Germany, Blackwater and Womble Carlyle


Via Blackwater watch, this story of a country operating with integrity, honor and decency.

German weapons manufacturer Heckler & Koch said it would end its relationship with Blackwater after media reported that the controversial US-run military firm was using its guns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blackwater, a private security company which has been contracted to protect high-profile US officials and foreign dignitaries in Iraq, had been using Heckler & Koch machine guns in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The German arms manufacturer ... said it would cut all its ties to the US firm, according to "Report Mainz." The German government had not given Heckler & Koch permission to provide Blackwater with firearms.

The story continues with specific commentary by two German lawmakers.

"It is scandalous and unacceptable that a German arms company cooperates with such a lawless mercenary troop ... although it must know that this firm is involved in illegal killings in Iraq," Green party parliamentarian Hans Christian Ströbele told the program's reporters. The Social Democrats' foreign policy spokesman, Gert Weisskirchen, called for legislation to prevent German firms from participating in the "privatization of war" and said that "such cooperation should be scrutinized."

Imagine that. Politicians in Germany calling for legislation to prevent German firms from participating in the privatization of war. The differences between that point of view and the policies of the United States of America couldn't be more stark.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Which brings us to Womble Carlyle Sandridge Rice.

For many, the term "revolving door" has come to symbolize one of the most destructive practices in modern politics. But like anything else, the devil is in the details. Let's say, for example, that a Senate staffer leaves DC to work for a non-profit that provides early childhood education. I'm inclined to give that staffer the benefit of the doubt. She'll use her connections to do something that most people would agree is important and honorable, even while profiting from it.

But what happens when the revolving door leads a person to lobby on behalf of, say, a mercenary army? What happens when those connections get used to grease the skids for contracts that suck money away from our volunteer armed forces to line the pockets of war-profiteers?

Over the past few months, I've immersed myself in the dark world of Blackwater USA. I have shared some of what I've learned here, and there is much more out there to learn. You've read about how a Blackwater executive vice president ridiculed Marshall Adame, a Democratic Congressional candidate. You've read how a friend of Blackwater used his office in a trade association to try to intimidate Marshall earlier this year. Any you may have even heard about one of Blackwater's new lobbyists, Mark Harkins, of Womble Carlyle Sandridge Rice.

On Capitol Hill, Mark served as Chief of Staff to Rep. Brad Miller, who is currently the Chairman of the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight and a member of the Financial Services, and Foreign Relations Committees. Mark also served as a senior policy advisor to Rep. David Price, currently Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

That was then. This is now.

Mark Harkins joined Womble Carlyle in 2007 after a tenure that spanned more than 18 years on Capitol Hill. Mark is focused on the representation of corporate, non-profit, and government clients before Congress and the Executive Branch. His government service includes both individual members’ offices and on Committee staff. He is a veteran of the federal appropriations and budgeting process and his areas of expertise include financial services, science, ways and means, and homeland security issues. He is a frequent speaker on the legislative process and procedures in the House of Representatives.

From all I've read, Mark Harkins is a solid citizen. Which is why I'm struggling to understand why he appears to be working to help Blackwater USA. At least that's my understanding from this article. It is also why I wrote to Mark several weeks ago to ask about the relationship between his law firm and Blackwater.

1. You have a long history of working with a couple of solid progressive members of Congress. Now you're in the private sector as a lobbyist for Blackwater USA. Is this work that you volunteered for? Did you help win the business?

2. Does your law firm have any policies on which clients it will take on? Presumably the firm does not get involved in illegal activities, but beyond that, what guidelines apply in client selection?

3. Has the firm had any push-back yet from clients who don't want to be associated with Blackwater, even with two degrees of separation?

4. What does your work for Blackwater entail?

5. You surely have many other options for making money, so why this?

When I initially contacted Mark, he seemed open to talking with me. He said he was "happy to catch up with me" and wanted to know my deadline. After a few more exchanges, he said he might have something back to me by close of business on February 5th, more than two weeks ago. I would guess that the idea of talking about Blackwater USA with a lefty blogger probably didn't go over so well with the big boys in the firm.

In any case, I wrote to Mark on February 10th saying:

Hi Mark.

If you have anything for me on the Blackwater business, please send it along. Otherwise I'll just post the few facts that I have and report that you were unable to respond to my questions. Thanks!

I heard nothing.

Mark, of course, is a private citizen and is under zero obligation to explain himself to me or anyone else. But I very much wish he would, because I really don't get it. Because if the German government can understand the inherent dangers of aiding and abetting mercenary armies, surely someone who has served two honorable members of the US House of Representatives should be able to.

To my knowledge.

Comments

Maybe I'm missing something

because all I can think about here is hand writing on the wall. I see it, why don't more Republicans? Or is it that they know something that we don't?

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

Progressive Discussions

Maxwell Smart's lawyer under the Cone of Silence?

I heard nothing.* James

And you won't! In the legal Spook business, this is known as the Cone of Silence.......Don't worry! Agent 86 is working on the new source of Machine Guns for Blackwater. The biggest blackmarket of automatic arms in the world comes from Israel.

