The Power House: Robert Keith Gray and the Selling of Access and Influence in Washington.
While Bill Clinton is crafting his ethics guidelines, he should pause to pick up The Power House: Robert Keith Gray and the Selling of Access and Influence in Washington, by journalist Susan B. Trento (St. Martin's, $24.95), a clear, sober, meticulously documented expose. Through the vehicle of biography--the Mephistophelean life and career of P.R. and lobbying wizard Robert Keith Gray, until recently chairman of Hill and Knowlton Worldwide--The Power House details how obscenely well-paid flacks for special interest groups, not democratically elected representatives, have in the Reagan/Bush years constituted a proxy government that helped determine domestic and foreign policy--including the Gulf War. Told in three parts (revealingly, Books I and III are titled "Smoke" and "Mirrors"), the book chronicles Gray's life from his genuinely wholesome Nebraska roots through thirty years of ceaselessly cultivating political access, from finagling a glorified lackey job in the Eisenhower White House through what amounted to attending the right Beltway parties (Republican, Democratic or Chinese Communist--whiChever might prove useful to present or future clients, who would include the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, B.C.C.I. and, most notoriously, the Emirate of Kuwait). We hear much of this from the lips of the former high-level government employees who were tapped for P.R. and lobbying jobs with Gray (or vice versa, from Gray's Power House to the White House) and learn how the wall between private-sector corporations and public government has been reduced to a set prop. A nonfiction version of a vicious, glittering Jackie Collins novel as might be told by Woodward and Bernstein, The Power House will make any now-sanguine voters drop their jaws and open theft eyes.