Birnbaum Live Chat:
Birnbaum caught my question in today’s live chat:
Washington, D.C.: Jeff, in your article today you quote three current lobbyists who all agree that Tom DeLay could make a killing on K Street. All of these quoted lobbyists are also partisan political operatives. Are their statements of support indicative of broad lobbyist support for a DeLay to K Street move or is it just partisans backing their friend? Could you give us the view of a non-Republican lobbyist?
washingtonpost.com: Today’s Column: Lobbyists Say DeLay Could Be One of Them
Jeffrey Birnbaum: This is an excellent question.
Among the best answers I got were two lobbyists who did not want to be quoted by name. Both were Democrats. But because I prefer naming my sources (for the sake of good journalism), I didn’t include their responses in the column.
You will be interested to learn that they split on the subject of whether DeLay would be an effective lobbyist. Both headed major law firm lobbying practices. One said that firms would be crazy to hire a person under such a legal cloud (though he understood that some firms might) and the other said, like the the others I quoted, that DeLay would surely be a hot commodity. DeLay certainly knows where the bodies are buried, this lobbyist said, and unearthing them is worth a lot to paying clients.
And here’s another exchange that I thought was important to point out:
Leesburg, Va.: Is there any office that actually enforces lobbying rules such as the Lobbying Disclosure Act? I have been trying for 9 to 10 months to find which office in the government will admit to simply being the right office to RECEIVE complaints… never mind getting into the substance. The Secretary of the Senate Office of Public Records says they only receive and file papers… they don’t enforce. Asked who does, they don’t know. The U.S. Attorney for D.C. is clueless. None of the offices of the Justice Department admit to being the right office, or even knowing anything about the law to be enforced. After many attempts, they referred me to the local office of the FBI, who acted baffled as to why anyone was referring such matters to them. (Violations of the lobbying disclosure act usually involve civil fines, so the FBI couldn’t understand how it was their responsibility.)
Bottom line: How can lobbyists be policed if there is NO office in Washington that admits to being responsible for policing lobbyists? To answer your question: Sure, heck, why not? If there is no traffic cop at all, Tom DeLay can fit in just like anyone else.
Jeffrey Birnbaum: Well, your research is complete. There is no such place.
More or less.
The local U.S. attorney is supposed to deal with violators but almost never does.
Clerks in the House and Senate review the filings of lobbyists and refer any oddities to the U.S. attorney, who, as I mention, basically does nothing with them.
The House and Senate ethics committees are supposed to oversee all this, but has done almost as little as the U.S. attorney’s office.
The House ethics committee, in fact, has been moribund for months and months.
What’s to be done? The Senate has rejected the idea of creating an independent Office of Integrity to enforce lobbying rules. The House isn’t even scheduled to deal with the proposal.
So . . . don’t expect a better answer to your question anytime soon.