"Is there any group of people held in lower regard than lobbyists? Car salesmen? Journalists? Here's one possibility: Lobbyists who are thinking about becoming politicians."-- Dan Bice column in the Journal Sentinel,Dec. 6, 2007.
Bice was writing about Bill McCoshen, left, but it could have been about Tommy Thompson, who's thinking about coming back through the revolving door to run for office again.
Bill McCoshen's all over the news these days, talking like the unofficial spokesman for the might-be, could-be but maybe-not Tommy Thompson campaign for US Senate.
McCoshen also took time this week to trash the state's (and Democrat Jim Doyle's) record on job creation, in an appearance in Beloit where he relied on data from the conservative (read Republican) Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. "Forward may be the state motto, but it's going backward," McCoshen said. Cute.
Some people watching and reading the news may be wondering just who this McCoshen guy is. The Beloit Daily News story, at the very end,gave his official bio, right off his firm's website:
McCoshen is the Senior Vice President of CapitolConsultants, a firm specializing in government relations, public affairs and issues-based grassroots advocacy. Before joining Capitol Consultants, McCoshen was appointed by Gov. Tommy Thompson to be the Secretary of the
Wisconsin Department of Commerce...
At the age of 29, McCoshen was the youngest cabinet secretary ever appointed in Wisconsin history. Prior to being appointed the Secretary of Commerce, he was the manager of Governor Thompson’s historic third-term campaign victory. Before taking a leave from state government to serve as Governor Thompson’s campaign manager, McCoshenserved as Governor Thompson’s chief of staff, according to the Capitol Consultants Web site.
Now, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story:
It's said that boy wonder McCoshen and Thompson had a father-son relationship. That might help explain why McCoshen thought he could get Tommy to approve a Kenosha casino, and signed a secret agreement with investors in 1997 that would have paid McCoshen's firm $46-million if the project was approved by Thompson. State gaming investigators said McCoshen would have done virtually no work for the money except getting his father figure to sign the deal. McCoshen must have been disappointed when Thompson resigned his office before any deal was signed.
As the first Mayor Daley of Chicago said, when caught tipping lucrative insurance contracts to one of his sons, "If a man can't put his arms around his sons and help them, then what's the world coming to?"
McCoshen's lobbying firm is one of the state's biggest. Even without the casino jackpot, he's rolling in dough. His cllient list includes road builders, drug maker Pfizer, a pay day loan company, liquor interests, Wal-Mart, a health insurance firm. Here's the list. One of his clients is America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the lobbying arm the health insurance industry, which is funding a new round of national ads aimed at killing reform.
But, hey, everyone has a right to a lobbyist, right? It's the American way.
McCoshen has long yearned for political office himself. Bice's 2007 column was prompted by McCoshen considering as run for governor this year -- quite a leap from his lobbyist job.
He considered challenging the Republican incumbent, Scott McCallum, for lieutenant governor in 1998 until Tommy stepped on the idea.
So now he's cast once more in the role of being Tommy's adoring stepson, strewing rose petals in his path to prepare the way for a Senate bid.
McCoshen gushed about the possible Thompson candidacy on Mike Gousha's Tv program: "He's got the right people in the room. He's got people that have been involved in successful Republican statewide campaigns here. You know, I'll tell you what, if I were running statewide I'd want the people around methat he's got around him right now."
Like Bill McCoshen, presumably.
Thompson doesn't call himself a lobbyist, and the Journal Sentinel gives him the courtesy of calling him a consultant. If he doesn't lobby directly himself, then his role is that of influence peddler. The DC lobbying shop he works for, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, doesn't call itself a lobbying firm either. It says it's a law firm. It is up to its ears in lobbying and influence peddling, which is what made Thompson a good fit.
Bob Wood, a former Thompson chief of staff and current President of Washington’s most elite GOP lobbying firm, Barbour, Griffith, Rogers, has registered websites for Thompson’s campaign and Thompson will be speaking at a Republican event there next month, which prompted John Sylvester, known as Sly on Madison radio, to say:
"Tommy Thompson will be launching his Senate Campaign not from Elroy, Waukesha, or Madison but from the office ofone of the biggest Republican lobbying firms in Washington. I've never heard of such a craven disregard for the people of Wisconsin. This isn't a Senate campaign, its a corporate heist." Audio.