by Irvin Muchnick and Tim Joyce
A high-stakes game is playing out behind the scenes in Washington while USA Swimming chief Chuck Wielgus tries to convince Congressman George Miller and his staff at the House Committee on Education and the Workforce that the scandal of power-tripping coaches who sexually abuse their young athletes on a wide scale, then get their crimes covered up and even rewarded by our national sport governing body, is all hype from a couple of “personal bloggers.”
Lobbying dollars are the mother’s milk of the nation’s capital. With that in mind, we turned to the database at http://opensecrets.org, the website of the Center for Responsive Politics, to see what is known about the dry land exercises in this field by USA Swimming and its parent U.S. Olympic Committee.
Let’s start with the disclaimer that quarterly reporting by federal lobbyists is of limited usefulness. The reporting forms only cover ranges of money spent. “$0” means between $0 and $20,000.
USA Swimming shows up in the database as having hired FaegreBD Consulting in 2009 ($54,000), 2010 ($63,000), and 2011 (“$0”). They did not report lobbying activity in 2012 or so far for 2013.
FaegreBD, formerly B&D Consulting, is an Indianapolis-based firm stocked with revolving-door ex-Congressional staffers — an offshoot of the Baker & Daniels law firm. It was where Jack Swarbrick worked before becoming athletic director at Notre Dame. Swarbrick also helped write USA Swimming’s mission statement years ago, and he advised the organization, beginning in the late 1990s, that its sexual abuse issue was a time bomb. (And the same can be said of the football player rapists on his own South Bend campus these days.) For more on Swarbrick and swimming, see:
USOC is in the lobbying database for every year since 1999. Filings for so far this year show a total of $180,000 from USOC and its subsidiary U.S. Anti-Doping Agency via high-powered lobbyists Crane Group, Monument Policy Group, Manatos & Manatos, and American Continental Group.
However much cash the swimming moguls flash inside the Beltway, let’s all hope it’s no more successful than their recent heavy-handed and futile tactics — in concert with the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts — to thwart new California legislation, SB 131, which re-opens USA Swimming’s exposure to a new round of civil lawsuits by victims there.