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Korologos hearing turns into a 'roast'

Senators praise Utahn's bid for an ambassador post

Tom Korologos
Tom Korologos

WASHINGTON — Utahn Tom Korologos, who during 40 years of lobbying literally wrote the commandments of how to win Senate confirmation, orchestrated a dream hearing Wednesday for his own nomination as ambassador to Belgium.

A long parade of senators from both parties testified for him. His extended Greek-American family filled every available seat. No one uttered any criticism. So, after much joking and strong testimonials, no senators even bothered to ask him any questions.

Then Democrats — not just his fellow Republicans — called for quick confirmation, noting the United States has not had an ambassador to Belgium since September. It is a key country for diplomatic relations where both NATO and the European Union have headquarters.

"This isn't a nomination hearing. It's a roast," said Sen. George Allen, R-Va., amid much joking and reminiscing by senators about Korologos. who for four decades was one of the most influential lobbyists in Washington.

In fact, Korologos, 71, shepherded more than 400 people through the confirmation process, including most controversial GOP nominees to the Supreme Court. He even wrote what are called "Korologos' Commandments," which most nominees now study and follow as they seek confirmation.

All senators know him well. And members of the Foreign Relations Committee, which is considering his nomination, learned to know him better during his most recent job helping to rebuild Iraq as counsel to U.S. administrator Paul Bremer. Korologos gave tours to most members of the committee when they visited Iraq.

In his opening statement, Korologos said, "I know how to negotiate. I know how to build consensus. I know how to close the deal. And as many of you know firsthand, I am also able to twist arms and kick shins if I have to in order to get my point across. In other words, I've been in training for this position all my life."

While America and Belgium are allies, Korologos noted that Belgium did not join coalition forces against Iraq, but he said seeking help from it in the rebuilding of Iraq will be among his highest priorities if confirmed.

In most confirmation hearings, only a nominee's home-state senators speak for him. But Korologos saw six senators speak on his behalf — including former Democratic Majority Leader Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.; Senate President Pro Tempore Ted Stevens, R-Alaska; John McCain, R-Ariz., a leader of moderates; and Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., a senior Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

"He brings great diplomatic talents to this responsibility — and many public services of a very distinguished nature," Sarbanes said. Besides being a lobbyist, Korologos served in the White House for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and was chief of staff for former Sen. Wallace Bennett, R-Utah.

Byrd said, "He has time and again shown that even party activists can be fair, they can be honest, they can be straightforward — and they can deal with political opponents as the loyal opposition, not as alien entity."

Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, "We need a man in Brussels, where the European Union is headquartered, who has the capacity to cut through all of the camouflage . . . and get to the heart of the problem very quickly. I have watched Tom do that now for 40 years."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told how Korologos lived the American dream as the son of Greek immigrants. Of interest to Utahns, Korologos even first coined the phrase "Greatest Snow on Earth," which now appears on the state's license plates, when he was a journalist in Utah.

Korologos was not only accompanied by his wife, former Labor Secretary Ann McLaughlin, and children (including Hollywood actress Paula Cale), but also much of his extended family from around the country. When Allen asked all those who were family members to stand, all but a handful in the packed room rose.

"My goodness, if they all visit you over there, you're going to be a real boon to the local economy," Allen said.

Hatch added, "I've never seen so many Korologoses."