Thomas Frank on Bob Ney, K Street, and exactly who runs who

Monday, August 21, 2006 at 05:50 PM

From Thomas Frank's column in the August 19, 2006 NY Times, titled What Is K Street's Project?

Representative Bob Ney, the Ohio Republican who did such generous favors for the casino clients of Jack Abramoff, announced his retirement from Congress on Aug. 7; the next morning The Washington Post reported that he had acted under pressure from his fellow Ohioan John Boehner, who is said to have told Ney that, if he stood for re-election and lost, he "could not expect a lucrative career on K Street."

This is one of those remarkable moments when the rhetoric falls away and the mysteries of conservative government are briefly revealed: K Street, synonymous with the corporate lobbying industry, will not abide a man whose reputation imperils the Republican majority, even though he has earned that reputation in the service of K Street's leading personality. Irredeemably tainted by his work for K Street (pronounces K Street, via the trusty Boehner), Bob Ney is now ineligible for public office. The corporate lobbying industry demands that the voters of southeastern Ohio submit a different Republican to Washington.

Besides, there are Ney's children to think of, as Boehner helpfully pointed out. They are of college age now, and college, as we all know, is damnably expensive. If Ney wants his descendants to remain on the right side of the nation's growing class divide, he must have K Street's money. So the word comes down from the industry: The time has passed for "freedom fries" and sushi at Jack Abramoff's restaurant. Bob Ney must fall on his sword, doing K Street's bidding in political death as he did in life.

Frank, the author of What's the Matter with Kansas, is proving to be a very insightful and articulate observer of our ever-more wobbly world in the 21st century.