The New School tried for months to get former Senator Chris Dodd to be the keynote speaker at its November 2013 Corruption Conference.
Dodd, who is now heads the Motion Picture Association of America, finally turned them down this week.
But why invite Dodd to keynote a conference on corruption?
After all, Dodd was mired in corruption controversies of his own — think Countrywide Financial — is a poster child for the corrupt beltway revolving door, and raised a ton of money from Wall Street for his Senate and presidential runs.
“Inviting Chris Dodd to a conference on corruption is like inviting Johnny Manziel to a conference on humility,” said Jeff Connaughton, author of the book The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins.
“Contrary to the Brits’ claim that Americans are incapable of irony, the New School demonstrated an exquisite sense of irony in inviting Chris Dodd to be its keynote speaker at their conference on corruption,” said William Black, author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, and a professor at the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law. “An insider’s perspective on an issue often adds greatly to an academic discussion.”
New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich, other of This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!-in America’s Gilded Capital, recounted how, when Dodd retired from the Senate, he asked the Senator whether he was going to become an inside the beltway lobbyist.
“I remember having lunch with him in the Senate dining room and saying, ‘So what are you going to do now?’” Leibovich said on a recent appearance on the Bill Moyers show Moyers & Company. “And he said — ‘Oh, boy, the possibilities are endless. I mean, I could be a college president. I might go out to work for some startup. I might rejoin the Peace Corps.’ I mean, he had this look of possibility. And I said, ‘So you’re not going to lobby, right?’ And he said, ‘Oh no, no, no, take that off the table right, right now.’”
“And he is now head of one of the most powerful lobbies in town, the Motion Picture Association of America. You know, he would say that, ‘Well, I’m not registered to lobby, technically.’ And it’s true. But he also oversees a staff of lobbyists. And the chapter about that is — I talk about just the institutionalization of being part of the political class.”
“Do you think he lied to you?” Moyers asked Leibovich.
“He would say that his thinking evolved,” Leibovich said.
New School spokesperson Sam Biederman says Dodd was invited to speak because of “his leadership in passing the regulatory reform law Dodd-Frank.”
Biederman said it’s not an issue now that Dodd is not going to keynote.
Biederman pointed to a list of participants at the conference.
Which includes Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.
The Center studies and reports on money in politics.
In 2009, the Center published an article titled — Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, a Favorite of Wall Street, Leads Regulatory Reform Fight.
And another titled — Chris Dodd’s Wife Financially Tied to Health Companies.