Former lobbyist lampoons his profession
“He was a morally vacuous human being, but he came by it naturally. As a descendent of a long line of grifters, [he] was perfectly suited for a life in politics.”
And away we go in the satirically realistic novel about Capitol Hill, A Feeding Frenzy in Washington, published in September by former longtime Bethesda resident George Franklin.
This is Franklin’s fourth self-published book and second novel based on his two decades working in the nation’s wild and woolly capital.
Here, he takes off on the potentially sleazy political practices of lobbyists and other behind-the-scenes influencers of our supposed upright up-fronters in the House and Senate.
Franklin, 72, apparently knows of what he writes, having been a longtime lobbyist and vice president for the Kellogg Corporation from 1980 until he retired in 2005.
He was also (briefly) a political candidate who ran unsuccessfully in a 2018 Democratic primary for a House seat in Michigan. In an interview with the Beacon, Franklin, who wound up second of six candidates, said he told himself, “Thank God that’s over.”
The never-again candidate said the campaign was “an exhausting process.” He now calls that run his “moment of insanity.”
Memoirist and novelist
Since 2014, Franklin has churned out four books, including two memoirs, Raisin Bran and Other Cereal Wars and So You Think You Want to Run for Congress, as well as his first novel, Incentives: The Holy Water of Free Enterprise.
Franklin noted his latest novel “couldn’t be more timely” since it deals, in part, with the strategy of food industry lobbyists trying to take big bites out of a huge agricultural bill.
The real bill is a massive piece of legislation covering farm programs, conservation, rural development, forestry, trade promotion, nutrition and agricultural research and education. (The U.S. Department of Agriculture is asking for, but has not yet received, $35.9 billion to run its programs in the coming fiscal year.)
Franklin’s novels are filled with “scalawags and scoundrels,” he said, and characters that are “more real than real” in books that lampoon Congress and the lobbying industry.
“My books play off the foibles of self-absorbed lobbyists and politicians only to be found in D.C.,” he said.
The Twinkie defense
Take, for instance, the great fictional brouhaha in A Feeding Frenzy when it is discovered that Hostess Twinkies, “which had been a mainstay of children’s lunchboxes since their inception in 1930 as cheap, sugar-filled gut bombs, were causing holy hell” for teachers trying to control their overactive students. The parents convinced themselves “that classroom chaos and unruly behavior were what teachers were paid to handle.”
All began to go well again on the Twinkie front until a man accused of murdering the mayor of San Francisco invoked the “Twinkie defense,” arguing that he suffered from diminished capacity brought on by a Twinkies addiction. The trial judge lowered the charge to manslaughter.
Thousands of failing students, in the novel, pick up on the Twinkies defense to try to get failing grades changed, which sends teachers, parents, school board members and assorted other characters in the novel into various head and heart spins.
In the closing pages of A Feeding Frenzy, Franklin writes: “The 118th Congress, like all congresses before it, started with lofty expectations and calls for bipartisanship, comity, civility and reform.
“Every opening day speech declared it was time for the people’s house to do the people’s business without regard to party or political persuasion. Like all Congresses before it, none of this happened.”
Fact apparently, and sadly, follows fiction.
Podcast and next novel
Now living in Atlanta, Franklin is working on a sequel to his first novel, Incentives: The Holy Water of Free Enterprise, which has been described as, among other things, “a look at the hilarious dark side of capitalism.”
Washington attorney P.J. “Snakeboots” Jackson, the protagonist, will return with a set of clients that “provide plenty of fodder to highlight the madness of the political scene,” the author said.
And yet, strange as it could seem to his readers, Franklin does not condemn all real-life lobbyists and politicians.
“There are lobbyists and members of Congress trying to perform their work honestly and with consideration for the industries and the people they represent,” he said.
Nevertheless, Franklin noted, there are enough real-life goings on from daily doings in Congress to give a writer material for comedies, both laughable and otherwise.
A Feeding Frenzy in Washington is available from Amazon.com. For more information, visit georgefranklinauthor.com.