Ahh, but this is where we disagree

I would like to respectfully disagree with Madam Credibility on a point or two about Abramoff and lobbying.

While in many ways she is correct in pointing out that the Abramoff scandal is indicative of many of the problems of the nexus of lobbyists and politicians, I would argue that there are ideological underpinings to this scandal as well.

To put it plainly, this scandal is more representative of the ways lobbying has developed since the Republicans took control of the House than it is of all lobbying in general. I don't mean to say that Credibility is wrong in pointing out that lobbying practices across the board have inherent problems, as they surely do, I mean it to say that this particular case flows back to a uniquely Republican vision of lobbying, namely, the K Street Project.

As Nick Confessore puts it in his great primer on the project:

In the past, those people were about as likely to be Democrats as Republicans, a practice that ensured K Street firms would have clout no matter which party was in power. But beginning with the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, and accelerating in 2001, when George W. Bush became president, the GOP has made a determined effort to undermine the bipartisan complexion of K Street. And Santorum's Tuesday meetings are a crucial part of that effort. Every week, the lobbyists present pass around a list of the jobs available and discuss whom to support. Santorum's responsibility is to make sure each one is filled by a loyal Republican--a senator's chief of staff, for instance, or a top White House aide, or another lobbyist whose reliability has been demonstrated. After Santorum settles on a candidate, the lobbyists present make sure it is known whom the Republican leadership favors. "The underlying theme was [to] place Republicans in key positions on K Street. Everybody taking part was a Republican and understood that that was the purpose of what we were doing," says Rod Chandler, a retired congressman and lobbyist who has participated in the Santorum meetings. "It's been a very successful effort."

As Kevin Drum points out, Thomas B. Edsall has further information on the Project in a Washington Post article.

Reporters Janet Hook and Mary Curtius make this connection in their LA Times article about the Abramoff scandals:

The corruption investigation surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff shows the significant political risk that Republican leaders took when they adopted what had once seemed a brilliant strategy for dominating Washington: turning the K Street lobbying corridor into a cog of the GOP political machine.

Abramoff thrived in the political climate fostered by GOP leaders, including Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who have methodically tried to tighten the links between the party in Congress and business lobbyists, through what has become known as the "K Street Project."

GOP leaders, seeking to harness the financial and political support of K Street, urged lobbyists to support their conservative agenda, give heavily to Republican politicians and hire Republicans for top trade association jobs. Abramoff obliged on every front, and his tentacles of influence reached deep into the upper echelons of Congress and the Bush administration.

Also, Abramoff is and has been for a long time, a loyal Republican. As Paul Waldman of Media Matters points out in an article on Tom Paine:

Abramoff wasn't some kind of loose cannon; he was nurtured in the heart of the Republican establishment. A veteran of the College Republicans, friends (or co-conspirators, depending on the outcome of the investigation) with the likes of Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed and Tom DeLay, Abramoff stands not as an aberration within Republican Washington, but its very embodiment.

Also, Abramoff's personal campaign contributions have all been to Republicans. Though it is true that some of his client's money has been funnelled to Democrats as well.

So, while I agree that the current Scandal Du Jour in Washington is reflective of problems with lobbying in general, I think it points with greater strength to the corrupt infrastructure that the GOP has set up in Washington. No doubt that reform efforts should focus on lobbying in general, but it is also important to note that the Abramoff scandal is a Republican scandal. Even if a few Dems get some of the taint of it, it's the Republicans who are stewing in it.

- Glitter

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