ONE FAMILY, TWO PARTIES
Brothers Bridge Political Aisle
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
In a recent display of fraternal unity, the Mica brothers -- Dan, Democratic congressman-turned-lobbyist, and John, Republican congressman from Florida -- talked for two minutes without a partisan jab.
Dan: "I do all good things all the time. John, you're welcome to respond."
John: "He's slowly working his way into becoming the Republican, because he's making huge amounts of money."
The Micas are the Washington equivalent of a two-headed cow: siblings from both sides of the political fence, Democrat and Republican, lobbyist and lobbied. Their political differences save them at least a few of the questions being raised about family connections between the Hill and K Street. But their physical similarity and respective congressional tenures has caused such confusion that they wind up learning each other's business anyway.
John Mica wouldn't be caught dead at a lefty event such as the massive lobby-fest held last week for the Credit Union National Association, whose president is his brother. As the ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee, John Mica instead drew an invite to a trucking industry fundraiser for fellow House Republican Jerry Moran (Kan.). Dan Mica says his brother's congressional work centers on "different areas than mine." But just in case, "I've told my own board I'd never lobby my brother."
John Mica says his brother "doesn't appear on the Hill as much as some former members."
But neither brother can stop lawmakers from mistaking one of them for the other, creating situations that Dan Mica admits require "some discretion."
"When I am up there, people whisper things in my ear that I know are meant for John, like, 'Hey, we've gotta get this whole committee thing straightened out later today,' " Dan Mica said. "I just say, 'Yeah, I'll take care of it,' and then I pass it on to John."
In the mid-1990s, Bob Dole spotted Dan Mica at a political event and summoned him to speak, thinking he was the Republican brother. At a White House reception, George H.W. Bush sidled up to Dan Mica and asked, "Are you you, or are you the other one?"
Dan Mica, 63, of South Florida served in Congress from 1979 to 1989. He has been a lobbyist since, first for the life insurance industry and for the past decade for CUNA, whose political action committee represents 90 million credit union members nationwide.
John Mica, 64, entered Congress in 1992 representing central Florida. During his campaign, at least one newspaper mistakenly printed his brother's photo above his name.
Even though his congressional career began after his brother's ended, John Mica says he has been introduced as his Democratic brother at least 20 times on the House floor. At home in Florida, "if I'm in a parade and they wave with one finger, I know they must be thinking it's my brother," he says.
"The closest we've come to getting in trouble," John Mica says, was during one of his reelection campaigns. On the same day that Dan Mica made a customary employee donation to his association's political action committee, the PAC sent a check to John Mica's campaign. "It was an unbelievable coincidence," John Mica says. "My brother would never authorize a check to me."
The Micas say the House historian told them that if their congressional terms had coincided, it would have been the first time in more than a century that siblings representing different parties had served simultaneously. In the current Congress, siblings including Sen. Ken and Rep. John Salazar from Colorado; Reps. Loretta and Linda Sanchez (Calif.) ; and Sen. Carl M. and Rep. Sander Levin from Michigan all occupy the Democratic side of the aisle.
To further complicate matters, a third Mica brother, David, 52, is executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council. In a recent television appearance, John Mica was introduced by the state's new governor, Charlie Crist, who called him Dave. John Mica's nickname for his petroleum council brother is "The Polluter."
While it's a bad idea to get them started on some issues -- Dan Mica blames the Republicans' security measures for long airport lines and John Mica warns that Democrat-led efforts to grant Transportation Security Administration employees collective-bargaining rights will make the lines even longer -- "I don't think we've ever had a heated discussion about politics," Dan Mica said.
What's more, "you get friends on both sides of the aisle," such as Newt Gingrich, Charlie Rangel, John Dingell and the Bush family. In fact, Dan Mica adds, "maybe we could be a catalyst" for bipartisan warmth.
"I wouldn't go that far," his brother says.