WorldNetDaily's Jerome Corsi has proposed a harebrained conspiracy theory purporting to detail a sinister web of "financial ties" between White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, and BP led to the Obama administration being "compromised" in efforts to regulate the oil giant. The conspiracy goes as follows:
- "Emanuel lived for five years rent-free in an apartment owned by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and her husband, Stanley Greenberg." (Corsi later notes that DeLauro has stated that they don't have a "separate apartment," just a spare bedroom where friends sometimes stay.)
- Greenberg's firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, did consulting work for BP's "Beyond Petroleum" theme.
- Therefore, as payback for the rent-free room, Emanuel decided not to regulate BP
There's also a side-conspiracy in which Emanuel, as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, "paid Greenberg's firm $239,996 in 2006 and $317,775 in 2008" for consulting work, also as payback for the rent-free room. (This part of the conspiracy comes from Dick Morris, so you know it's good.)
It's difficult to say who should be more insulted by this ludicrous crap: Emanuel, Greenberg, or Corsi's readers. Incidentally, the theory's blistering stupidity hasn't stopped Andrew Malcolm or Jonah Goldberg from running with it.
So basically, Corsi is alleging that in exchange for living rent-free in Greenberg's house, Emanuel gave Greenberg $500,000 in polling contracts and decided not to regulate one of Greenberg's clients. The theory crumbles for the same reason most conspiracies do -- there are far simpler, more rational explanations for what happened. For example:
No evidence, undefined motive on BP suggestions. It should go without saying that Corsi provides no evidence whatsoever for his suggestion that Emanuel directed the administration not to regulate BP as a favor to Greenberg. For that matter, Greenberg's purported motive for wanting such a thing to happen is pretty sketchy. Greenberg runs a strategic research firm, not a lobbying shop -- according to the case study detailed on the firm's website, they "helped BP plan and evaluate its successful re-branding campaign, focusing the company's branding on energy solutions, including the development of solar and other renewable energy sources." Corsi offers no evidence -- or even speculation -- that suggests that Greenberg would benefit in any way from less-than-stringent regulation of BP.
What is Emanuel's motivation? Emanuel made more than $16 million as an investment banker from 1999-2002. It's not like Greenberg took him in when Emanuel had no other options and saved him from having to live on the street -- Emanuel obviously could have afforded to rent an apartment. Instead, he decided to live in his friend's basement. For Emanuel, the benefit he's receiving in a purported deal in which he gets to live rent-free in Greenberg's basement and in return, Greenberg is rewarded with DCCC contracts and one of his clients avoids regulation seems fairly minimal.
By contrast, the downside risks seem extreme. Before joining the Obama administration, Emanuel's long-term goal was to become Speaker of the House. As head of the DCCC, Emanuel's goal was to win back the House. If Emanuel failed at the DCCC -- for example, if he had given a lesser pollster $500,000 in contracts in exchange for living in the guy's basement and that pollster provided bad advice that prevented Democrats from winning elections -- that would have seriously hurt his ability to achieve his goals. Not a good deal for Emanuel. Similarly, the downside risks of lax regulation of BP include a massive oil spill. Again, bad deal for Emanuel. So why would he make it?
Greenberg is one of the most storied pollsters in Democratic politics. The idea that Greenberg got those DCCC contracts as payback for the free rent is just nuts. In 2006, he was the only Democratic pollster working who had ever gotten a non-incumbent elected President, other than Pat Caddell, who had already joined the right-wing freak show at that point. Doesn't Greenberg sound like exactly the sort of person you'd want to hire to do your polling, if you were trying to take back the House? Which makes more sense -- that Greenberg got the contracts on the basis of his record as one of the most successful Democratic pollsters, or that he got them as part of a pay off for letting Emanuel sleep in his basement?
Emanuel and Greenberg are friends. In his autobiography, Greenberg writes that the pair first "bonded working on some of my first congressional races" in the 1980s. It was Greenberg who brought Emanuel on to Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign. When Greenberg's daughter got married, Emanuel performed the ceremony. Which makes more sense -- that Greenberg let Emanuel crash in his basement because they are friends, or that it was part of an elaborate scheme to win contracts from the DCCC and help out clients?