Let's Listen To Reformers Buddy Roemer and, Yes, Jack Abramoff

Presidential candidate Buddy RoemerBuddy Roemer and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff argue that reform of influence-peddling must be radical to save the country. Roemer, for example, refuses to take contributions over $100. GOP leaders used his lack of big-dollar fund-raising as an excuse to keep him out of all 23 Presidential debates.

Too often, Roemer and Abramoff are thus ignored or disparaged despite their obvious relevant experience -- and their eloquent, entertaining and otherwise effective speaking-style that matches a national mood of "Throw the Rascals Out."

The specifics of their messages deserve a wide audience, as shown by their compelling arguments and warm reception during a joint appearance in the nation’s capital on March 22.

Jack Abramoff Book Cover

"The nation is in trouble,” said Roemer, now a grandfather and successful banker. He spoke to a well-dressed, establishment, standing-room audience of 120 convened by the non-partisan Committee for the Republic.

“I don’t think the answer is the Republican Party,” said the former two-term governor of Louisiana, who became a Republican in 1991 and returned to politics last year after a 16-year absence. Earlier, he served four terms as a Democratic congressman beginning in the 1980, running unopposed in his last three races.

“And," he continued, "I don’t think the answer is the Democratic Party.” He says both parties are controlled by special interests and political action committees (PACs), whose checks he has refused to take since his first race three decades ago.

Abramoff, who published a book late last year following a prison sentence for lobbying abuses, concurs in the need for radical reforms. His six-point plan would change Washington culture drastically by forbidding office-holders from accepting even a cup of coffee. Also, he would ban them after leaving office from ever working for a broadly defined "influence" industry. "As the federal government has assumed more and more power," Abramoff argues, "these problems have intensified. So we have special interests who not only know how to help their clients, but to hurt others."

Similarly, Roemer cited as an example how consumers are hurt because the United States pharmaceutical industry is protected by law from price competition from Canadian rivals, thanks in significant part to the influence of his former Louisiana congressional colleague, Billy Tauzin, once chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Roemer said he recently encountered Tauzin at an airport:

Billy's a great guy and a good friend who I served with in Congress. But I remember: Billy worked all those years on the Energy Committee and regulated pharmaceuticals and he quit his office one day -- and the next day was being paid $2 million [per year in compensation] to represent the pharmaceutical industry. You know the pharmaceutical industry in Obamacare is protected from Canadian competition. Did you know they're protected by law from price discounts? Is this a great country?

The big knock on Roemer is that he lacks high poll numbers and name recognition, doubtless because GOP debate-organizers excluded him. Yet he was doing better in certain key criteria than some other candidates invited repeatedly for nationally broadcast debates. Roemer concluded that his basic problem was that GOP chieftains did not want him to describe his reform message -- for fear it would disrupt business-as-usual and energize the public.

Therefore, Roemer's campaign is now focused on winning the Americans Elect nomination to be on the November ballot in all 50 states. Then he wants 15% support in poll numbers so he will be included in debates with the Democratic and Republican nominees. The public-participation steps he needs are described here. The Americans Elect process, with several other provocative candidates both declared and undeclared, is here. As disclosure, I donated to Presidential campaigns of Obama, McCain, Bush, Kerry and Gore in recent years when I was far more active in business than now. Somewhat oddly, the Americans Elect reform-oriented process was initiated by wealthy individuals who try to remain in the background with whatever agenda they have in mind aside from their group's call for more non-partisanship and similar reform. Nonetheless, someone with resources needs to take the lead in any movement. George Washington, after all, was one of the America's richest men during the Revolutionary War era.  

Abramoff's Book, 'Capitol Punishment'

Abramoff's credibility problem is even more obvious: No matter what he says or does now, some critics, including those with personal reasons to be aggrieved, continue to suspect his motives in harsh terms because of his notorious crimes and braggadocio revealed in his emails nearly a decade ago. Especially because he proved himself so crafty and otherwise capable in his advocacy work, critics continue to suspect that his reform effort must have sinister motives. One is sales of his book, Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America's Most Notorious Lobbyist.

Two weeks ago, we included several such criticisms at length in a column, Abramoff Proposes Radical Reforms to Halt Lobbying Corruption. But there comes a time, like now, when the possibility of a new plot by Abramoff is far less important than the virtual certainty of abuse by others, especially since we know that the conventional media only erratically apply such judgmental standards to other candidates or public policy commentators.

