Republicans and their lobbyists

REPUBLICANS AND THEIR LOBBYISTS…. Before the midterm elections, one of the hallmarks of congressional Republicans’ approach to government was to stick as closely as possible to corporate lobbyists.

When Congress worked on a jobs bill, the GOP huddled with corporate lobbyists. When work on Wall Street reform got underway, Republicans huddled with industry lobbyists. When Congress worked on health care reform, they huddled with insurance lobbyists. When an energy/climate bill started advancing, Republicans huddled with energy lobbyists. When choosing candidates for key statewide offices, Republicans even recruited former corporate lobbyists.

But that was before the election. Now, thanks to huge electoral gains, Republicans are riding high on the Hill again, and have some positions to fill. Care to guess who they’re hiring?

During his campaign to represent Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate, GOP nominee Ron Johnson accused Democratic incumbent Russell Feingold (D) of being “on the side of special interests and lobbyists.”

“After promising voters that he would reform the culture of lobbying in Washington, instead Senator Feingold embraced lobbyists and declared himself to be on their side,” a Johnson spokeswoman said at the time.

But after defeating Feingold, Johnson himself has turned to K Street for help — hiring homeland security lobbyist Donald H. Kent Jr. as his chief of staff.

Johnson is not alone: Many incoming GOP lawmakers have hired registered lobbyists as senior aides. Several of the candidates won with strong support from the anti-establishment tea party movement.

Right, and that strikes me as key. I don’t much care if Republicans hire lobbyists; in fact I tend to expect it. It’s the larger political/rhetorical context that strikes me as more interesting — these GOP candidates, hoping to exploit public frustration with the ways of Washington, sold Tea Party zealots quite a bill of goods. This crop of candidates would be “insurgents,” and “outsiders,” with no use for the entrenched establishment and their corrupt power structure.

And within a month, many of these same candidates are hiring lobbyists to oversee their offices.

In addition to Johnson, Sen.-elect Mike Lee (Utah) has announced that energy lobbyist Spencer Stokes will be his chief of staff. Tea party favorite Rand Paul (Ky.) has hired anti-union lobbyist Douglas Stafford as his top senatorial aide.

In the House, Rep.-elect Charlie Bass (N.H.) has named food industry lobbyist John W. Billings as his chief of staff. Billings was a senior aide to Bass during an earlier stint on Capitol Hill.

Sen.-elect Chip Cravaack (Minn.) has hired former U.S. senator and former lobbyist Rod Grams as his interim chief of staff, though aides have said the posting is probably not permanent. Grams’s lobbying clients from 2002 to 2006 included 3M, Norfolk Southern and the Financial Services Roundtable, records show.

Other incoming GOP lawmakers who have recruited staff from K Street include Robert Dold (Ill.), Steve Pearce (N.M.) and Jeff Denham (Calif.). John Goodwin of the National Rifle Association, one of Washington’s most powerful lobbying groups, has signed on as chief of staff for Rep.-elect Raul Labrador (Idaho).

And the revolving door between the Hill and K Street spins a little faster.

One wonders if this is what Tea Partiers had in mind.