BlackWater goes Green?

No doubt Blackwater thinks the coming depression will cut off their electrial source.....

Windmill

Blackwater Worldwide recently erected our own wind turbine to reduce the company’s reliance on fossil fuel generated electricity, joining a growing number of green companies. Not news you’ll find in the mainstream media.

The state of North Carolina has long been known for farming and Blackwater Worldwide is introducing a new crop, wind. Well, Blackwater isn’t exactly farming wind but the ten-year-old firm known for its training and contracting will be generating electricity by means of harnessing wind energy through a wind turbine. A ribbon-cutting ceremony at Blackwater’s headquarters in Moyock, N.C. is expected by March 1, 2008.

Article

Common practice

They can afford the image consultants, and they want to get results. Tobacco companies are also very good at this. LOTS of charities rely upon $$$ from corporate fat cats who want to buy a little absolution . . .

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

Yeah, I know.

Actually, my first gut reaction was to assume they're doing it for even more nefarious reasons, like making sure their power won't be disrupted by the utilities once they announce their plans to take over the world.

Oh, no danger of that

It will be a bloodless coup. They'll have already taken over the utilities.

Remember that the biggest landfill operators in the country were in the forefront of what we now call "green" initiatives to ensure that liners for these mega-landfills would be of extremely durable stuff.

Why?

Well, maybe they did it because they believed it was the right thing to do.

Another reason could be that they knew that local governments (their competition, entities that did what they did as a public service, not as a money-making venture) couldn't afford the standards they were proposing, and that as soon as the federal government adopted these standards, the local government guys would be out of business.

Clever, no?

Can ya see the little tongues of flame flickering around the edges of that legislation?

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

Another story from the "Swamp".

An interesting story about the German attitude, James. But the part about connections with Blackwater is never surprising. What is never discussed is why both parties support the dual-army concept in Wash. DC? Both of our leading candidates have always voted without much objection for budgets that really is paying for a quarter million man army in IRAQ. The money bag without any accountability is too easy for any law firm to pass up. If the water flow from the source can't be stopped, the swamp will never dry up!

Time for a change.

I hope that a Democratic President, House, and Senate will really change something. Change things permanently.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

That's a question I'd like to see posed to both

Democratic candidates - and then again in the general election to both the Democratic and Republican candidates: Do you support the continued use of armed paramilitary contractors as surrogates to our armed services in hot-spots around the world?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

How are we so blind to what is plain to even Germans!!

The Germans have no real stake in Iraq, yet even a german company can understand the immoral conduct of supporting Private Armies who have no law or authority governing their behaviour.

The Republican Senate and Congress, with the assistance of some Democrats, have successfully began the privatization of our government and now that Democrats are the majority one would think that a reversal of that policy would have already begun........ but it hasn't.

Money, Power, Greed, Ego, Fame and Influence are each very powerful forces in their own right.
When combined, irresistable .... In most cases these days.. it seems ... resistance is futile.

The Democrat Majority could already have been making a lot of noise ... They have failed to do so.

How sad...How very sad indeed for America

Marshall Adame
2014 U.S. Congress Candidate NC-03

Dogs of War

Since Frederick Forsyth wrote 'The Dogs of War" the image of mercenaries has changed but the circumstances hardly seem different.

Now "Winston" and his band of Wombles have joined the "Dogs of War".

Why not ask Mr. Dellinger?

Why not ask Mr. Dellinger what his take on Womble Carlyle's representation of Blackwater is?

I asked, but received no answer.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

Dellinger

According to their website, Dellinger doesn't work at Womble Carlyle. And according to the news reports I read he is not a registered lobbyist for Blackwater USA. That said, I intend to ask all candidates for any statewide office about their views on mercenary armies and businesses that support them.

More to the point, I'd like to ask you. What do you have to say about Blackwater USA and businesses that support them?

However, he is an attorney, and he did work for W/C and profited

from that experience. I think what Mr. Dellinger would have to say about the principles that Goldie and I have already addressed here (with respect to a firm's representation of a client, whether the client is seeking that representation at the General Assembly or the town square or any other forum in the court of public opinion) would be interesting and worthwhile.

I've already stated my original point, which remains that I disagree with demonizing lobbyists based upon their clients. I articulated this pretty clearly already in earlier posts.

As to your business question, I believe any of us is free to do or not do business with an entity based on that entity's real or perceived connections to activities we dislike or oppose. I'd personally like to boycott every product from China based on what it has done to Tibet. (It is an increasingly difficult thing to accomplish.)

But your phrasing, "businesses that support them" is vague. Given the context of past exchanges, I assume that you mean Womble Carlyle "supporting" Blackwater by their representation. I think the use of the word "supporting" is problematic in this context. What Womble Carlyle is supporting is the client's right to be heard, to make its case, to protect its business interests. Until it is established that what Blackwater is doing has violated the law (and I should think that case could be made without much mental strain if the feds had the balls to tackle it), then it has the right to advertise and to seek to influence public opinion.

The freakin' NRA has the right to do the same. Ask me how I like those people.