For critics who bemoan any publicity about Abramoff's book: In the big picture, so what if he sells copies? None were on sale when he spoke at the National Press Club this month. And just 10 were on the registration table at the March 22 forum, held at the National Trust for Historic Preservation near Dupont Circle. The book is listed at No. 16,846 in sales at Amazon.com. That's not going to make Abramoff rich, especially since he owes $44 million in court-ordered restitution.

Summing Up

Our watchdog institutions have obvious difficulties fulfilling their oversight role.

Trevor PotterTherefore, it strikes me as impressive that the Abramoff-Roemer audience March 22 contained several experts prominent in compliance who voiced publicly or in private comments during a reception the need for much more reform. One of the speaker-commentators, for example, was Trevor Potter, left. Although far from the most outspoken, his presence seemed significant. He was chairman of the 1994 Federal Election Commission, and general counsel of 2000 and 2008 GOP Presidential campaigns of Sen. John McCain. The Arizona senator was, as chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, a leading scourge of Abramoff.

One of the founders of the evening's host Committee for the Republic counts is C. Boyden Gray, former White House counsel in the Reagan administration and a backer of tea party and other conservative initiatives. In the audience also were several representatives of non-partisan groups generally regarded as progressive thought-leaders, such as Public Citizen.

Abramoff says he's carried his message to 300 radio interviews -- and hasn't heard anyone from listener call-ins from 'the public" who thinks his reform proposals are too harsh on politicians and influence-peddlers. Objections, he says, come only from insiders benefiting from a corrupt current system.

What's the harm he's fighting? "As the federal government has assumed more and more power," he says, "these problems have intensified. So, we have special interests who not only know how to use the system to help their clients, but to hurt others." He and Roemer agreed that the major problem with influence-peddling is not just illegality -- but a culture in which reforms are so timid and easily surmounted that commonplace, entirely legal practices foster corruption. Or, as Roemer says, the system makes "good people to do bad things."

What they say is common knowledge, even in Washington. But it's difficult to find anyone who articulates problems and solutions in an effective way. That's why we should pay attention when Abramoff' and Roemer talk.

What's Next?

During Q&A last week, one audience member asked for specifics to fight for reform. Abramoff said he and his reform allies are developing a plan drawn from his previous lobbying work. One element is a pledge that congressional candidates and members would be asked to sign, promising to support reform -- with campaigns against those who refuse. "Hopefully by Memorial Day," Abramoff said, "there will be a very big effort out there."

Roemer said he's running because someone needs to emphasize the devastating impact of corruption in politics. He said his first priority if elected President would be campaign finance reform law. He said he would require full, prompt disclosure of contributions, a ban on lobbyist contributions, and limits on PAC contributions so PACs could donate no more to any candidate than an individual. Also, he said he would seek to end "Super PACs." Roemer noted that Citizens United decision in 2010 opening federal elections even more to big money was made by "the first Supreme Court in my lifetime that has not one person ever to hold elective office." If one of the court's justices had ever been elected to office, he said, they might have understood the horrid impact of fundraising.

Roemer said that if he wins the Americans Elect nomination and he would have to be included in those debates if he can score 15 percent in national polls. If he gets on stage with President Obama and the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, he likes to say, "This election is wide open."

Whatever the case on that, the public greatly benefits when a Roemer or Abramoff raises these issues so visibly. For now, let's leave the cynicism aside -- and do what we can to help them and any others like them stay on the platform.

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Breakdowns in Political Campaign Discourse: Appendix I

Editor's Note: The column above originally contained material describing flaws in TV and White House press covereage of campaigns, as well as the relatively narrow pool of universities providing recent Persidential candidates. The material is excepted below is this optional appendex. Appendix II excerpts recent relevant news articles. Appendix III excerpts relevant radio interviews.

Let's examine briefly an underside of the television news business, which provides most American voters their information: An hour before the Roemer-Abramoff forum, I chatted at a press hangout with a fellow reporter who formerly worked as a television producer for a major TV station in the Midwest. With no reason to lie to me, he recalled how fresh-faced strippers were hired on occasion as newscasters. "They sure looked good, especially from the waist up," he said, "and they knew how to turn on the charm."

