A New Sheriff?

A NEW SHERIFF?….“As a long time critic of the K Street Project,” writes a conservative friend, “I assume you will be equally critical of this.” The subject at hand is lobbying:

The Senate Democratic leadership summoned the chiefs of 17 major trade associations to the Capitol on Wednesday to send a subtle but unmistakable message: If you want our help on your issues, stop helping the Republicans block our bills.

….If it was a step-in-line message Democrats were hoping to send, they were treading on sensitive terrain. After taking control of Congress in the 1990s, Republicans hauled corporate leaders into meetings, first to tell them to help with legislation and later to pressure them to fire Democrats and hire Republicans for top jobs. The effort, known as the K Street Project, led to PR troubles, ethics flaps and a string of criminal cases involving Jack Abramoff.

Democrats dismiss the comparison — they say they aren’t strong-arming anyone into hiring Democrats — and, in truth, both parties have been aggressive on this front for years.

Hmmm. Will I be equally critical of this? Probably not, I guess. After all, my take on the K Street Project (described memorably by Nick Confessore in “Welcome to the Machine”) has always been pretty frankly partisan. My dislike for the Project wasn’t motivated so much by any philosophical problem with lobbyists per se as it was by the fact that the wrong guys had gotten so insanely good at co-opting them.

So I guess I’m just a hack after all. Still, I’ll at least go this far: it would be nice if the Democrats refrained from (a) building enormous databases to keep track of who’s naughty and who’s nice on a 24/7 basis, (b) making the hiring of Democrats a prerequisite for doing business with Congress, and (c) becoming so corrupt in the process that the Justice Department can hardly keep up with the indictments. A new sheriff in town is one thing, the resurrection of Boss Tweed is another.