Welcome to the preview edition of our weekly, members-only Sludge column to let you know about the sludgiest characters in politics!
Let’s get right to the sludge.
5. Revolving-Door Swamp Creatures
In the latest revolving-door news, former Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Ryan Costello plans to open a corporate lobbying shop as soon as his one-year “cooling-off” period expires in January. (Members are barred from officially lobbying their former colleagues for a year after leaving Congress, although there’s plenty of shadow lobbying going on. Be sure to check out the Center for Responsive Politics’ new shadow lobbying report.) This year he’s been doing policy work that is 100%, absolutely, undeniably “in no way lobbying” at all. Costello says he’ll apply his expertise in telecom, tech, pharma, health insurance, energy and transportation when lobbying on behalf of his corporate clients. (The Hill)
The White House’s recent Cabinet secretary, William McGinley, is also headed for greener pastures (pun intended). Trump’s top liaison with government agencies will now become a principal at The Vogel Group, a bipartisan government affairs and business consulting firm. He can’t lobby the White House for five years, due to ethics rules, but he’s free to lobby Congress any time. McGinley is one of many ex-Trump staffers who appear to suffer no professional penalties for helping run the most corrupt administration in modern history. (The Hill)
4. Tom Steyer, Debate Slot Purchaser
Yes, it’s possible to buy yourself a spot on the presidential debate stage. Liberal hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer has spent the past few years plastering his name, and a call to impeach Trump, in Times Square and all over the internet. Many speculated this was really an effort to amass a giant email list he could use for personal political gain—and that seems to be exactly the case. In July, he entered the Democratic presidential primary, vowing to spend $100 million on his campaign. Let me repeat that: $100 million of his own money. This is *not* what democracy looks like, folks.
While former Rep. John Delaney’s enormous wealth and self-funding couldn’t keep his incessant fearmongering over Medicare for All on the debate stage for very long (shocking!), Steyer has been more savvy in his approach to national prowess. He entered the race relatively late, and his giant warchest and decent name recognition have allowed him to do well enough in the polls and raise enough small donations to qualify for the fourth Democratic presidential debate on Oct. 15.
Steyer has been funding independent political spending groups for a while now, but to be honest, I’m pretty surprised about this new factoid: He recently gave $2.7 million to a super PAC he founded, Need to Impeach, as it continues advocating for Trump’s ouster. Steyer resigned from the super PAC, but this is quite shady. Sure, the group probably won’t directly advocate for Steyer’s campaign, but it’s already linked to Steyer and obviously has the same message to spread. Its website’s front page still has a big photo and bio under the heading, “MEET TOM STEYER.”
Steyer’s 2020 campaign funded publicity of his decision to give millions to Need to Impeach, according to a screen shot from reporter Dave Levinthal.