Maybe Just Name the Building's Lobby After Her?

Rep. Lamar Smith wants to name a post office after a lobbyist.
Rep. Lamar Smith wants to name a post office after a lobbyist. (J. Scott Applewhite - AP)
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By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Tuesday, April 15, 2008

One of Washington's minor traditions is to name post offices after heroes, usually recently deceased. A lot of them have been named recently for service members killed in Iraq.

But Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) has taken a new approach. He's pushing to name a post office after a prominent, very-much-alive lobbyist.

And that's not all. His legislation started moving through the House on the same day the lobbyist's employer donated $5,000 to him.

That's a tradition of a very different sort.

Smith's bill would name a San Antonio post office after Cyndi Taylor Krier, the vice president of Texas government relations for USAA, a large financial services company based in the same city. The firm knows the federal government well; its banking and insurance customers are members of the U.S. military and their families.

Krier, 57, is familiar with government as well. She's a longtime local politician and officeholder whose grandfather, grandmother and mother worked for the U.S. Postal Service. Smith says she's deserving of the honor.

The House Government Reform Committee approved the renaming on Feb. 26.

On the same day, according to Federal Election Commission records, the political action committee of USAA gave to Smith's campaign committee the most money it's allowed to contribute in a single year to a candidate, $5,000.

The House approved the legislation a week later.

But last Thursday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee balked at approving the measure. Members heard about the post office's namesake and USAA's contributions to Smith and other lawmakers, and they started to ask questions.

Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) said they had reservations about naming a post office after a living person. Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) defended the legislation, pointing out that the entire Texas congressional delegation approved of it and that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) had contacted him to encourage its acceptance. He also dismissed any concern about USAA's contributions.

Carper's own campaign committee received $1,000 last November from USAA's political action committee. A Carper spokeswoman denied that there was any connection between his comments and the donation.

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