In response to Sen. Tom Udall’s (D-NM) bipartisan attempt to reform the Senate, today the Heritage Foundation will host an event in defense of the Senate filibuster. In the first two years of the Obama presidency, Senate Republicans have obstructed through procedure, blocking a stunning record number judgeships, administration appointees, and pieces of legislation, all with as little as one to forty-one votes. For example, using a “secret hold,” which allows a single senator to block a bill or nominee, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) prevented a veterans’ benefits bill from debate; the two Republican senators from Tennessee stopped legislation that would level the playing field between FedEx and UPS; and, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) ensured that Obama’s nominee to head the TSA could not be confirmed during the period leading up to the Detroit Christmas-day bomber.
Heritage has applauded this dictatorship of the minority by hailing Republicans for exploiting loopholes in Senate parliamentary rules. But the status quo has little to do with “tradition” — filibusters have never been used as they were in the past two years by Senate Republicans. Rather, Senate obstruction benefits corporate interests looking to delay or kill regulations, reforms and taxes.
For today’s event, Heritage has invited lobbyists who personify the very problems of Senate obstruction to speak in support of the current Senate rules. Steven Duffield, one of Heritage’s experts for the event, is a GOP operative and the president of Endgame Strategies LLC, a lobbying firm he founded. According to Roll Call, Duffield, a former aide to Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the Republican whip in the Senate, created his firm to help his clients work with Senate Republicans to “use their power to filibuster to hold up legislation.” Duffield’s lobbying website advertises that he can help his clients find just the right “backbench Senate Republicans” to “exercise their prerogatives to delay or obstruct” controversial legislation:
Managing Holds and Filibusters. Your organization has an interest in a bill that has proven controversial and you require advocacy before those legislators – often backbench Senate Republicans – who may exercise their prerogatives to delay or obstruct. Endgame Strategies will give you new ways to manage your interests in a legislative environment that gives great power to individual senators.
Although Duffield does not disclose his full client list, Duffield’s LinkedIn profile says he serves “corporate” clients. Joining Duffield for the Heritage panel is another lobbyist whose business has monetized the broken Senate, Bill Wichterman. A longtime Republican operative who was caught funneling donations to a Green Party candidate to boost his ally Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) in 2006, Wichterman now works at the firm Covington & Burling representing a variety of corporate clients, including the mercenary company Xe Services (formerly known as Blackwater), a copper company, and Avantis Medical Systems. Like Duffield, Wichterman’s firm specializes in helping corporations win legislative battles by simply exploiting Senate procedures. Martin Gold, a colleague to Wichterman at Covington & Burling, advertised the firm in a fairly candid pitch for a lobbying seminar:
Can you turn Congressional rules and procedures into a tactical advantage for achieving your policy goals? Absolutely!
While he helps corporations place secret holds for his corporate clients, Duffield has elected a new crew of Republican senators to boost his business. In addition to his lobbying gig, Duffield serves as “Policy Director” of Crossroads GPS, the undisclosed corporate front group that helped elect Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and other freshmen Republican senators. By granting Duffield and Wichterman a platform to promote Senate obstruction, Heritage is doing a service for corporate lobbyists.