Here’s a riddle: What do you call it when someone earns millions of dollars from corporate clients, uses his relationships with the most influential officials in government to pursue those clients’ interests, and even has offices on K Street?
Answer: If you are Newt Gingrich, not a lobbyist.
The Washington Post reports that corporate clients paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the current leader in the Republican primary in exchange for him providing “access to top transformational leadership across industry and government” through his for-profit “think tank.” Apparently they got what they paid for. According to the Post, “Gingrich also bragged about his success in pushing conservative policies and legislation in Washington during his political exile.”
We’ve written many times before about stealth lobbyists, often former Members of Congress who crawl around Capitol Hill and the White House advocating on behalf of fat cat clients, but who skirt disclosure under the lobby laws by claiming they only provide “strategic advice” or spend less than 20% of their time lobbying.
And we’ve advocated—dare I say lobbied—to change all of that.
The specter of Newt Gingrich, former non-lobbyist lobbyist, occupying the White House should galvanize calls for lobbying reform. It’s problematic enough when a former Member of Congress provides his clients with access to his friends and colleagues in the House or the Senate. But if Washington’s revolving door should swing that person into the White House, corporate interests who once paid handsomely for strategic advice will have a direct line to the leader of the country.
The Gingrich example is at the top of the list of why we need a new approach to lobbying disclosure. The most influential people in Washington can easily skirt the rules currently in place. Everyone who is not in that top tier of influence peddlers—including all of the registered lobbyists who follow the rules—should recognize the failure of the current system and work to change it by ensuring that if someone is paid to lobby, they register and report as a lobbyist.