Why are lobbyists, who are attempting to retain their credibility and “integrity” in the face of mounting influence-peddling scandals in Washington, thinking of hiring the scandal-plagued former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX)? Jeff Birnbaum of the Washington Post reports from a lobbyists’ dinner where Tom DeLay was “the elephant in the room”:
While dinner participants were praising the many good deeds they do, other lobbyists around town were expressing their eagerness to hire DeLay.
As long as he isn’t forced to wear an orange jumpsuit (and possibly even then), those lobbyists said, DeLay could easily become a lobbyist himself and make a lot of money.
That isn’t exactly what you’d call the gold standard of integrity.
These lobbyists would love to bring DeLay’s prodigious talent at manipulating the political process to ram bills through the Congress to their respective lobbying firms. Here are some choice quotes from these virtuous lobbyists:
“He could come over here and be my boss if he wanted to be.” – Charles Black, chairman of BKSH & Associates
“He would be an enormously successful lobbyist. I can’t think of anybody who has more friends on Capitol Hill or, more important, more understanding of the process and the rules on Capitol Hill.” – Wayne Berman, Federalist Group LLC
“Tom would find a lot of places where he would be quite sought after downtown … He’s beloved by the House Republicans. If he wanted to do it, he would find a lot of people interested in hiring him.” – former Rep. Vin Weber (R-MN), Clark & Weinstock
As it turns out these lobbyists aren’t exactly the most nonpartisan folks in town. They each have the same reason to like DeLay so much. Black is a former advisor to Presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush, a political consultant to Sens. Bob Dole and Jesse Helms, and serves on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union. Black also lobbies on behalf of the controversial Lincoln Group, the contractor assigned with putting pro-American propaganda into Iraqi newspapers. Berman was the subject of much controversy during the 2000 election when, as a top Bush fundraiser, he was asked by the campaign to cease fundraising activities due to his connections to a major corruption scandal in Connecticut. He is currently a loobyist for ChevronTexaco. Weber, a former Republican congressman and Project for a New American Century signatory, recently lobbied on behalf of the Dubai Ports company DP World in the battle to acquire a number of major American ports.
These quoted lobbyists are all partisan political operatives, not mere representatives of the lobbying community writ large. These quotes represent the bias of their partisan affiliation more than an actual appraisal of Tom DeLay’s worth and risk in moving to K Street. But then again, these guys might just think that Tom is a victim of a witch hunt targeting Christians.
NOTE: Birnbaum will be doing a Live Discussion at the Washington Post website at 1 pm if you have any questions for him.