If the question is whether I like or approve of Blackwater, the answer is no, I don't. But I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with Womble Carlyle representing Blackwater. None. Nada. Zip.

I hope that's clear.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

It's clear alright.

I've already stated my original point, which remains that I disagree with demonizing lobbyists based upon their clients. I articulated this pretty clearly already in earlier posts.

History is filled with examples of heinous behaviors that, at the time, were considered legal and reputable. Slavery comes immediately to mind. According to your logic, a person could reasonably have "absolutely no problem" with lobbyists supporting slave owners who wanted to gain government contracts or favorable legislation that would help perpetuate their line of business.

Such a person would also have had "absolutely no problem" with a lobbying firm that worked on behalf of tobacco companies to fend of legislation that restricted the sales of cigarettes to teens.

I appreciate you making your position crystal clear, but the clarity does not help me understand it. In fact, the more clear it becomes, the more confusing I find it.

Slavery?

Well, I suppose there are those who would as righteously denounce anyone who lobbies for women's right to choose abortion.

I have to admit that I have far greater sympathy with the argument of the "pro-lifers" than I do yours. But I disagree with the "pro-lifers" and will, whatever the next political trend may be. There could easily come a day that my view in support of women's right to choose abortion is seen as being just as despicable as those of the folk who supported slavery.

In any case, I don't accept what you think seem to think of as reasoning.

Yes, let's do say we're back in the day before 1861. Let's do that. I say let the "pro-slavery" folk have their say. Let them do their best. Let the court of public opinion decide whether it's good or bad, but let the public do so *because* they have heard the issue fully vetted, not because you decided for them that they weren't smart enough to do that. You and I may be very, very certain of our positions, and expect that any moral being would agree. But I think it's far better to allow even voices with which we strongly disagree be heard than to decide that you and I are the arbiters of truth. It isn't that I don't think I know the truth. It's that I know that unless others come to the same conclusion that I do without without my dictating it, the "truth" will never matter.

What are you afraid of? Are you afraid that unless you and I intervene with our personal opinions, evil will prevail because the general public can't be trusted to hear the full arguments? I say that if you think that the "right" decision is to squelch speech, you've already lost the moral battle.

Allow me to re-state my position. Not only do I have absolutely no problem with W/C representing Blackwater, I would do everything I could to stop people like you from telling me or anyone else that a given point of view is beyond our ken to evaluate, and that we must therefore make uncomfortable or impossible the ability of those who disagree to be heard.

By your reasoning, the KKK shouldn't have the right to march. As despicable as they are, your position is far more to be feared than any of their idiotic ranting.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

What am I afraid of?

That's simple. I am afraid of private mercenary armies. And out of that well-founded fear, I am doing whatever I can, no matter how small it may be, to stop them. I am protesting their very right to exist and to operate in North Carolina and in the United States.

One of my strategies is to alter perception among citizens so that laws will eventually be changed to make their operations illegal. Included in my strategy is a drive to get the public at large to denounce them and those who aid them.

Let the court of public opinion decide whether it's good or bad, but let the public do so *because* they have heard the issue fully vetted, not because you decided for them that they weren't smart enough to do that.

I am doing exactly as you suggest. I am not deciding anything for anyone. This is the court of public, and you and I are on opposite sides of the issue. I am making the case that mercenary armies should be illegal and I am questioning the decency and integrity of a law firm that supports them. You are saying you don't like mercenary armies but that until the law is changed, anything goes. We disagree.

But to crystal clear, I am not questioning the right of WCSR to support the Blackwater mercenaries.

And I am not questioning your right to defend WCSR's decision to take blood money. I am simply questioning the wisdom of your judgment.

Are you dodging the point, here?

Part of me (the part that thinks it a tad condescending for you to tell me you're questioning the 'wisdom of my judgment') suspects that you're intentionally misreading my point. I think you're a better reader than your response would indicate. That is, I'd be much more receptive to hearing how unwise I am if I thought you had managed to address my position in the first place.

I'm certainly not saying that as long as the activity of Blackwater is legal, it should be unassailable. Again, I thought you were more careful a reader than to derive that from what I've written. Perhaps you should reread? I tackled your slavery example head on and you seem to have skipped right over that point in favor of honing in on one I didn't make.

Please note that my position with respect to the legality question was simply that in our society, it is illegal to advocate that someone perform an illegal act. Therefore, I would agree that W/C should be stopped (or opposed, discouraged, smeared, denounced, etc) if they are advocating on behalf of illegal acts. Forgive me the fine point. It's somewhat tangential to the broader one of whether or not speech you dislike should be stifled.

There's nothing wrong with your opposing Blackwater's business, or with your advocating that the public and/or lawmakers agree that what Blackwater does is heinous, with your saying that whether or not the activity is lawful, it is morally reprehensible and should be stopped. I'm all for that.

But you seem to be confusing two issues. One issue is whether Blackwater should (whether morally or legally) exist/do what it does/function as it functions. The other issue is whether someone has the moral right to advocate the opposite. These are separate questions.

