2003 July 24 Thursday
GOP Takes Over K Street Influence-Peddlers

It is typically said that the two major American political parties are heavily influenced by the many lobbyist groups in Washington DC. Well, if Nicholas Confessore's article "Welcome to the Machine" in the Washington Monthly is to be believed Republican take-over of the many industry trade associations in Washington DC has been unfolding.

But beginning with the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, and accelerating in 2001, when George W. Bush became president, the GOP has made a determined effort to undermine the bipartisan complexion of K Street. And Santorum's Tuesday meetings are a crucial part of that effort. Every week, the lobbyists present pass around a list of the jobs available and discuss whom to support. Santorum's responsibility is to make sure each one is filled by a loyal Republican--a senator's chief of staff, for instance, or a top White House aide, or another lobbyist whose reliability has been demonstrated. After Santorum settles on a candidate, the lobbyists present make sure it is known whom the Republican leadership favors. "The underlying theme was [to] place Republicans in key positions on K Street. Everybody taking part was a Republican and understood that that was the purpose of what we were doing," says Rod Chandler, a retired congressman and lobbyist who has participated in the Santorum meetings. "It's been a very successful effort."

If today's GOP leaders put as much energy into shaping K Street as their predecessors did into selecting judges and executive-branch nominees, it's because lobbying jobs have become the foundation of a powerful new force in Washington politics: a Republican political machine.

The Republicans are able to do this because they control both houses of Congress and the White House and because most business interests are more sympathetic to Republican views on a variety of policy issues. But one consequence of this staffing of the trade associations by Republican loyalists is a greater ability of the Republican Party to move a large proposal thru Congress without getting opposed by a lot of narrow interests of specific industries.

Confessore betrays an obvious left-leaning bias when he says:

"The large entitlement programs in particular command too much public support to be cut, let alone abolished. But by co-opting K Street, conservatives can do the next best thing--convert public programs like Medicare into a form of private political spoils."

This is clearly ridiculous. The drive to privatize the provision of services is motivated by a desire to increase efficiency, to provide more service per dollar spent, and to increase the number of choices available.

Confessore's obvious biases aside, the article is worth reading in full if you want to get a better understanding of the evolving relationship between the trade association lobbyists and the Congress.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 July 24 09:37 AM  Politics American Domestic


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