Who Are the Good-Government Advocates in Washington These Days?

On Sunday, Congressional Quarterly’s Brian Friel wrote a New York Times op-ed and joined the latest blood sport among Washington’s insiders and liberals: how to pile on to stop Rep. Darrell Issa and his anticipated congressional investigation of the Obama administration. Issa is slated to be the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which will have very broad investigative powers.

Friel’s advice seemed to be coated with reasonableness. He informs his readers that he relied on 14 independent “good-government” professionals to help him develop a counter list of "Investigations We Could Really Use."  He solemnly calls them "14 good-government watchdogs -- veterans of the oversight process, former public officials, and academics."

Some of the ideas presented by Friel are worthy of consideration. But the Times did not think it was important to inform their readers that the "impartial" group consisted of a current advisor to the Obama White House, two registered lobbyists who actually lobby the oversight committee, and many left-wing partisans.

The most interesting person among the “good-government” types is Patricia G. McGinnis, who currently serves as an unpaid White House advisor to President Obama on leadership programs for presidential appointees. Last July Raw Story revealed that the Washington Post had misleadingly identified McGinnis as an unbiased policy blogger and did not disclose her ties to the White House. As Hot Air reported:

Meet Patricia McGinnis, a contributor to the Washington Post’s policy blogs, and a big fan of Barack Obama. For instance, in January of this year, McGinnis decried the “chilling partisanship” of Republicans objecting to Obama’s agenda in Congress, and offered Obama “high marks for his policy choices” and saluted how Obama has “risen to every challenge by calling on his excellent leadership team."

So much for McGinnis’s neutrality and objectivity.

This brings us to the second impartial member of Mr. Friel’s good-government posse, David Marin. Mr. Marin is on the payroll of the Podesta Group, one of the largest Democratic lobby and fundraising shops in Washington.

The Podesta Group was founded by Tony and John Podesta in 1988. The Podesta brothers have been uber-partisans in Washington. In the last two years Tony’s lobbying shop spent an impressive $47 million in lobbying money influencing Congress.

Tony’s brother John was the chief of staff for President Bill Clinton and helped create one of the most powerful think tanks in Washington, the Center for American Progress. The Podesta brothers continue to be very close to the Obama administration.  The White House logs report that Tony met with President Obama or his staff eight times in the first six months of the Obama administration.

As the Washington Post reported about Tony:

With extensive roots in Democratic politics and fundraising, Podesta has managed to hold his position as one of Washington’s most powerful lobbyists while retaining close ties to the Obama administration.

Tony’s wife Heather has her own boutique lobby shop. According to Open Secrets, in 2009 she reported $6.99 million in lobbying income.

But let us get back to Mr. Marin himself. After all, we shouldn’t besmirch his good-government reputation based on his association with Mr. Podesta. It turns out Mr. Marin is not such a neutral figure concerning the House Oversight Committee. For three years, he served as a Democratic staffer on the same committee Mr. Issa is about to chair.  And last year he lobbied hard, representing 30 clients.

For example, Mr. Marin is a registered lobbyist on behalf of -- General Motors.  Or as some people now call it, Government Motors.  And Mr. Marin represented the oil giant BP (that good government icon) in the aftermath of its spill.