I support the right of pro-lifers to advocate against abortion (though I am a firm believer in women's right to abortion), and I support the right of the KKK to have its marches (though I think the KKK is a despicable group advocating despicable ideas).

I say that for you or me to attack people for the act of advocating on behalf of causes we dislike is wrong. It's the same as banning books; it's the same as blackballing an attorney for representing a client.

Your position that W/C should be denounced and otherwise discouraged from their representation of Blackwater has no more moral wisdom than "Big Brother" in the novel *1984.* You've decided that "A" = evil, that "B" is speaking out on behalf of "A," therefore "B" is evil and should be denounced and discouraged from speaking out on behalf of "A."

I saw let B advocate. Let the arguments be heard without attempting to silence the side you don't like.

The way you counter is by presenting your arguments in opposition to the question, not by making it difficult or impossible for your opponent to be heard.

Look it up under "Wisdom."

ll that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

I notice you won't answer

And I don't think you've read my posts thoroughly. I did point out that whether one is a lawyer or not and chooses to represent a client you or I dislike is irrelevant.

You can cast my position as crassly as you like, but I think anyone who has read these posts, and I do mean *read* them, by this time understands that what I'm standing up for is the right of any person, lawyer or not, to advocate for positions you or I dislike.

Again and again, I've stated, and you've pretended not to notice, that it is wrong to stifle the speech of your opposition -- and that is what you are trying to do by claiming that whomever represents Blackwater at the General Assembly is to be denounced (you're calling it a "strategy") for so doing.

By all means, point out and highlight and bring all the attention you can to the things Blackwater does, but don't expect thinking people to accept that you're on a moral high ground when you attempt to stifle the efforts of those to point out, highlight, and bring attention to what they believe are points in opposition to yours. THAT is exactly what you are doing when you try to demonize a lobbying firm for representing its client.

The quote I use as my signature is the reason I'm pointing out that you're not only wrong, but you're advocating something that is antithetical to the principles embodied in the First Amendment. Your position is exactly like that of the so-called prolifers who threaten the well-being of persons who advocate for women's right to abort.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

I have read every one of your posts several times.

And I conclude that one of four things must be going on here.

1. You're thinking something that you're not saying.

2. You support lobbyists being able to make their case for mercenary armies in the halls of Congress but you don't support average citizens being able to call them on it.

3. You believe free speech by me on my blog is somehow equivalent to "stifling" debate.

4. I'm dumb as a stump.

At this point, I suspect all four are equally good explanations, so I guess we'll have to wait for the court of public opinion to sort things out.

In the meantime, I appreciate your arguments. Whenever I write about Blackwater, no one seems to care and the posts slide off the front page into oblivion. The mercenaries are deep-seated and most people seem to believe they're here to stay.

But whenever I write about the collusion between WCSR and Blackwater, you are a dependable voice in opposition. Your comments keep the debate going and create a steady stream of new material for the Googly machine to connect the law firm and the mercenaries to war profiteering.

That's what I mean by strategy.

Ok, James, point by point plus one

1. I say exactly what I think. It's what I do. It gets me in trouble, but I can't seem to help it.

2. I support lobbyists being able to represent their clients and I do not support your demonizing them for doing it. If you don't like 'em, fine, but encouraging that they be denounced for doing it is, according your own discussion of "strategy," an effort to discourage their advocacy, which, yes, is an effort to stifle speech.

3. Free speech on the blog is great. I am saying, however, that it is morally and ethically improper to suggest that a firm be demonized for representing a point of view you disagree with. It's also ineffective and makes you look as though you're so unsure of your position that you can't bear for someone to counter. It reminds me of people who drown out speakers with boos or heckles.

4. I don't think you're dumb, James, which is why I find your being obtuse in these responses so frustrating. I do think you get a bit emotional.

5. I agree that lobbying isn't practiced on a level playing field and that many unethical moves are made, that money drives too much of it and that the practice is in need of reform. I know a little bit about it. I also know that efforts to regulate it are underway and that Joe Hackney is chiefly responsible for that. I also know, as does anyone involved in it, that making meaningful changes in lobbying will be a long, ugly and difficult process. Regardless of the current subject and of many, many examples any of us could point out of how awful some lobbying and some lobbyists may be, there are some good guys in there, too.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

As far as I know

hampton left Womble prior to the firm being retained, but I am not sure.

He addressed this issue earlier on here, I believe.

"Hampton Dellinger would make a great Lieutenant Governor." - Al Gore.

"Man is free at the moment he wishes to be." -Voltaire

Dellinger

did not, unless I missed it, directly address the matter of W/C's representation of Blackwater (or the underlying question, which was whether the firm ought to have refused to represent Blackwater).

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

In general

and I am not speaking for Hampton here...

I understand your concerns, and they are certainly worth discussing. But in general, the concept of attorneys refusing to work for clients they find personally or politically distasteful is problematic.

Whether the client is a conglomerate accused of environmental crimes or a woman who wishes to get an abortion when such an act was considered abhorrent and was against the law, a lawyer has an obligation - an OBLIGATION - to represent the client to the best of his or her ability. It is the same principle, whether the lawyer is Atticus Finch or Ken Starr. So long as the lawyer believes he can do that within the bounds of the law and ethics, he really must. If lawyers start unloading uncomfortable clients, uncomfortable clients start going unrepresented.

