Your Government At Work: A Congresswoman’s Lobbyist Shakedown

Big Government got its hands on a rather enlightening voice mail left by District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton:

“I was, frankly, uh, uh, surprised to see that we don’t have a record, so far as I can tell, of your having given to me despite my uh, long and deep uh, work. In fact, it’s been my major work, uh, on the committee and sub-committee it’s been essentially in your sector.

I am, I’m simply candidly calling to ask for a contribution. As the senior member of the um, committee and a sub-committee chair, we have (chuckles) obligations to raise, uh funds. “

The truth, of course, is that Norton is doing anything that any other politician or candidate for office hasn’t done. The only difference, as Ed Morrissey notes, is that she was dumb enough to let herself be recorded doing it:

The only difference between Holmes Norton and her colleagues appears to be that she’s not smart enough to avoid leaving her shakedown message on a recording. This kind of fundraising usually gets left to staffers, who are more discreet in their pitch. It’s a measure of the desperation among Democrats to get funds from safe seats like that of Holmes Norton that can be transferred to other Democrats who are in big trouble this year.

So it would seem.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Tano says:

    What is the story here? How on earth can you justify your title? How is this a shakedown?
    She is asking for a contribution. Something that every elected official does every single day. She is not negotiating for a contribution, she is not promising to deliver some vote or some boondoggle. She is doing absolutely nothing wrong here. Why are you implying that she is? Why is she “dumb” for being recorded here? Do you seriously wish to claim that you, or anyone else in the world, believed that our political system worked some other way such that elected officials received these contributions without asking for them?

  2. sam says:

    Yeah, where’s the shakedown? As I understand the term, there has to be some extortionate threat. Where’s that?

  3. wr says:

    I understand why Breitbart calls this a shakedown. He’s a sleazeball who will do anything to destroy Democrats. But why are you following his lead? What has she done wrong here?

  4. The quid pro quo here is rather obvious. In fact, it’s entirely possible that Norton crossed an ethical line here by making the quid pro quo so obvious in her message.

    Again, she isn’t doing anything that any other politicians doesn’t do. She just got caught

  5. sam says:

    Yeah, so I still ask, where’s the “shakedown”?

  6. sam says:

    shake·down (shkdoun)
    1. Slang Extortion of money, as by blackmail.

  7. Tano says:

    What quid pro quo????
    What did she promise to do? What was offered?
    This is pure BS.

  8. Juneau: says:

    What’s wrong Tano and sam?  Your usual grasp of the regulatory statutes involved in an issue suddenly and mysteriously dessert you?  The very fact that this woman mentions her prominent position, and that her decisions are influential in the industry she is soliciting a “donation” from, constitutes a clear breach of legal restrictions which are in place exactly to prohibit this type of activity.
    Can you say, selective indignation?

  9. Tano says:

    As I said, pure BS. There is no legal restriction to this type of activity. This is how every politician spends at least part of every one of their days. Republicans are, if anything, even less subtle about it. They were pioneers in awarding committee chairmanships on the basis of the bottom line of money raised. Which is why there is such intense competition to get on committees that regulate the very rich sectors of the economy – like Finance committees.
    If you don’t like it, then maybe you should enter into the grand debate about campaign finance reform. But of course, the advocates on your side of the aisle have always argued against any form of constraint on private money in politics – so that only doubles your hypocrisy on this issue. Not only does every politician that you support do exactly the same thing that Norton was doing here, but your ideology demands that this be the only possible way that politics can be played.

  10. Juneau: says:

    Nice non-response.  No facts to back up your assertions, lots of good personal contempt, with just a dash of “neener,neener,neener.”
    Applicable section of her voicemail:
    I am, I’m simply candidly calling to ask for a contribution. As the senior member of the um, committee and a sub-committee chair, we have (chuckles) obligations to raise, uh funds. And, I think it must have been me who hasn’t, frankly, uh, done my homework to ask for a contribution earlier. So I’m trying to make up for it by asking for one now, when we particularly, uh, need, uh contributions, particularly those of us who have the seniority and chairmanships and are in a position to raise the funds.

    You’d have to be an idiot to not know where she was going here by emphasizing her position.  Not to mention the fact that she doesn’t even have a need to contact lobbyists to raise funds at all; she doesn’t have a vote, represents no one in any practical way so who is she trying to raise money for?

    She’s just another liberal on the take…

  11. Tano says:

    You’d have to be an idiot to not know where she was going here by emphasizing her position.

    So tell us – where is she going? Where is the quid and where is the quo?
    I mean, obviously, beyond the fact that she is asking for money. She mentions the importance of her position to make it clear that if they are passing out money only to some members, then she should be included, because she is a big shot. But there is absolutely zero here about trading her vote for a contribution, or anything of that sort.
    When elected officials ask for money, which, I repeat for the third time unnecessarily since you know it is true, they obviously will mention some relevant facts like, I sit on such and such a committee, or I am a big shot. They are trying to convince the person to cough up money – what do you think they will say?
    If you think this is being “on the take”, then you must obviously believe that every elected Republican is also on the take. Let me here you actually try to argue differently.