He had spent only three years in Washington and asked me about national news commentators and guest experts filling the nearby TV screens. I sketched out what I knew about income sources, blatant conflicts of interest and scandalous pasts of several of the more prominent political commentators who appear regularly on news programs with scant disclosure of their private interests. One of the more obvious is Dick Morris. He was the Clinton White House strategist who resigned after being exposed as sucking the toes of a prostitute at the Jefferson Hotel, an elegant establishment in the style of a British estate located several blocks from the White House.

George H.W. BushThat hotel was also the assignation place for Republican President George H.W. Bush with a longtime staffer, according to a news report two decades ago by an experienced TV investigator that was spiked before airtime by  editors -- even though affair was documented elsewhere. One place was The Power House, a 1992 book by Susan B. Trento, an experienced journalist, about the powerful lobbying firm Hill and Knowlton.

It's reported also that President Bush's son, George W. Bush, told the mainstream media during the 1992 re-election campaign in Kennebunkport that the entire topic was off-limits for inquiry. Political reporters live or die professionally from access to a candidate. Readers of this column can make an educated guess of what happened: Next to nothing about Bush, but lots about rival candidate Bill Clinton and Gennifer Flowers.

The gist, I opined to the my fellow DC reporter last week, is that the political commentators operate in a pack largely focusing on relatively trivial points, such as personality issues or who seems ahead in races. But news full-timers and volunteers alike are timid about breaking new ground on truly explosive topics that are complex albeit important to the public -- and will almost never disclose the greatest of secrets: how the consultants and their organizations milk the system. Typically, the part-time news pundits are introduced on TV merely as former officials and as either a Democrat or Republican -- with scant hint of who pays them currently to promote their talkingRoss Perot points.

Thus, widely varying standards of scrutiny are applied to different politicians. Those officials regarded as popular or powerful are not pushed on the most sensitive areas, unless the journalistic "pack" decides, almost en masse, that some topic, such as the Lewinsky or Abramoff scandals, is fair game. This is often triggered by a seemingly valid but perhaps ginned-up legal inquiry.

And that's why our Justice Integrity Project seeks to examine in-depth the genesis of these proceedings to determine, as best we can, whether they are launched in as normal oversight -- or are hoked-up political theater.

These patterns involve or protect even reform advocates, such as Ross Perot. I cannot recall ever seeing Perot, right, being grilled during one of his many TV appearances about his obvious financial vulnerabilities and conflicts: He founded Perot Systems, Inc., which was highly dependent on federal contracts and was being led by his son, Ross Perot, Jr., until its 1999 acquisition by Dell, Inc. in 1999 for $3.9 billion. Whether this made Perot's Presidential crusades courageous -- or helped explain his sometimes mysterious posturing and back-tracking -- remains unclear even after all these years. But the question should have been a prominent part of coverage of his candidacies and his later pontifications as a reformer.

White House Press Corps

Similar examples abound in the past and more currently. One of the benefits of the weekly radio show I co-host, summarized in an appendix to this column, is that it enables me to learn from expert authors. Amanda Smith, for example, chronicled how Washington and the nation have long been obsessed by celebrities, social climbing and, for those few with the details, Washington sex scandals. Her biography of newspaper heiress Cissy Patterson describes how newspapers around the nation reported a century ago in excited tones on who danced with whom at high-society balls featuring European nobility. A driving factor, rarely reported except in the most obvious instances back then, was that the European grandees tended to be on the prowl for dowries from social-climbing American heiresses and their parents.

Fast forward: Modern-day newspaper industry leader Jack Fuller's recent book research suggests humans are "hard-wired" psychologically to seek out both news and gossip. But the public receives, for the most part, only censored snapshots of the power-elite's inner-circle, with the major focus on trivia or a few scape-goats. Let's examine how this protection process works on what most would consider a routine topic. Two years ago, I asked a longtime White House correspondent / bureau chief why no one seems to know, much less publish, President Obama's high school, university or law school grades or courses.

"Rahm Emanuel wouldn't like it," she responded.

"So what?"

"Well, you don't want to make him mad."

Obama Cousin at DublinerExpand that reporter's mind-set to life-or death issues involving the public, such as projected availability of medical care -- or jobs, or war and peace. Then you have today's reality of a timid, pompous press -- and a campaign for the Presidency focused on photo ops chronicled by stenographers who call themselves reporters or, if they have more time, biographers.

