In an ironic twist, a D.C.-based law firm and lobbying shop whose head lobbyist was connected to a million-dollar ad campaign that helped defeat former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) last year has approached Daschle about joining the firm.
The firm is McDermott, Will & Emery, whose top lobbyist, Stan Anderson, heads its government-relations function.
Although Daschle is not a lawyer, he could be brought on by McDermott to help land meetings with Senate Democrats, which apparently would place him under Anderson’s wing.
Patrick G. Ryan
|Former Sen. Tom Daschle|
Anderson is one of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s gurus on tort reform. Last year the Chamber spent $400,000 to air television and radio ads in South Dakota blasting Daschle for “killing” reform of medical-malpractice lawsuits. The Chamber also flooded the state with direct mail criticizing Daschle for his opposition to GOP tort-reform proposals.
Tort reform is the No. 1 issue of the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, of which Anderson is executive vice president and legal counsel.
Anderson told The Hill that “lawyers in the firm have talked to” Daschle about working with McDermott. However, he said that he himself has not contacted Daschle but that “one of the other partners in the firm” handled the discussions.
Harvey Freishtat, McDermott’s chairman, referred questions about Daschle to Tim Waters, head of its D.C. office, who said the firm does not comment on prospective recruits.
Daschle also declined to talk about his dealings with McDermott.
“I would rather not comment on any of my current discussions with firms and organizations with whom I have been in contact,” Daschle wrote in an e-mail to The Hill.
The Chamber’s role in the 2004 South Dakota race is still seared in the memories of some former Daschle staffers.
Dan Pfeiffer, who served as Daschle’s deputy campaign manager, said the Chamber’s TV and radio ads on tort reform warned South Dakotans that “rural doctors were going to go out of business because of Daschle’s opposition to medical-malpractice legislation.”
He said those ads were followed by direct-mail pieces that attacked Daschle on malpractice and others attacking his character and his choice of an upscale Washington, D.C., residence.
“It was almost indistinguishable from what the RNC, the South Dakota Republican Party and the Thune campaign were doing,” he said, referring to the Republican National Committee and newly elected Republican Sen. John Thune. “It was a very well coordinated smear campaign.”
But Pfeiffer emphasized that the Chamber “focused a lot of their energy on medical malpractice.”
Bill Miller, the Chamber’s political director, said his organization spent about $400,000 on airing a tort-reform attack of Daschle on TV and radio. He said that it also hired 55 canvassers in the state and dispatched 13 separate direct mailings aimed at Daschle.
Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said that it isn’t unusual for former foes to team up after political careers are finished.
Ornstein recalled visiting two former Senate majority and minority leaders, George Mitchell (D-Maine) and Bob Dole (R-Kan.), who worked together at the same firm after their Senate careers.
“They used to go at each other with hammer and tong all the time [in the Seante], and there they were close colleagues,” Ornstein said.
Former Sen. Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), who served alongside Daschle in the Senate, said the former leader would be especially valuable for Republican-leaning or pro-business employers.
“Clearly a person like Daschle who has so many contacts, knows so much about the process and operated at the highest level of the Senate would be an invaluable commodity,” he said. “I would suspect there are many people who would like to engage his services who do not have a base in the Senate Democratic caucus.”