Wednesday, June 13, 2007
When Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, she promised to change things — to enact serious, and long overdue, ethical reforms — to stop the growing trend of legislators and their families accepting gifts, trips, and jobs from lobbyists and corporations.
Well, some things never change.
Several days ago, Newsmax.com disclosed that in February, shortly after his mother became the first woman speaker, Paul Pelosi Jr., was hired by InfoUSA for $180,000 a year as its vice president for Strategic Planning. Pelosi also kept his other full-time day job as a mortgage loan officer for Countrywide Loans in California. And, unlike all of the other InfoUSA employees, he did not report to work at the company's headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska.
InfoUSA is the same company that has been cited by the New York Times for creating marketing lists that were used by con artists to fleece vulnerable elderly people. The lists had provocative names and offered the names of elderly people with cancer, elderly people with Alzheimer's and gamblers over 55 years of age who think their luck will change. After purchasing the lists, the con artists would call and convince the elderly person that they had actually ordered an expensive item. Once they received the victim's financial information, they often emptied their bank accounts, leaving many people penniless. Some of InfoUSA's internal e-mails suggest that company employees were aware that several of the companies they sold the lists to were under investigation.
And InfoUSA is also the same company that Bill Clinton works for as a consultant, and for which the former president was paid $3.3 million over the past five years. In addition, the Clintons got $900,000 worth of free travel.
Pelosi insisted that the unusual job opportunity had nothing to do with his relationship with his famous and influential mother. He just sent in an application for a job and they hired him.
History seems to be repeating itself here. For the past several years, Josh Hastert, the son of former Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert, was a registered lobbyist for Google. What were his qualifications for lobbying for such a huge and influential company? Well, to put it bluntly, he had good connections.
Before entering the world of corporate lobbying, Josh ran a music store in northern Illinois. But he decided that he could make more money and work less in Washington. And apparently, he was right.
Although Pelosi's son is not lobbying Congress, the unorthodox payment of such a large fee for a second job to someone with no experience at all in the basic business of InfoUSA — managing data and creating marketing lists — should certainly raise eyebrows. (Also note, that this job offer came immediately after his mother became Speaker.)
And, furthermore, it is likely that Congress will eventually address privacy issues involved with the selling of data that InfoUSA sells. Pelosi would be directly involved in that legislation, and her son should not be involved with the company in any way. In addition, the company apparently sells voter lists that could be extremely valuable to the Democratic Party and could mean lucrative contracts for Infousa.
And then, there's the issue of what InfoUSA does and how its president operates.
Several members of Congress have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Infousa and its clients.
The chairman of InfoUSA, Vin Gupta, is a large donor to Democratic candidates. Minority shareholders have questioned his payments to Bill Clinton and his gifts of free travel to Hillary. The shareholders claim that Gupta has been improperly using corporate resources to further his own political goals. Gupta gave over $1 million to the Clinton Library and $2 million towards Hillary Clinton's $16 million millennium New Years' Eve Party.
So, there's no question that Gupta likes to be close to the powerful. He's stayed in the Lincoln bedroom and hosted the Clintons on a $146,000 vacation trip to Acapulco on his corporate jet. Lately, Pelosi's son has been accompanying Gupta on his jet. He claims that it's been strictly business and is “nothing like the Clinton situation.”
His payment to Pelosi's son can only be viewed as an investment and should be stopped.
Nancy Pelosi should put on her “mother of five voice” that she brags about and tell her son to go back to his day job.
Dick Morris served as Bill Clinton's political consultant for 20 years, guiding him to a successful reelection in 1996. He is the author of New York Times bestsellers Because He Could, Rewriting History (both with Eileen McGann), Off with Their Heads, and Behind the Oval Office, and the Washington Post bestseller Power Plays.
Copyright Eileen McGann and Dick Morris 2006. To obtain free copies of all of the columns and newsletters by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann for non-commercial use, please sign up at www.dickmorris.com.