It’s a funny thing about Washington: everyone complains about it, but no one ever seems to leave. Take former House leader Richard Gephardt. The Missouri Democrat twice ran for president as a voice of organised labour. Today he pockets $7m a year to lobby on behalf of corporate clients and advise them on busting unions. Or consider former journalist Jeffrey Birnbaum, who used to write exposés of the lobbying trade for The Wall Street Journal. Today he works for Haley Barbour, Mississippi’s Republican former governor who is now one of the most influential lobbyists in Washington.
Such fables of political principles discarded, betrayed or rented by the hour fill the pages of Mark Leibovich’s alarming and amusing new book This Town . Mr Leibovich captures the Gilded Age atmosphere of a capital where influence has been commoditised and marketed as never before. It is a gallery of rogues – some charming, some merely roguish – who flourish as the capital’s fundraisers, fixers, party-givers and talking heads. Continue reading »