Lobbyists go back to writing laws

LOBBYISTS GO BACK TO WRITING LAWS…. When House Republicans were in the minority, they had a steadfast rule in advance of policy debates: do what the lobbyists say.

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 the last Congress. Now, Republicans are running the show in the House again, and the GOP has streamlined the process — lobbyists are no longer lobbying, they’re working directly for Republicans and writing legislation.

A surge of lobbyists has left K Street this year to fill jobs as high-ranking staffers on Capitol Hill, focusing new attention on the dearth of rules governing what paid advocates can do after moving into the legislative world.

Ethics rules sharply limit the activities of former lobbyists who join the executive branch and former lawmakers who move to lobbying firms. But experts say there are no limits on lawmakers hiring K street employees and letting them write legislation in sync with the policies they advocated for hire.

New tallies indicate that nearly half of the roughly 150 former lobbyists working in top policy jobs for members of Congress or House committees have been hired in the past few months. And many are working on legislative issues of interest to their former employers.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, for example, which led other House panels by hiring six lobbyists this year, is drafting legislation sought by oil and energy firms. At least four staffers on the committee payroll worked for those industries last year.

It’s quite a revolving door. Some of these aides started in GOP offices in the Hill, moved to K Street to start representing corporate interests, and are now back on the Hill writing the legislation that will benefit those same corporate interests.

In the bigger picture, none of this is especially surprising. On the contrary, it was entirely predictable.

What I find interesting, though, is the realization that plenty of far-right voters were sold a bill of goods. In 2010, conservatives flocked to GOP candidates who ran as “insurgents” and “outsiders,” with no use for the entrenched establishment and their corrupt power structure.

Now those same candidates are hiring corporate lobbyists and turning over bill-writing responsibilities to them. Is this what the anti-establishment Tea Party crowd had in mind?