Lobbyist Gets a Little Help from Friends

Article excerpt

Are major corporations hedging their bets by hiring Vice President Al Gore's best friend as a lobbyist?

And why would the Clinton administration appoint this lobbyist to a bipartisan, high-ranking congressional commission on entitlement reform?

With his one-year lobbying ban barely over, former New York Rep. Thomas J. Downey has rushed back through the revolving door and signed on to lobby Congress for some of America's biggest and best-known corporations. What makes Downey's new career so interesting is also what makes him so attractive to his new clients: His connections with the administration run deep.

Downey always has been vocal about his friendship with Gore. "The bitter irony about it is that my best friend just became the vice president, and I'm not going to be there to help him in the next Congress," Downey told the New York Times the night of his defeat.

However, it looks like Downey will be a player anyway. According to federal lobbying reports filed with the clerk of the House, Downey and his firm, Thomas J. Downey and Associates, have been hired by Time Warner for "all legislation affecting telecommunications and trade," by U.S. Healthcare and Medco Containment Services for "all legislation affecting health reform including the Health Security Act," and by Monitor Aerospace Corp. for "all legislation affecting defense conversion."

In addition, Downey's company has been retained by Metropolitan Life and Affiliated Cos. and Du Pont for "all legislation affecting environment and health care, including the superfund reauthorization and Health Security Act," by Breakthrough Technologies Institute for "all legislation affecting fuel cell technology and development," by Joseph E. Seagrams & Sons for "all legislation affecting excise taxes and trade," and by United Feather and Down for "all legislation affecting HR 1741," which is the duty-tax issue on imported feathers.

Downey is a onetime liberal wunderkind. Elected to the House at age 25, he made a name for himself as leading critic of the arms race and defender of the environment. He often was mentioned as a future chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and even as a possible presidential candidate. He served as the acting chairman of the Human Resources committee and a member of the Trade subcommittee--all of which Downey now will lobby on behalf of his new clients. …