Last week, we published here my eyewitness report, "Obama Chills at Irish Pub," about how President Obama celebrated St. Patrick's day with a pint of Guinness for a photo op with a distant cousin from Ireland. That's about as significant as Mitt Romney's professed yen, widely reported, for "cheesy grits" while campaigning in Mississippi this month.

President Obama and Dubliner CrowdWhatever their differences, Romney and Obama are each graduates of Harvard Law School.

Obama's up-from-the-bootstraps life story now places him, his family and all their cronies in similarly exclusive circles as the born-rich Romney, far into the future. They are not going to have to worry if the projected cuts in Medicare "entitlements" -- which could easily be called also "earned benefits" -- will soon make it hard for the aged, especially in rural or poor areas, to find doctors willing to provide competent services. Many will surely die prematurely.

But that's a hidden toll, much like the projected deaths of those who will perish from water-spread toxins from the BP Deep Water Horizon Gulf oil disaster in 2010, which the news media insist on minimizing as a "spill" or "leak."

Its long-latency disease victims and those ailing elsewhere with diminished access to Medicare are hardly likely hire top-tier DC lobbyists if they are too old and sick even to obtain medical care back home under the cuts that Washington's power-brokers are likely to implement after November's elections. 

Harvard-Yale Connections

It's a safe prediction that a Presidential contest between Harvard Law's Romney and Obama will feature two men demonstrably comfortable with today's system of fund-raising and "tough-love" solutions for the public. They'll obscure their similarities to some degree with largely meaningless symbolism to energize their constituencies. And the public will likely have scant substantial debate. And so the results will be pretty more of the same crony government. Except it will be worse this time because of continuing economic decline caused by long-term loss of well-paid jobs. That means crony government-capitalism results not simply in waste, but devastating cuts elsewhere for the public.

Roemer also is a Harvard man, albeit with a degree from the Business School (as Romney possesses also with his law degree). One way to regard this year's Presidential race is as an impressive meritocracy. Another perspective, however, is that it's all rather cozy, just like the current Supreme Court that is entirely comprised of alumni of Harvard or Yale (one attended Columbia also).

This year's race is shaping up like 2004 election that pitted Republican Yale Skull and Bonesman George W. Bush against Democratic Yale Bonesman John Kerry, whose fortune along with his wife's is estimated as at least several hundred million dollars and perhaps a billion. Bush, descended from more than a century of wealth, power and government decision-making at the highest levels, shared with Kerry in 2004 the distinction of being a 1960s member of Skull and Bones, the premier secret society at Yale College. Each year, it picks 15 members from the school's best-bred array of future leaders. Each Bonesman reputedly swears allegiance to the society and, at least implicitly, other members. Perhaps that's college foolishness. But for what's worth, some suspect there's more to it than that. 

To be sure, the Harvard experience is more diverse. For one thing, the Law School has more than 500-plus students per class. So it hardly could have the same tradition of mutual loyalty as a Yale secret society that accepts just 15 high-status recruits a year.

The larger point is that wealth and connections are deeply entrenched in our political system, and it's demonstrably the case that few reformers are being effective in changing the system. Even Ralph Nader, himself a Harvard Law grad, wrote as one of his most recent books, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us. The 733-pages were, in effect, an admission that grassroots reform isn't working, at least as of 2009.

Will a mainstream media too frightened to ask Obama about his grades ask him or Romney to document lobbying reforms? Not likely in any sustained way. It's for these reasons we need additional voices, including those of Roemer and Abramoff.

-- Andrew Kreig


Related News Coverage: Appendix II

Buddy Roemer

New Orleans Times-Picayune, Buddy Roemer, Jack Abramoff assail Washington corruption, Jonathan Tilove, March 23, 2012. It was a tony salon in a chandeliered room on Massachusetts Avenue Thursday evening to talk about corruption in Washington. It featured former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who has made campaign finance reform the central tenet of his campaign for the presidency, first as a Republican and now as an independent, and Jack Abramoff, the former super lobbyist, who did prison time for his excesses in trading favors for influence.(Romerr photo at right courtesy of Wikipedia and Gage Skidmore.)

