Sunlight Foundation targets Norm Coleman

Former Sen. Norm Coleman found gainful employment a few weeks ago, signing on with one of those power-wielding Washington, D.C., law firms that most folks have never heard of.

He won't actually ply the legal trade with Hogan Lovells as a senior government adviser, he'll exercise raw power in that gray area where "business and government intersect."

For Coleman, that intersection is his political money bundling operation, American Action Network. In the last election cycle, AAN spent $20 million on campaign ads for Republicans while legally shielding contributors from public view.

Coleman will be what Lisa Rosenberg at the Sunlight Foundation calls a "non-lobbyist lobbyist." While Hogan Lovells benefits from Coleman's insider connections, Coleman can use the firm's connections to grow his operation.

As the chairman of AAN, Coleman knows who donated money to ad campaigns that favored conservative candidates. The public doesn't.

As a non-lobbyist lobbyist, Coleman knows whose interests he represents before Congress. The public doesn't.

He can encourage his corporate clients at his new firm to contribute to ANN. He can decide the political races in which ANN will run ads.

He can let his former Senate colleagues know that, either as a favor or as a threat, AAN will spend heavily for or against their re-election campaigns.

As Rosenberg says, there's nothing illegal about this kind of thing -- at least not yet. In fact, it's the kind of thing Coleman likely would have protested against back in his long-haired-Nixon-hater days. But that was then. This is now.

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