When a Candidate’s Bio Doesn’t Give the Full Picture

Posted July 20, 2007 at 2:54pm

I am not entirely sure when I first met Larry LaRocco. It may well have been on June 26, 1990, when my calendar tells me that I interviewed the one-time aide to former Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) during his first run for Congress. [IMGCAP(1)]

Later that year, LaRocco won a seat in the House, and two years later he was re-elected. But 1994 wasn’t a kind year to Democrats anywhere, and voters in Idaho’s 1st district swept him out in the Republican tsunami.

I remember generally liking LaRocco, and I spoke with him on and off after he left Congress. I found him to be a personable and knowledgeable person who knows a thing or two about Idaho politics.

I happened by chance recently to check out his Web site for his 2008 Senate campaign, and I came across something that raised a question in my own mind. How much should candidates disclose about themselves?

I went to “About Larry” on LaRocco’s Web site and found a photograph and a bio. The bio talks about his “service to the people of Idaho,” including his service as a captain in the Army, his years as North Idaho field representative for Church and his accomplishments in Congress.

He also included references to his private-sector work while in the state: “Larry has a long history of experience in the banking and financial services industry in Idaho. Prior to his work in Congress, Larry served as an Assistant Vice President and Director of Marketing at the Twin Falls Bank and Trust, located in the 2nd district. He also worked as a Vice President at First Idaho Corporation, and later as a financial services consultant at Shearson Lehman Hutton, Inc.”

Toward the end of the bio, he is described as a “businessman, military officer, banker, Congressman, grandfather.” Then we learn that he “will represent all of Idaho’s people, not just the powerful interest groups.”

All of this sounds fine, and regardless of whether it is true, I’m not going to take issue with it. But it’s only a half truth. LaRocco’s bio leaves out something important.

The bio seems to stop with LaRocco’s Congressional service, yet he has lived for more than a dozen years since he left the House. Didn’t he do anything? Was he a hermit?

I expect it ends where it does because LaRocco doesn’t think that his life after Congress will help his candidacy — and possibly because he fears it will hurt him with the net roots he is now wooing with posts on Daily Kos and pleas for contributions on ActBlue.

After Congress, LaRocco worked for the American Bankers Association. He headed the ABA’s Securities Association and was managing director of the ABA’s Insurance Association, which focused on “bank-related insurance activities.”

In 2000, LaRocco and his son, Matthew, opened up their own lobbying firm, LaRocco & Associates. Two years later, the two men joined Fleishman-Hillard’s Government Relations practice, which, according to CQ’s PoliticalMoneyLine, had 33 clients and did more than $1.2 million worth of business in 2005.

Larry LaRocco himself had a number of interesting clients, including Abbott Laboratories, Eastman Chemical, MetLife and 3i Group, a London-based venture capital firm with investments in a variety of fields including energy (oil and gas), technology and health care. And, of course, he also lobbied for the ABA.

Personally, I don’t see a problem with any of this. “Lobbying” is the way we do things here in Washington, D.C., and it is the way interest groups and people talk with government officials about policy. There is nothing wrong with people who know something about an issue trying to persuade policymakers about their views as long as all interests have an opportunity to make their cases.

Anyway, the fact that LaRocco’s Web site bio doesn’t mention his lobbying background probably isn’t merely an oversight. Nor is it an oversight that while he mentions that he is a “banker” and worked for “the modernization of banking and financial services in our country,” he never mentions the ABA, for whom he worked for five years.

Can Larry LaRocco possibly think he can run a Senate race without his complete bio coming out? And if it will come out at some point, as it surely will, why not put it out now? Is it because he is trying to raise money from Democratic bloggers who might be upset to know that he was a lobbyist and that he ran a big-time Washington lobbying shop?

Interestingly, on Feb. 7, 2007, someone added an information box to LaRocco’s Wikipedia entry. It included, under “profession,” a one-word description: lobbyist. Three months later, someone else edited that entry, replacing “lobbyist” with the much more innocuous “public affairs consultant.”

If you are looking for irony, all you need to do is look at Washington Post reporter Jeff Birnbaum’s lead in his June 14, 2004, article about lobbying: “Lobbyist Larry LaRocco knows that the public views his profession as unsavory. But he isn’t ashamed. In fact, he’s made it his family business.”

Well, if LaRocco’s bio on his campaign Web site is any indication, he’s now ashamed of his career. But ashamed or not, it’s part of his life, and not including it in his bio strikes me as a silly attempt to mislead.

It will be interesting to see how the net roots, which seems intent on smashing the establishment, react to LaRocco.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.