Huffington Post, Don't Blame The Supreme Court For Citizens United -- Blame Congress, The FEC And The IRS, Dan Froomkin, March 24, 2012. The two most controversial campaign financing practices of the post-Citizens United era aren’t actually the Supreme Court’s fault. The court's conservative majority most certainly expected that its 2010 ruling, which granted First Amendment rights to corporations and equated money to speech, would unleash unprecedented amounts of political spending. But when people rail against Citizens United these days, they’re often complaining about two things in particular: the candidate-specific super PACs that implausibly claim to be independent of the candidates they’re backing, and the political slush funds that can accept unlimited secret donations by claiming to be issue-oriented nonprofits. Neither were inevitable byproducts of Citizens United -- or a subsequent lower court ruling.

Glen FordBlack Agenda Report (BAR) / OpEd News, Why Barack Obama is the More Effective Evil, Glen Ford (left), March 24, 2024, 2012. (BAR executive editor Glen Ford made the following presentation at the Left Forum, Pace University, New York City, March 17). No matter how much evil Barack Obama actually accomplishes during his presidency, people that call themselves leftists insist on dubbing him the Lesser Evil. Not only is Obama not given proper credit for out-evil-ing George Bush, domestically and internationally, but the First Black President is awarded positive grades for his intentions versus the presumed intentions of Republicans. This "is psycho-babble, not analysis. He has been more effective in Evil-Doing than Bush in terms of protecting the citadels of corporate power, and advancing the imperial agenda. He has put both Wall Street and U.S. imperial power on new and more aggressive tracks -- just as he hired himself out to do.

Justice Integrity Project, Abramoff Proposes Radical Reforms to Halt Lobbying Corruption, March 7, 2012. Jack Abramoff, the most famous Washington lobbyist of his era, this week described at the National Press Club his radical reform plan to thwart future corruption in the nation’s capital. Abramoff’s four-point plan goes far beyond those of most reformers. He seeks, for example, term limits plus a lifetime ban banning former law-makers from joining what Abramoff calls, “The Influence Industry.” He defines that industry as vastly broader than the term “lobbyist.” He said lawmakers have defined the term to exclude many influence-sellers. Upon close review, he said, "I probably wasn't a 'lobbyist.' It was astounding to me." Endorsing his reform hopes in Jack Abramoffgeneral were United Republic President Nick Penniman and Congress Watch Deputy Director Lisa Gilbert. (Press Club photo of Abramoff and Penniman by Noel St. John.)

Roemer for President, Gov. Roemer Stands With Occupy and Tea Party Movements, Buddy Roemer, Dec. 1, 2011. Governor Buddy Roemer today reiterated his support for the “Occupy” movement and implored activists of all political ideologies to support the basic right to free speech and protest. This comes in the wake of increased arrests, claims of health threats and public nuisance, and now court actions to determine when and where the protestors may demonstrate.  Roemer issued the following statement: “In the last week, the mainstream media have published even more misleading stories about the war of ideologies between the Tea Party and the Occupy movement. But in my mind, this misses the mark. The more important story is how we as a society treat people outside the mainstream. Politics by its very nature is disruptive.”  Roemer, who is the only Presidential candidate to both visit the Occupy movement and get standing ovations at Tea Party rallies, recently authored an op-ed entitled “Occupy the White House,” which states that he would invite the protesters to demonstrate at the White House “for as long as politics is corrupt in America.”

Huffington Post, Buddy Roemer Throws In His Lot With Americans Elect -- Which Is A Huge Mistake, Jason Linkins, Dec. 1, 2011. The real problem with Roemer tying his fortunes to Americans Elect is that Roemer has a clear, specific message, and Americans Elect has only a clear specific gimmick. In the resulting marriage, the latter completely neuters the former. Roemer has a very clear vision of what ails America, and it's not "partisanship." Rather, it's the corrupting influence of money in politics.

Daily Caller, Roemer will officially seek ‘Americans Elect’ nomination, Alexis Levinson, Nov. 30 updated to Dec. 1, 2011. Republican presidential candidate and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer announced Wednesday evening that he would officially seek the presidential nomination of Americans Elect, a group that seeks to secure ballot access for a bipartisan third-party ticket.

Fox News / Your World, Americans Elect could put Buddy Roemer on presidential ballot, Neil Cavuto interview with Buddy Roemer, Nov. 29, 2011. Roemer: There's no question it is a hard way to go, but look at me now. As a proud Republican, I have not been invited to a single debate. There have been 10 national debates. My average donation is $60. I need to be on a national debate. Most people in America don't even know I am running. I'm the only guy running who has been a congressman and a governor.