Lobbying is lawyering before a different decision maker. What is distasteful in our current system, to me, is not the lobbying. It is the combination of lobbying with fundraising.

If you take the money out of the system, the lobbyists and their clients offer only information. That wouldn't seem to be a problem. I can't see how anyone could object to people, even companies, addressing their legislators through articulate, professional and prepared spokespeople.

It's the cash that creates the problems.

But what should NOT be an issue, and what is expressly against the Rules of Professional Conduct, is holding a client's position, political stance, actions or words against an attorney. The attorney is doing her job under our adversarial system.

End editorial. End lunch break.

"Hampton Dellinger would make a great Lieutenant Governor." - Al Gore.

"Man is free at the moment he wishes to be." -Voltaire

I do trust, Dr. Frank, that you

have read what I've said on this issue. I'm not the one criticizing W/C for representing its client. James is on a tear about this, not I.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

McCain! Hillary! "Patty" Aids all covering for Blackwater's Ass?

Top McCain defender's firm prepped Blackwater for congressional probe

As John McCain's reputation as a family man and a politician with a clean ethical record came under attack on Thursday, one man's voice was heard most loudly: top political adviser Charles R. Black, Jr..

"We’re going to go to war with them now,” Black bluntly told the Politico on Thursday, referring to the New York Times.

Black was front and center in several media accounts about the Times' allegations regarding McCain's relationship with lobbyist Vicky Iseman, assailing the paper for lowering its standards and "smearing" the senator.

For Black, it must have seemed like just another day at the office. The lobbying firm he leads, BKSH & Associates, is a specialist in helping its corporate clients put out fires in Washington. And for the second time in this election season, Black was connected to a major campaign-related controversy. The last time, his firm helped prepare private military contractor giant Blackwater Worldwide for a congressional probe of the killing of 17 civilians by its guards in Baghdad.

In the process of coaching Blackwater, BKSH inadvertently drew Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign into a lengthy controversy over the private career of its top political strategist, Mark Penn. In addition to guiding Clinton's campaign, Penn heads up Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations company with many clients whose interests often seem to clash with a variety of Democratic political goals. BKSH is a subsidiary of Penn's firm.

A former BKSH employee, Robert Tappan, had brought Blackwater to BKSH as a client. The ex-State Department official has since left Black's firm, and Blackwater is no longer a client. Still, the Times' revelations on Thursday are likely to focus more attention on the clients and company that McCain supporters like Black have been known to keep.

It's not clear whether Black's firm's work for Blackwater has had any effect on Senator McCain's policy positions relating to the use of private military contractors. Black would insist it has not.

"I not only do not lobby him [McCain], but if an issue comes up that I have a client on, I will tell him that and stay out of the discussion," he told the Washington Post on Friday.

Still, although McCain is the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, he has not been particularly vocal on the use of rented security personnel in Iraq and other locations around the world.

When Blackwater has come up, McCain has not addressed the issue directly. In an October appearance on CNN when the company's role in Iraq was being most deeply probed, McCain would only say that the failure of President Bush and ex-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to deploy enough troops in Iraq had made the use of contractors necessary.

Independent of Black, it's possible that McCain has developed some grudging respect for the private security contractors the US employs in Iraq. The senator has made many visits to the war-torn country, and congressional delegations are often guarded by contractors like Blackwater.

During the fall 2007 House hearings, Republican congress members praised the company for having a perfect protection record in the country.

"Blackwater has protected dozens if not hundreds of members of Congress, including myself and members of this committee, when they travel to Afghanistan and Iraq," said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) in an October hearing of the House Oversight Committee. "I for one am grateful for their services. Not one single member of Congress has been injured nor killed under Blackwater protection, and for that I am grateful."

I have been thinking about what you've posted here

for a while, DFL.

I have a question - of ethics, I guess, and where the line gets drawn. My father was a lawyer, and represented all kinds of folks, some of whom became friends after the cases were over, and some of whom were never spoken of in our home. He felt as strongly as you do that every one deserves the right to counsel in legal matters, no matter who they are, and no matter how heinous a crime they had been accused of. So I get that.

What I don't get is how lobbying is the same thing as legal representation.

Lobbying includes all attempts to influence legislators and officials, whether by other legislators, constituents or organized groups.

I don't see how that's the same. In fact, I think it flies in the face of "equal representation under the law", because lobbyists are hired guns for special interest groups that I, as a private citizen, could never afford to pay to attempt to influence legislators and officials.

I get that Blackwater, as disgusting as I find them, should be able to avail themselves of legal counsel - and the best legal counsel they can afford. I get it. I really do. But I don't understand the ethics behind a law firm being used as lobbyists - basically doing PR for Blackwater with legislators. If they were being used to advise Blackwater on the legality of what they were trying to get away with, that would be different. But that's not what lobbyists do.

