Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How to Win Friends and Influence Congressmen

Rep. Jim Oberstar, the powerful chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, receives a new honor:

The University of St. Thomas School of Law has established the James L. Oberstar Professorship of Law and Public Policy to honor the Minnesota congressman and St. Thomas alumnus. Oberstar is a founding member of the law school's Board of Governors and has received the university's Distinguished Alumnus Award (1998) and an honorary doctor of laws degree (2002).

How many honors does St. Thomas need to give this guy? Maybe if he stays in Congress another 30 years and they'll declare him Archbishop. And now the Professorship of Law and Public Policy is named after him. The Professorship for Bike Trails and Pork Barrel Spending must have already been taken.

Speaking of which, here's the story of how you get a Professorship named after you:

The professorship will be funded by contributions from about 20 corporations and organizations affiliated with the transportation industry, with funds matched by the university.

Now why would 20 corporations and organizations affiliated with the transportation industry want to fund a professorship named after the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee?

Either it has something to do with this (from St. Thomas's announcement of the honor):

[Oberstar] has been influential in shaping the reauthorization every six years of legislation that funds highways, bridges and mass transit, and will oversee that process in 2009.

Or, as Glenn Reynolds put it in regard to the Senators claiming ignorance over why they got sweetheart mortgage deals from a company they were in charge of regulating:

It's nice to be a member of Congress. Everyone loves you and wants to help.

I cannot locate any listing of the specific corporations funding the Oberstar professorship. Free advice to any political reporters out there doing this job for a living. 1) Acquire that list. 2) Check for earmarks or any special treatment for those corporations coming out of Oberstar's committee in the recent past. 3) If none, wait for the upcoming session and see if any of those corporations have business in front of Oberstar's committee or receive any earmarks or special treatment. 4) Report findings. 5) Write speech for Pulitzer ceremony.

Postscript:

Another nugget from that St. Thomas Press release:

[Oberstar] is a past chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee, where he became known as Mr. Aviation.

For his sake, I guess it's a good thing he wasn't the Chairman of the Animal Husbandry subcommittee.

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