Slate, Americans Elect Will Save Our Democracy With Secret Money, Probably From Hedge Funds, David Weigel, Nov. 3, 2011. Dan Froomkin endured the latest "Americans Elect" dog and pony show yesterday and asked the right question: If they've raised $22 million, who's donating to them?  Kahlil Byrd, the group's CEO, said it is operating "completely within the bounds" of the law. He noted that unlike a traditional political group, "Americans Elect has no candidate and has no issue." As for the donors, he said, the reason they want to remain secret is to avoid political payback. "This is a very tough political environment," he said. "Retribution is real." Byrd also, perhaps contradictorily, described donating to the campaign as "a small act of courage." Well, okay. The group has $22 million. We only know where $1.58 million is coming from. Our only clue about the source of the funding comes, helpfully, from Tom Friedman's dippy press release column about the group: We know it's "financed with some serious hedge-fund money." Which hedge funds? What have they donated to in the past? Which candidates have the people donating to the group donated to in the past? AE is effectively a Super PAC for either 1) bupkis and total failure or 2) a wealthy candidate who can take over all the ballot lines painstakingly bought by AE.

Huffington Post, GOP 2012 Contender Roemer Decries Free Trade, DC Political Corruption, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 14, 2011. Republican 2012 Presidential candidate Buddy Roemer brought his message to my Washington Update radio show Oct. 13 with the kind of protectionist and anti-Wall Street language not usually heard from his party peers, much less bankers. Roemer sharply criticized the U.S. “free trade” bills with South Korea, Panama and Colombia that Congress passed this week with wide Republican support and President Obama’s encouragement.

Wall Street Journal, Manifesto Warns of Dangers Associated With an Empire, Alan Murray, July 15, 2003. An unusual manifesto is circulating through the e-mail boxes of prominent Washingtonians from an ad hoc group calling itself the "Committee for the Republic." Its five sponsors include conservative C. Boyden Gray, a White House lawyer in the first Bush administration; Chas. W. Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia; and Stephen Cohen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The manifesto is a work in progress, its authors say. But the goal is clear: to educate Americans about the dangers of empire.

Updated: Huffington Post, Koch Brothers, Chamber of Commerce Face Possible Campaign Donation Disclosure After Ruling, Paul Blumenthal, March 30, 2012. On Friday evening, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a ruling that could begin the process of revealing the identities of secret donors to groups connected to Karl Rove and the Koch brothers. The court ruled in Van Hollen v. Federal Election Commission that the FEC rules that restricted campaign donor disclosure are not valid and must be changed to provide for disclosure. "We are very happy to see the judge got it right," says Paul Ryan, a lawyer for the Campaign Legal Center, a campaign finance watchdog that was a part of the team challenging the FEC rules. Those rules state that donors to groups spending money on "electioneering communications," or advertisements that do not specifically call to elect or defeat a candidate, must only be disclosed if they specifically earmarked their donation to that particular expenditure. Since few, if any, donors to these groups ever earmark their donation for a specific election expense there was no disclosure. That FEC rule came in the wake of the 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC. That ruling overturned a ban, instituted by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, regarding direct corporate and union contributions to electioneering communications.

Washington Update Radio: Appendix III

Editor's Note: Several upcoming or archived episodes of the author's  MTL Washington Update weekly public affairs radio show heard nationally on Thursdays are relevant to this column. Among them are the planned appearance soon by novelist and longtime media executive Henry Scott, discussing London Comfort, his new Washington roman-de-clef / spoof on recent Presidential candidates. Recent episodes the radio show are available by archive, include interviews with Roemer on his campaign and with prominent author/journalists Sir Harold Evans, Amanda Smith, Lisa Bloom, Jack Fuller and James Hirsen -- each discussing the news business and its balance of celebrity- watching and watchdog-reporting. Visit the archive to hear guest interviews.

Henry Scott CoverUpcoming: Henry Scott will discuss his new novel, London Comfort: An American Idol's Dangerous Real World Adventure. Publisher synopsis: "The thinly disguised fiction portrays celebutante London Comfort, a seemingly brainless Hollywood celebrity who finds herself in the truly brainless world of Washington when a judge sentences her to community service as a White House tour guide." The country is being led by a moronic President, John Edsel, who welcomes the visiting leader of the nation of Georgia at a formal White House ceremony but confuses the visitor's country with the state of Georgia when he describe how much he loves the Atlanta Falcons. Comfort finds that her old coke-filled nights with Hollywood party boys are tame compared to what she finds in the White House -- a world just as exploitive but vastly more dangerous.

