The New York Times has a fascinating yet severely flawed account of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering involved in an attempt to get Mayor Bloomberg's girlfriend, Diana Taylor, to run for U.S. Senate in New York as a Republican. It tells of Ms. Taylor meeting with "Republican political operatives," identified as "Bill Paxon, a Republican former congressman from New York" and "Susan Molinari, a Republican former congresswoman from New York" who is Mr. Paxon's wife and who began the exploration of the campaign by raising the idea "during a telephone call to Ms. Taylor." A third figure involved in the effort to recruit Ms. Taylor as a candidate is described by the Times as Mr. Paxon's "former chief of staff, Michael Hook, now a Republican political consultant."
The big flaw of the Times story -- and it's a really big flaw -- is that it identifies Mr. Paxon, Ms. Molinari, and Mr. Hook as "Republican former congressman," "Republican former Congresswoman" and "Republican political consultant," rather than as what they really are -- Washington lobbyists.
Senate lobbying records disclose that Mr. Paxon's clients at Akin, Gump have included drugmakers Abbott Laboratories and Pfizer, private equity fund Bain Capital, military contractor Boeing, Citigroup, Dow Chemical, at least four different Indian tribes, the casino firm Harrah's, NASDAQ, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association. His firm Web site says, "He has consistently been rated one of Washington's top lobbyists."
The same Senate lobbying records disclose that Ms. Molinari's clients have included Freddie Mac, Delta Airlines, the governments of Panama and Bangladesh, the Financial Services Roundtable, the plaintiff's side class-action firm Motley Rice, and Microsoft. Her firm Web site reports she made the Hill newspaper's "Top Lobbyists" list in 2009.
The same Senate lobbying records disclose that Mr. Hook represents the Property Casualty Insurance Association. His firm's Web site lists current and past communications clients including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Business Roundtable, First Wind, and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.
The Times story conceives of the news as "Mayor's Girlfriend Diana Taylor Toyed With Senate Run." FutureOfCapitalism.com conceives of the real news here as "Influence of Washington Corporate Lobbyists Reaches the Point Where They Aren't Just Lobbying the Politicians After They Get Elected, They're The Ones Calling The Potential Politicians Up And Suggesting They Run In the First Place."
If you're wondering why the Times identifies Mr. Paxon and Ms. Molinari as former members of Congress rather than as corporate lobbyists, the answer may be that Mr. Paxon and Ms. Molinari were sources for the Times article. That seems to me to be insufficient justification for the inaccurate description of the roles they play. No one is faulting Mr. Paxon and Ms. Molinari or Mr. Hook for the way they have chosen to earn a living. Everyone needs a job, and we're all for both private sector job-creation and employment and for the First Amendment right of petition. But when the lobbyists start recruiting the politicians they will then profit by lobbying once they are elected, and when the newspaper reporting on the phenomenon doesn't even see fit to describe to readers what's going on -- well, that seems to me to be a step too far.