It comes as no surprise that the House GOP is set to meet with 250-300 lobbyists tomorrow at the Capitol Hill Republican Club. Larry called it chutzpah, and it’s true they have a lot of that. While this meeting takes place under the cloud of the recent guilty plea by former Mayor of Capitol Hill Bob Ney and the January guilty plea by the now infamous Borsalino-donning Jack Abramoff the last meet-and-greet-and-beg-for-help came as these powerful, and now-jail bound, men began tumbling down the hill.
In Tom Edsall’s book Building Red America a presentation of the previous GOP-K Street Plato’s Retreat-style meeting sheds light on what will take place tomorrow:
On Thursday April 16, 2005, for example, some 250 Republican lobbyists gathered in a basement room on the House side of the Capitol building to celebrate past achievements and to get briefed on the status of pending legislation by House and Senate leaders. The lobbyists had already helped win approval in early 2005 of the bankrupcty bill significantly limiting the rights of those in debt and of class action legislation limiting the ability of plaintiffs to sue corporations for damages. There was still much on the common agenda of business and the Republican leadership, including more tax cuts, structural changes in federal pension law, and enactment of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
Looking out to a room packed full of lobbyists, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) said, "Gathered in this room is where policy meets politics, where the rubber meets the road. Thank you to all of you for all that you’ve done to help us. We couldn’t have gotten this far without your assistance."
At the time of this meeting Jack Abramoff’s misdeeds were just becoming fodder for public discussion, then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay was under fire for the change in ethics rules to protect his leadership position, and Republican lawmakers were paying for past meals at Abramoff’s restaurant Signatures (Dennis Hastert), avoiding comments about trips they took with Jack, and disavowing any relationship with the highly connected lobbyist. All of these disclosures have since turned into multiple guilty pleas and the resignation of DeLay from Congress.
While both of these meetings, tomorrow’s and last April’s, show a certain amount of chutzpah they also illustrate the reason that lobbying reform was doomed from the get-go. Why would the rubber want to mess up the road, or vice versa. The purpose of tomorrow’s pep rally is to remind Washington’s lobbying community, attacked by Democrats, scrutinized by the media, and damned in populist rhetoric, that the House GOP couldn’t have gotten this far without their assistance and that K Street will be restricted if Democrats come to power.
With a looming Democratic takeover in November both K Street and the GOP see their interests under asault. Neither can get any further without the other’s assistance. Ignoring the electorate’s disgust of Congress and "business as usual" (or the "substantive agenda" as Bill put it) the House majority is running back to its trusted army of donors and operatives on K Street. Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, Bob Ney, and Duke Cunningham only exist "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…"