Well, everyone seems to be back in town, not only the winners, but the losers in last November's election. The victors have taken their seats in the House and Senate, and the losers have taken theirs in one of Washington's 100,000 prestigious law firms.
Ex-Rep. Turtleback is one of the losers, if you call making $350,000 a year with Tort & Tort a losing proposition.
"I thought you'd go back to Wistful County after you lost your seat," I said.
"You ever been in Wistful County?" Turtleback asked me.
"Can't say that I have," I admitted. "All I know about it is what you said on the floor of the House--that it was America's biblical Garden of Eden."
"I'm not on the floor anymore, and Wistful County is the pits. I'm not just saying that because I lost the election after serving the people there for 20 years. It was the pits when I first came to Congress, and it's the pits now."
"Did you ever practice law before you got elected to public office?"
"No, and I don't intend to practice it now. I'm going to be the rainmaker at Tort & Tort."
"What's a rainmaker?"
"The fellow that makes it rain new business on the firm because of the people he knows. I may be out of office but I still have friends who owe me a few favors."
"Then you're going to be an influence peddler."
"Never. My job is to provide advice and consent to the private sector, which can't operate under the oppressive laws passed by a vindictive anti-business Congress," he said. "Clients will come to me, not because of the influence I still wield, but because of my expertise in getting around the overbearing rules and regulations I demanded when I served the people."
"I can see where Tort & Tort would want you to be a partner in their firm," I said. "Will you also provide lobbying services?"
"You can't be a rainmaker in Washington if you are not willing to stand up for the things your clients believe in. The reason ex-congressmen and ex-senators are in demand by Washington law firms is that we have access to our former colleagues on the floor, not to mention the use of the congressional dining rooms and the gym. It's amazing how much law you can practice when you're doing Jane Fonda exercises with the chairman of a House or Senate committee."
"And they don't treat you any differently because you are no longer a member of Congress?"
"They treat you better, because now that you're with a big law firm you are a potential source of funds for their future political campaigns."
"What about the Administration? How do they look on you?"
"Kindly. If you were a former Republican congressman, they want to make it up to you for losing your election. And if you were a former Democratic congressman, they are so delighted that you are no longer in opposition that they'll go overboard to show they don't hold grudges."
"You can't say Washington doesn't take care of its own."
"Had I known then what I know now I would have lost an election 10 years ago," he said.
The phone rang and Turtleback picked it up. "Willy, how are you? How are things at Wistful Tools? . . . You don't say? The Navy refuses to pay you for the Snail Darter tool kit? . . . They claim you overcharged them by $10 million? No problem, Willy, we'll not only get your money, but we'll get an apology from the Pentagon." Turtleback hit the Tort & Tort timer on his desk and then said, "Tell me the story."
After 20 minutes he hung up and winked at me. Then he broke into song: "I'm singing in the rain, singing in the rain. What a glorious feeling, da de, da da da."