tempted to award Allen the Other Side's Senator Ben Nelson Trophy for Unshakable Conviction and Principle here and now, but I have a sneaky suspicion that the competition for the award has only just begun.

You're looking good Tom, but you better watch your six. Bowdoin and Harvard are churning out new talent faster than you might imagine, and they're ready to chew you up and spit you out as soon as "public service" calls.

1 comment:

  1. What you have so eloquently laid out is known as an infinite loop. Allen to Washington to represent the 1st District followed by a trade association position in Washington; while simultaneously Pingree leaves her trade association position in Washington to represent the 1st district. Fund raising is never a problem for those in the infinite loop.