Scott, a former business and tabloid editor, says, "The book is about the intersection of sex and politics....The book also is, in part, a look at Americans' fascination with celebrity to the exclusion of competence. As it turns out, there was more to London Comfort than her fans first imagined. An interesting question is why do we always want to elect inexperienced celebrities (Barack Obama would fit in that camp) instead of sober and experienced public officials? We've fallen for the "outside the Beltway" argument, which makes sense to some degree, but not totally. I'd rather see Americans focus on reforming Washington so there's less influence-peddling and corruption in DC and so that we can comfortably re-elect competent and experienced politicians." For details, visit Amazon.com.

GOP 2012 Contender Decries Free Trade, Government Corruption, Oct. 13, 2011. Republican 2012 Presidential candidate Buddy Roemer brought his unique pro-growth and anti-corruption reform message to my Washington Update radio show. MTL Co-host Scott Draughon and I quizzed the former Louisiana governor and four-term congressman, who sharply criticized U.S. "free trade" bills with South Korea, Panama and Colombia that Congress passed this week with President Obama's encouragement. Roemer, a Harvard MBA degree-holder, called the agreements bad for the U.S. economy and workforce, and typical of special interest control of Washington.

Famed Editor Sir Harold Evans Reflects on Investigative Reporting Threats, Feb. 22, 2012. Sir Harold Evans -- one of the English-speaking world's most illustrious and powerful editors, authors and investigative reporters -- will be my radio guest on Feb. 23 to discuss current developments in journalism and his much-praised memoir: My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times. Especially newsworthy now is scandal in the United Kingdom involving claims that his former boss, Rupert Murdoch, used his journalists to electronically monitor celebrities and politicians. Separately but just as important to those who value in-depth reporting is a recent libel case in which Nathaniel Rothschild, one of Europe's richest men, sued the Daily Mail over an investigative report for 1.5 million pounds.

Lisa BloomLegal Analyst Lisa Bloom Urges Us To 'Think,' Nov. 20, 2011. Los Angeles litigator and CBS legal analyst Lisa Bloom wrote a compelling new book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World.

Kudos for New Bio of Pioneering Publisher Cissy Patterson, Jan. 18, 2012. The dramatic, history-making dynasty of the Medill-Patterson-McCormick family comes to life in a new biography by Amanda Smith, the featured guest Jan. 19 on Washington Update. Smith authored a marvelous new biography that is both highly entertaining and also highly useful in understanding the roots many of today’s major public policy issues. Newspaper Titan: The Infamous life and Monumental Times of Cissy Patterson is a 100-year survey of American history beginning roughly in the 1850s that encompasses Joseph Medill’s leadership of the nascent Republican Party and Chicago Tribune, as well as the remarkable careers of Patterson and three other grandchildren who helped shape the nation.

Jack FullerWhat Is Happening to the News? June 11, 2011. My radio show guest this week will be Jack Fuller, right, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, former Tribune Publishing Co. president and author of the insightful book, What Is Happening to the News. In answering that question, the veteran newsman reaches deep into psychology and other social studies to suggest how news is changing because the audience is changing. Fuller, a former attorney at the Justice Department during the early 1970s, introduces his book’s approach as follows: Across America, newspapers that have defined their cities for over a century are rapidly failing, their circulations plummeting even as opinion-soaked Web outlets like the Huffington Post thrive. Meanwhile, nightly news programs shock viewers with stories of horrific crime and celebrity scandal.  Is it any wonder that young people are turning away from the news entirely, trusting comedians like Jon Stewart as their primary source of information on current events?

Hollywood Columnist Describes Governor's Cover-up, May 25, 2011. Hollywood-based commentator and author James Hirsen appears on my radio show, Washington Update, on May 26 to discuss his column, “How Arnold Was Able to Keep His Secret.”  Hirsen, a Newsmax columnist and attorney, exposes one of Hollywood’s best-kept secrets: How a child born outside the marriage Arnold Schwarzenegger of movie star and two-term California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was kept hidden from family, friends and the press for 10 years.