Is there anyone who would be “frankly surprised” to hear that elected officials pitch for contributions from lobbyists — and emphasize their ability to influence government action in their “sector”? Big Government got its hands on this voicemail message from Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting representative for the District of Columbia in the House, who leaves a very indiscreet message for the lobbyist in question:
“I was, frankly, uh, uh, surprised to see that we don’t have a record, so far as I can tell, of your having given to me despite my uh, long and deep uh, work. In fact, it’s been my major work, uh, on the committee and sub-committee it’s been essentially in your sector.
I am, I’m simply candidly calling to ask for a contribution. As the senior member of the um, committee and a sub-committee chair, we have (chuckles) obligations to raise, uh funds. “
Holmes Norton is not without power on Capitol Hill. Even though she has no vote on the full House floor, she can vote in committees, and chairs at least one subcommittee, according to Big Government. In that position, Holmes Norton has significant influence on the passage of legislation. She also has some influence on the spending of money within Washington DC itself. In other words, a donation or the lack thereof could make a significant difference for the lobbyist in question — a point she appears to make in this message.
With that said, the only difference between Holmes Norton and her colleagues appears to be that she’s not smart enough to avoid leaving her shakedown message on a recording. This kind of fundraising usually gets left to staffers, who are more discreet in their pitch. It’s a measure of the desperation among Democrats to get funds from safe seats like that of Holmes Norton that can be transferred to other Democrats who are in big trouble this year.
This has even more value as a slap back at the Democratic Party attempt to paint John Boehner as somehow “especially deep” in the pockets of lobbyists. Whenever anyone trots out that canard, all that’s needed in response is this clip. Speaking of which, when can we expect the New York Times to investigate Holmes Norton and her shakedown calls? Oh, right … November 3rd.
Update: Big Government has Holmes Norton’s response, which is fairly comedic under the circumstances:
“The conservative blogger, Andrew Breitbart, best known for his misinformation concerning Shirley Sherrod, is trying to mislead again. He is circulating a voice mail of a standard request made by candidates to potential donors who do not know the candidates or their work. Norton, therefore, identified herself as a subcommittee chair and the kind of work she has done in subcommittee. Norton is a longtime supporter of public financing of campaigns, but barring that, candidates from all parties regularly raise funds in calls by first identifying who they are and what they have done. The call was made from campaign headquarters. Her request fully complied with legal and ethical requirements.”
Let’s translate this into plain speaking:
The blogger who got one story wrong got this one right. He circulated a voice mail left by me for a lobbyist, in which I identified myself, stressing that I run a subcommittee that impacts his industry and wondered why the lobbyist had failed to acknowledge my power by donating to my campaign. I’d rather have the American taxpayer funding my campaigns, so it’s your own damned fault that I have to shake down lobbyists in order to transfer funds to Democrats who don’t represent districts with a D+39 Cook rating.
I think that just about covers it. Thanks for confirming the tape, Rep. Holmes Norton.