Dial "B*L*U*E*" for Lobbyists

Democrats are the new in-crowd on Washington's lobbyist-heavy K Street as corporations and unions vie for attention.

Among the signals: Republican lobbying firm BGR Holdings has bought a Democratic firm, Westin Rinehart Group; Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. now have Democrats as top lobbyists and Comcast's Republican lobbyist has left the firm.

While C-Suites scramble for Obama's attention, unions are maneuvering to push pet projects such as the Employee Free Choice Act which allows paper coupons, instead of secret ballots, to be the means of voting unions in our out. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are spending millions opposing the bill which makes it easier to unionize.

While lobbying new administrations is nothing new, the Republicans took it to new heights when they won Congress in 1994 and again during the Bush Admininistration. GOP lobbyists purged Democratic lobbyists and consolidated control of influence peddling in the so-called "K-Street Project" that unraveled after several high-profile scandals.

CEOs, however, are wise to consider lobbying the right way. Lobbyists can provide the kind of legislative and business expertise needed to promote useful laws. They also can offer an earning warning system against unfavorable market and publicity trends. Sleazy lobbying brings indictments that only smears companies.