Barbour’s proud to be a lobbyist, but is he proud of his clients?

BARBOUR’S PROUD TO BE A LOBBYIST, BUT IS HE PROUD OF HIS CLIENTS?…. As he gears up for a presidential campaign, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) is working on explaining his professional background. He’s been a governor for seven years; he’s well known for having been the chairman of the RNC in the mid-90s; but he was also a successful corporate lobbyist — and voters don’t always have warm feelings about lobbyists.

By way of a defense, Barbour isn’t apologizing for this work. Instead, he’s bragging about it, hoping to turn a negative into a positive. He proudly declared on Fox News yesterday, “I’m a lobbyist…. The guy who gets elected president will immediately be lobbying. That’s what presidents do for a living.”

Barbour added, “I am perfectly glad to look at the clients that I worked with when I was there. But let me just make this very plain. I’m a lobbyist, a politician, and a lawyer. You know, that’s the trifecta. And I am willing to have my record in front of everybody.”

As his presidential campaign gets underway, Barbour’s client list will no doubt draw quite a bit of scrutiny. Michael Scherer noted last night, however, that one client in particular may be of interest to Republican primary voters.

According to a State Department filing by Barbour’s former lobbying firm, The Embassy of Mexico decided to retain Barbour’s services on August 15, 2001, to work on, among other things, legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for foreigners living illegally in the United States — what opponents of immigration reform call “amnesty.”

“Haley Barbour and I will lead the BG&R team,” wrote Lanny Griffith, Barbour’s former business partner, in the filing. According to subsequent filings, Barbour’s work included “building support in the legislative branch for passage of a bill related to Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.” As part of that work, Barbour’s firm arranged meetings and briefings with “Senators, members of Congress and their staffs, as well as Executive Branch Officials in the White House, National Security Council, State Department, and Immigration & Naturalization Service.” Barbour’s firm charged Mexico $35,000 a month, plus expenses.

As a substantive matter, the policy Barbour pushed is hardly unreasonable. For that matter, John McCain won the nomination after having supported “amnesty” (though he flip-flopped on the issue to pander to the base), and Reagan backed “amnesty” and GOP voters consider him some kind of deity.

But the kind of folks who vote in Republican presidential primaries tend to be pretty right-wing, and make no effort to hide their hostility towards Mexican immigrants. I’ll look forward to Barbour’s spin.