So help me out here. I'm confused.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

As I said in an earlier post

As I said, there's a difference between what a lawyer does in court and a lobbyist does in the halls of the General Assembly. But there is an underlying principle that supports both the constitutional right of a defendant to a fair trial and the constitutional right of a person or entity to free speech.

Crudely put, the idea in a trial is that the jury should hear whatever information (within the rules)may be offered to exonerate the defendant or mitigate the alleged crime. The reasoning behind this full "competition" of perspectives (the state's v. the defendant's) is that it maximizes the potential for justice to occur.

When a person seeks to convince fellow lawmakers or the public of the justice or injustice of a given matter that he or she wants to address, he or she relies upon the First Amendment's guarantee of speech to maximize his/her ability to make his/her case.
Any opposition has -- theoretically -- the same right to make a case.

While you are correct that many inequities exist in the system under which we operate, those inequities do not argue for prohibiting speech but rather for levelling the playing field for all those who have something to say -- not just those with money.

Yes, the current system favors interests with money. But again, THAT is a PROCEDURAL issue that has NOTHING to do with the *SUBJECT* of the lobbying.

As I said in an earlier post, these are separate issues.

So . . . to sum up:

1. No, I do not "support" what Blackwater does or think that it should be insulated from criticism as long as what it does is legal. Its legality has nothing to do with whether it is desirable. What "legality" has to do with is whether a person can advocate its activities.

2. Yes, I think that people should vociferously and vigorously (legally, please) articulate opposition to Blackwater and attempt to influence the public and lawmakers to take action to address it.

3. No, I do not think that W/C is morally bankrupt for representing a point of view in disagreement with me or you or anyone else about Blackwater. (Again, I cite the abortion issue for those who want to get righteous about who is good or evil for harboring a given view)

4. I think that to the extent you or I try to silence the voices who advocate for opinions counter to ours, we have lost moral ground for asserting that our interest is consistent with the pursuit of truth and equal justice.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

I don't think that W/C is morally bankrupt

but when they are lobbying, they are not acting as attorneys, they're acting as salesmen. Extremely overpaid, stiff-suited salesman. I don't think they should be called attorneys when they do it, even though they might have they have passed the bar, and have the law school diplomas hanging on the wall.

They are acting as free-marketeer mouthpieces for people too lazy to get their asses to Washington themselves.

That is my opinion, and I'm not likely to change it.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

True, mostly

Though, the matter of their being attorneys or not is irrelevant. They *are* salesmen. They are indeed part of the free market, as are the lobbyists for all the causes that you and I support.

I doubt the reason for hiring them is laziness. People who hire lobbyists do so because they want a mouthpiece who knows his/her way around the system (Greg is incorrect that there isn't a 'system') and understands enough about the movement of bills in and out of committees and the rules that govern the action of the two houses, the likes or dislikes or pet causes of the members to maximize the chance that this person's particular cause gets the attention and treatment desired.

There are good eggs and bad eggs. There are causes I care for and causes I don't care for. I agree that money plays far too large a role, but that's the problem with elections, too.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

Lobbying V. Lawyering

There is a difference between lobbying and lawyering. Anyone can be a lobbyist. The fact that a lobbyist is also a lawyer does not give some special dispensation.

Lobbying falls somewhere between endorsement and representation. A firm that lobbies trades on reputation and relationships and, money.

Paid lobbying is a toll road through the democratic process. It is not a constitutional right to representation. Nor does it provide absolution from criticism of the implicit endorsement of a lobbying clients activities by the lobbyists who get to jump ahead in the constituent queue by virtue of their prowess as a law firm representing other clients.

In the 2008, 2006, 2004 elections cycles Womble employees have contributed $668,025 in federal campaign dollars.

DC $56,875
SC $30,200
VA $52,700
MD $27,000
GA $17,800
NC
08 $103,700
06 $86,750
04 $293,000

I agree that there's a difference between lawyering and lobbying

But the difference in this context is not meaningful at all, and it doesn't change my point one iota.

If the argument is that the system of lobbying at local, state or federal levels of government is rotten and ought to be reformed, by all means, let's reform it. I have no quarrel with that, as I mentioned in an earlier exchange with Linda.

But that argument should have ZERO to do with the subject of the lobbying.

As for endorsement, maybe yes, maybe no. I know a lobbyist (not a lawyer, btw) who has worked at various times for the hog industry and for an animal rights group. I doubt he's unique in having represented diverse perspectives.

Again, the point remains the same. If you don't like lobbying, get rid of lobbying. But if you like lobbying -- only you just like it for perspectives you agree with -- I think you're going about your own advocacy in the wrong way.

The similarity between the ethical and legal principle that is being upheld by defense lawyers who take on unpopular clients and lobbyists who do the same is that whether the court is civil or criminal or the "court" of public opinion, the idea is that we should hear the other side out.

I don't want to "win" an argument because my opponent is stifled. That leaves too much room for someone to wonder what he/she didn't get to say and why I was afraid to let him or her say it.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

Something to note:

I don't want to "win" an argument because my opponent is stifled. That leaves too much room for someone to wonder what he/she didn't get to say and why I was afraid to let him or her say it.

