GOP Wants Lock On Lobbyists

Republicans have succeeded in placing loyalists in most of Washington's top lobbying positions after a concerted effort that included pressuring firms that flirted with hiring Democrats, a newspaper reports.

The Washington Post reports that one party official recently told a group of lobbyists that the GOP's so-called K Street Project has netted 33 of the 36 Washington posts he monitors.

Several Fortune 500 companies have recently named well-connected Republicans to top lobbying slots, and influential jobs in the lobbying arms of the entertainment and telecommunications industries could soon go to GOP members.

The GOP began targeting these top lobbying jobs in 1995, naming the effort after the street where most Washington lobbyists have their offices, the newspaper says.

With Republicans in these jobs, they can channel campaign contributions from the organization and its employees or members to the GOP, its candidates and PACs. Those in the top lobbying jobs also make enough money to be generous donors themselves.

Lobbyists and corporate leaders also shape legislation on key policy issues. They have the ability to hire subordinate staff members, meaning more potential jobs for Republicans.

The effort to place GOP members in the jobs has occasionally raised ethics questions.

Texas Congressman and Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay was cited by the House Ethics Committee for delaying action on a 1998 bill covering intellectual property because the Electronics Industry Association planned to hire a Democrat.

Democrats have raised questions about a GOP effort to research lobbyists' political affiliations and campaign contributions, accusing Republicans of preparing to limit access to their offices by Democrat-connected lobbyists.

They've also slammed staff for Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, the Financial Services Committee chairman, for telling the mutual fund consortium Investment Company Institute that a congressional probe of mutual funds might relent if the company fired its Democratic top lobbyist.

According to The Post, top Republican lawmakers discuss key job openings with Republican lobbyists on a regular basis, suggest GOP candidates for the jobs, contact search firms hunting for people to fill the new posts and push their picks.

That process could rev up again as the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association look to fill top posts.

Among recent appointments:

  • Mississippi Senator Trent Lott's former aide David Hoppe was hired by Quinn Gillespie & Associates.
  • Bill Paxon, a former Republican Congressman from New York, was recently hired by the Foundation Executives Group to fight changes to laws affecting charities.
  • Former GOP Congressman and Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent now works for Wiley Rein & Fielding.
  • President Bush recently named Ed Gillespie to head the Republican National Committee. Gillespie has lobbied for companies like Microsoft, Verizon and the National Association of Realtors.