Lobbying may be lagging behind other industries in its use of Twitter, as lobbyists favor more confidential communications, but that is not the case for at least one influential, veteran K Street insider.
Gregg Hartley, the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Cassidy & Associates and a longtime GOP political fundraiser, tweeted directly at legislators, boasted of the fundraisers he threw for them, and even revealed when he was lobbying them on a particular issue—at least when he chose to share that information.
Hartley closed his Twitter account around Sept. 1, according to the lobby shop’s spokesman, but his tweets from early April until his most recent one in late July were saved in an RSS Reader*. During that time, many of the lawmakers he mentioned meeting with on Twitter received donations from him. In total, between March and August, Hartley contributed to 19 Republican campaigns or committees, totaling $29,500, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Almost all of his tweets prior to April, which dated back to at least 2009, are no longer available because he deleted his account.
Hartley, who was the chief of staff to Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., when the latter, as the House Majority Whip, was viewed as the GOP’s K Street point man, lobbies for over two dozen companies and associations. He often tweeted when pressing lawmakers to favor a range of issues—from the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, to the legalization of online poker, to improving U.S.-Bangladesh relations.
“If you want to learn how Washington works, Gregg Hartley would be an expert,” said Missouri Democratic political consultant Richard Martin, who has known of Hartley for years, as both have been working on opposite sides of the aisle in Missouri. Hartley is a prolific GOP fundraiser, often hosting events for candidates in Washington. He is also unabashed about who he is targeting. In April, he sent out a blast email to PACs and insiders in Washington with a list of over a dozen lawmakers who he wanted to contribute to in June and “later this year,” according to an email obtained by PoliticalPartyTime.org.
Tweeting at a Tea Party freshman
From his Twitter account, Hartley often tweeted at members of Congress. Between April and June, Hartley mentioned one such congressman—Tea Party favorite Billy Long, R-Mo., seven times on Twitter.
“Billy Long would be a tough nut to crack. I’m sure he’s a pretty anti-Washington guy. It’s gonna take a few years before he learns the ways of Washington and becomes apart of that city. He may never, he may decide not to. But my guess is, he may follow in Roy Blunt’s footsteps and who better to learn from than Gregg Hartley on how to do that,” Martin said.
A spokesman for Cassidy & Associates, Tom Anderson, did not respond to a request for an interview with Hartley, and multiple direct calls to Hartley were not returned. Long’s office did not respond to a phone message or email requesting comment for this article.
During the threat of a government shutdown in April, Hartley directly lobbied Long on Twitter, recommending that he focus on long-term budget cuts.
Hartley followed those tweets up with cash. First he tweeted about an event that appeared to be a fundraiser:
About a month later, Long’s campaign deposited a $1,000 check from Hartley, according to CRP. Then, on June 3, after Hartley took a break from Twitter for a few weeks, the lobbyist tweeted that Long noticed his absence. That same day, he tweeted about eating dinner with the congressman. On June 15, he complimented Long’s auctioneering skills; the congressman closed his auction business before joining Congress but was raising money for charity that evening.
Yet his access to lawmakers reaches far beyond the freshman class.
That lunch with Cantor was soon followed by a $2,500 donation to Cantor’s leadership PAC, which reported receiving it days after the lunch.
That was also Hartley’s penultimate tweet. Anderson said that Hartley closed it to focus on his work.
Betting on Online Poker
In late June, just before a Texas congressman introduced legislation to legalize online poker, Hartley, one of the dozens of lobbyists pushing to legalize online poker or gambling on the Hill, started frequently tweeting about the subject. First he was in Las Vegas with his client MGM Resorts International, then he was in the “war room,” then he applauded the bill soon after it was introduced on June 24:
Over the following weeks, he tweeted about meetings on Capitol Hill with other members of Congress. By early August, the bill had a total of 25 co-sponsors. A few days later, he had access to Barton:
Over a week later, he tweeted about a July 8 meeting with Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., a key player in the debate, and the third biggest recipient of donations from the casino and gaming industry for the 2012 election cycle, according to CRP.
Heck hadn’t sponsored the bill yet. But he did on July 19.
Heck’s press secretary Darren Littell confirmed that a meeting took place in the week of July 4, but said that no one meeting was the “nail in the coffin” to gain Heck’s support and, if a sponsorship followed a meeting with Hartley, it was “purely coincidental.”
“I think there were some folks that were supportive of it and some that had reservations about it. We listened to them, we got their input and feedback. …It’s kind of like with any issues, it’s never simple, especially with something as complicated as online gaming,” Littell said.
Hartley appeared to be courting other House freshman to support the bill too.
Hartley’s disclosure of meetings with congressmen is a rarity.
“As far as the lobbying community, it’s an extremely small percentage of people that are using that for that purpose and I think the reason why is a) they don’t want to talk about what they’re doing because they’re not proud of it or because they don’t want to release their clients’ business like any good practitioners,” said John Feehery, the president of communications for Quinn Gillespie.
Peter Dugas, a lobbyist at Clark Hill, said such revealing tweets might be misleading. If a lobbyist with multiple clients tweets about a meeting with a member of Congress, the wrong client may think his or her issue was being discussed. He also noted that, if accurate, opposing lobbyists can use the information to their advantage.
Misleading or not, Hartley’s twitter feed provided a revealing, 140-character view into the workings of one lobbyist, until his tweeting stopped.
*The dates of Hartley’s tweets correspond to the date and time they were stored in Google Reader, which might not be exactly the same as when they were tweeted. In particular, a slew of tweets were stored on April 11 (including the first two mentioned in this article) because the RSS Reader started capturing tweets that day.