You're (I believe) working from the standpoint of an "open" argument, where all positions can be gauged in the court of public opinion, applies in this specific case. It doesn't.

As a lobbyist for Blackwater, W/C is meeting (mostly privately) with our elected officials to either: a) forestall or quash Congressional investigations into the legality of Blackwater's behavior, or b) to promote continued and/or expanded reliance by our government to utilize a private mercenary army here or abroad.

If W/C were representing Blackwater in a legal capacity, whether in civil or criminal court, I would back up your (and their) position wholeheartedly. But if they're doing either of the two things above, they are in violation of U.S. laws and/or International Conventions.

Either of which are grounds for a vigorous and vocal opposition by concerned citizens such as ourselves. :)

Don't stifle me

I disagree that there is a system of lobbying. There is an ad-hoc systems of laws regulating lobbying activity with new laws spawning in reaction to every egregious mutation.

A least three firms lobby for Blackwater at the Federal level. They are not public defenders and they are not just paid to advocate the opinion of their clients, they are paid to influence legislative and executive action and assist with obtaining Federal contracts.

Lobbying is a bazaar of haggling, cajoling and brinksmanship elbowing out individual constituents. There is no even-handedness. It's a free-for-all behind closed doors and on the front page and Blackwater has no trouble being heard.

When Womble Carlyle chose to enter the fray on behalf of Blackwater I thought less of them. They have a right to lobby. I have a right not to like it and a right to state that I don't.

Ain't stifling you, Greg

You're free to disapprove of W/C's choice of client. No one says you have to like it.

But from an ethical and moral perspective, I would say that to demonize them for representing their client is wrong, wrong, wrong and represents short-sighted thinking about the goal you seek. James thinks that it's a great strategy for opposing what he disapproves of. I think that it's not only a pathetic strategy, but one that demonstrates weakness of conviction. The ends don't justify the means, these means are cowardly (and in this case, are certainly not going to be effective).

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

Nope. Try again.

Again, the distinction between a "voice" heard in a courtroom or in the court of public opinion is without significance. Do point it out, if you think I'm mistaken. I'd love to hear the rationale for how the importance of free speech "lessens" in a given context.

If Blackwater is operating illegally, let's have it out there, by all means. If W/C is doing something illegal, then by all means, let's do call them on it. CALL THEM ON IT.
But where's your case?

Unfortunately, I don't think you've got a case on the latter point. I'm not a betting gal but if I were, I'd lay my odds with W/C being in compliance with the law in their lobbying activities. If you have evidence to the contrary, please do produce it and let's run 'em out of town on a rail!

If you don't like lobbying per se (and I certainly agree that the system is in need of reform) then by all means let's attack that system. But to go after the firm itself because of its representation of a point of view that you and I dislike is wrong, wrong, wrong, and you ought to know it. Going after the system vs. going after W/C because of a particular client that we think is odious are two different matters.

What's happening here is a lot of well intentioned liberals are losing sight of the principles that they'd be quick to support if their pet causes were attacked. Why do you think Hampton Dellinger hasn't weighed in here, folks, to denounce W/C? Why would he have "overlooked" that opportunity? Why do you think that liberals like Goldie and like yours truly here are sticking our necks out to say you're wrong for attacking w/c, when we are every bit as opposed as you are to what Blackwater does? Hello???

Hello?????

Stick to the point, guys, or quit pretending that you really support the concept of free speech.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

A little voice in my head said,

"Dude, don't even get into this, because you're way out of your league."

And I said, "You're out of your league, telling me I'm out of my league. I know what the hell I'm doing..."

;/

Like I said, "Hellooooo" (and there was this big ole empty echo)

I realize I sound kind of evil when I make these points, but I will confess, what with it being Sat. evening and my dog barking at me and my being tired from a long week, I really do get annoyed that I'm the beeeotch who sticks her frickin' neck out while there are those of you out there who agree but don't have the balls to chime in (Hampton).

Can I rant? Ok, I will. GEEZUS people, it's not rocket science. "Free speech" isn't just a great idea when it supports your point of view or mine, and it isn't just a great idea when it's easy, and it doesn't become a BAD idea when our system relies so heavily upon the fact that a given fat cat has money and you and I don't. Oh for the upteenth freakin' time, I agree that the system needs change. But that issue has ZIP to do with whether you or I like a given message. It doesn't work that way, and it shouldn't work that way.

I'm sooo in favor of a free-spirited exchange, and I'm sooo in favor of peace, love and harmony, but I hope and pray that I will never, ever, want to trade the concept of standing up for a freakin' principle for the sake of not pissing someone off.

My dog wants to be walked now, and I'm gonna give in (to him).

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

We all stick our necks out when we're passionate about the topic

This is one I had to pass on because I don't have time to get into a lengthy discussion on this. You were doing (better than) fine and didn't seem to need backup. However, I don't want you to feel all alone, so here goes.

I concur.

