John Ashcroft Spreads His Mighty Wings


What's the no-dancin', firm believin', eagle-soarin', rock-ribbed ex-Singin' Senator up to these days?

Oh yes. Wallowing in the slime that is Washington lobbying. Ashcroft is representing the National Association of Broadcasters in their effort to prevent the XM-Sirius merger. NAB is spending lots of money in a strange campaign which aims to prove that the XM-Sirius merger will have absolutely no effect whatsoever on the National Association of Broadcasters.

Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney explains Ashcroft's, um, interesting display of principle in all of this:

Would NAB really pay top-dollar for such a well-connected lobbyist as John Ashcroft if they didn't think the merger would affect their business?

Ashcroft's role provides another interesting twist to this tale. A spokesman at XM told The Wall Street Journal that Ashcroft offered his services to the satellite companies, who declined.

Then the NAB retained Ashcroft and he wrote a letter to his successor, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, bashing the proposed merger. While those facts suggest the former public servant is selling his firm beliefs to the highest bidder, Ashcroft's spokeswoman says consulting with both sides of a dispute is standard practice in the world of Washington lobbying.

In cesspool that is Washington lobbying, that explanation has some ring of truth to it. That doesn't make it any less dirty.

Of course, most lobbyists aren't the former U.S. attorney general—and for an administration that's still in power. Not to mention an attorney general who made personal integrity the centerpiece of his battle for confirmation (a talking points campaign that seems to have swept up none other than Tim Carney!).

Me, I wonder if XM and Sirius would have fared a bit better in the public marketplace if they could have spend all the money they've had to spend fighting legal and regulatory battles on making a better product. Not to mention, as Jesse Walker has noted, the prospect that satellite radio could well be profitable by now were it not for the FCC's insistence (thanks in no small part to NAB lobbying) that there be only two licenced satellite providers in the U.S.