Monday, April 30, 2007

If they won't stay bought once you bought them, what's the point?

Via MyDD comes this surprising pronouncement from one of the uber-lobbyists of K-Street:
The blog, for which [lobbyist Gerald Cassidy] and other Cassidy & Associates lobbyists will write, is a way to combat the misperception that lobbyists simply go into members’ offices and “peddle influence.”

“This journal,” Cassidy blogs, will “contribute to a dialogue that will hopefully get us back to the day when information is better currency than money in Washington.”

“There are 18,000 lobbyists in Washington. But for the last couple of years we’ve been talking about one lobbyist,” Cassidy says, referring to Jack Abramoff, the former super-lobbyist who has pled guilty to conspiracy charges.

“I don’t think Washington would work very well without lobbyists because they are the source of much of the information so many members rely on,” Cassidy told The Hill.

But, as the headline on the initial entry suggests, Cassidy’s first blog entry voices his support for congressional efforts to clean up the perception that K Street is dirty, even if that isn’t the reality.

“Unfortunately, the terms ‘lobbyist’ and ‘K Street’ conjure up such negative feelings and stereotypes that the achievements of our profession’s advocacy have been lost amongst recent scandals,” he writes.

“Our profession is at a critical point where we can either embrace the constructive changes and reforms by Congress or we can seek out loopholes and continue the slippery slide into infamy alongside the ranks of snake-oil salesmen.”

Cassidy says his blog entries won’t back specific policies favored by his clients. He instead plans to share his opinions on larger political issues. He says he intends to push for public financing of political campaigns to rebuild public trust in government and for more government oversight of hedge funds.

I've always figured that there had to be some resentment from the lobbyists' side on the whole K-Street Project/Iron Triangle forged by Norquist and DeLay. Sure, the lobbyists got unprecedented access and influence. But on the other hand, DeLay and his cronies felt entitled to exert a lot of pressure on matters that the lobbyists probably imagined were their own prerogatives--like hiring (since DeLay famously let it be known that lobbying firms who hired Democrats would be frozen out of the process).

And there was the money. The K-Street Project probably didn't cost the lobbying firms less money; it likely cost them more (albeit with a more certain return). As the facts of the Abrahmoff scandal made clear, while every client that Abrahamoff's people represented immediately began giving more money to Republicans and less to Democrats, the donations to Democrats didn't drop off entirely. Even at the height of Norquist's and DeLay's power, the lobbying firms had to cover their bets, just in case the unthinkable happened: the Democrats one day returned to power in Congress.

So, on one side, they had the implicit (and sometimes explicit) threat from DeLay that lobbyists who donated to Democrats or hired Democrats would see their access to Republican lawmakers (which, in those days, simply meant "lawmakers") cut off. But, on the other side, they didn't dare sever their ties with Democrats entirely.

To the extent that K-Street lobbyists fancy themselves captains of industry who get to call their own shots, this would have to be an irksome situation.

As the punchline to an old joke goes: Not everyone who gets you into trouble is your enemy, and not everyone who helps get you out of it is your friend. If the lobbying lobby wants to throw its weight behind election reform, if only to limit the number of people they have to pay off as a normal part of doing business, fine. Same with Wal-Mart throwing in with Andy Stern and SEIU on health care reform. We welcome them on a trust-but-verify basis.

Because there's also an old story about a frog and a scorpion.

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