It's fine to point out that you don't like the idea that a firm lobbies for another firm that you think is naaaasty.
It isn't fine to demonize the firm doing the lobbying.
It isn't fine to advocate hindering or stifling the naaaasty firm's speech or means of speech. I've often found that the more a naaaasty person/firm talks the deeper they dig their hole. (Once the hole gets deep enough, push them in and cover them with dirt.)
Shining daylight on the naaaasty firm's naaaastiness is far more effective than shutting up the mouthpiece for said naaaasty firm.
Never take on a massive law firm unless your resources are limitless. (AKA the "chickensheet" method for avoiding trouble)

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



***************************
Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I'm hearing the same voices

I greatly prefer to lurk, because I usually don't have as much substantive background to base comments on and/or one of the bigger thinkers usually has a more eloquent way to say what I would have said. BUT, I guess I have to jump in here to agree with sister Brunette. In a perverse way, by focusing on the water-carriers, we are almost giving a pass to the real wrong-doers -- those in the government who permit/encourage/promote Blackwater and their ilk. It's wrong. The specific issue of Womble, though, really is different. Yes, lobbyists don't have to be lawyers (and vice versa). But the right to petition the government -- in whatever context -- is part of the same first amendment that protects the good guys. When lawyers work as lobbyists, they still have to comply with the ethical rules governing lawyers, which is more than can be said of non-lawyer lobbyists; the issue isn't the rightness of the cause but the integrity of the person's conduct in carrying out his or her job. I am no huge fan of Womble -- and I have been adverse to them a time or two in much less volatile contexts. I wish they would work for causes I believe in, but they probably wish I would stop suing their clients (or not). Maybe it's the lawyer Kool-Aid talking, but I believe it's a mistake and misguided to vilify lawyers (and lobbyists) for playing their role in an adversarial system. Let's focus our energy on the real enemy.

It's not either-or

I'm participating in three different anti-Blackwater forums and contributing in every way I can to bring them down. But frankly, the mercenary sleazebags wear Teflon coated armor, which is now being reinforced by Womble Carlyle.

The way I see it, focusing on the water-carriers may very well be the way to cut off the water. And if the water carriers happen to be fine, up-standing North Carolina lawyers? All the more reason to call them out. These lawyers aren't performing any sacred constitutional duty in court. They're whoring for mercenaries.

The First Amendment

is pretty sacred to me.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

Or look at it this way

Let me rephrase for you, James, since you've been doing that for me in these posts:

"The way I see it, focusing on the pro-choice advocates may very well be the way to cut out abortion. . . . . These advocates aren't performing any sacred constitutional duty in court. They're whoring for murderers."

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

Sunshine

A timely subject...

Every Friday night, I set my DVR to record Bill Moyers on PBS. This week he had a couple of subjects which really blew me away with their simple truth-seeking. Anyway, one of the segments has to do with our topic of lobbying. I don't have any links to this show(don't know how), but I just saved it so far for reviewing. There is this taxpayer group who spent much time and money investigating how the 'results' of lobbying works. It's legal, but it's done quite covertly. Recently, a defense bill was passed, so this group procured the complete copy, and managed to ferret out all the 'earmarks' that were attached. I never understood the term too much previously, but this really floored me! They were all these little committments that had to be carried out by the defense dept, in order to get the vote of these congressmen, with the monies included. But they showed how if the ordinary taxpayer wanted to find them, it's almost impossible without hiring some guy who wrote the 'legalese' necessary to hide them in the bill. Some of the instances they showed had to do with the Marines having to buy over a million dollars of tee-shirts, which they couldn't use. Or the Coast Guard buying boats manufactured in the state of Washington, which they sold off to San Francisco for one dollar, as they weren't usable to their specs. But the really good spot came as they showed, on a paper trail, how after this money was spent, a string of campaign contributions showed up on those individual's campaigns. They added all these 'earmarks' for that bill, and I believe the amount they quoted was 12 billion dollars! I guess that they are considered legal, but in my mind, it came down to 'bribery'. The really sad part is that a finger can't be pointed at any party in particular, as they mentioned that in the past year only 18 representatives out of 535, didn't request any earmarks! It doesn't give me much to hope for when the foxes are in control of the henhouse.!

Yes, I certaily would, Linda..

They did show a list of the 'top' earmarkers, briefly, and I did notice Steny Hoyer being up there behind Ted Stevens and Rob't Byrd. I'll have to watch more closely the next time.

Here's what I found.

I just found a great website with all of this info available for download.

Here are the House Members with no "solo earmarks" for FY 2008. (Solo earmarks means the member inserted the earmark on their own, without any other member. Why does that sound obscene?)

Ellison D MN
Fortenberry R NE
Udall, Mark D CO
Tancredo R CO
Lamborn R CO
Pitts R PA
Millender-McDonald D CA
Campbell R CA
Boehner R OH
Broun R GA
Cantor R VA
Flake R AZ
Fossella R NY
Hensarling R TX
Kline R MN

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Good job, Linda!

Yes, 'Taxpayers for common sense' is the group doing the investigating. I found that if you went to the PBS.org site, and searched for 'Bill Moyers', you can get to his site, and find the segment for his "Journal" show on Feb 22. The 'down' side to that list is there are only three Dems who don't do 'earmarks'. Not a good sign for the future!

Pages