Players: Roy Blunt

House Majority Whip Exerts Influence by Way of K Street

By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 17, 2005

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the man one step behind Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in the Republican leadership, has built a political machine of his own that extends from Missouri deep into Washington's K Street lobbying community.

Blunt, who entered politics as a protege of former senator John D. Ashcroft (R-Mo.), has assembled an organization of whips and lobbyist vote counters that has delivered more than 50 consecutive victories for the GOP leadership on tough fights over issues including tax and trade bills, District of Columbia school choice and tort reform -- without a single defeat.

Working outside the glare of public attention, Blunt has maximized the organization's influence by delegating authority to Washington business and trade association lobbyists to help negotiate deals with individual House members to produce majorities on important issues.

Blunt's organization in scope has begun to rival "DeLay Inc." -- the political fundraising committees, extensive favor-giving and alliances with Republican lobbyists that the majority leader has used to become one of the most influential leaders in memory.

Business and trade association lobbyists representing a broad range of corporate interests have used their leverage in lawmakers' districts to persuade them to cast difficult votes for Republican budgets and against politically popular Democratic amendments.

These lobbyists are "willing to work with leadership, in a broad generic way . . . [and] we have a commitment from them to whip the vote on the outside," said Gregg Hartley, who ran the operation for Blunt until going to K Street himself.

Building 'Blunt Inc.'

Blunt, 55, was handpicked by DeLay in 1999 to become chief deputy whip and then assumed the majority whip's post in 2003 after DeLay became majority leader. Blunt has been a loyal defender of DeLay, despite the majority leader's mounting ethics problems.

Many lawmakers and political analysts agree that Blunt would probably succeed DeLay if the majority leader were forced to step down. Blunt declined to comment for this article. One of his aides said Blunt refused to be interviewed "because he supports Tom DeLay and believes DeLay will remain majority leader."

DeLay, in turn, said: "Roy Blunt has done a tremendous job. . . . His leadership is vital to our cause."

Family Connections
Both "Blunt Inc." and "DeLay Inc." reflect the growing importance of commanding multimillion-dollar funds and having reliable loyalists in Washington's lobbying community. Blunt and DeLay are fundraising powerhouses. Their political organizations use multiple fundraising committees, have rewarded family members and have provided an avenue to riches for former aides now in the private sector.

In Missouri, the Blunt organization is a family affair. His son Matt, 34, is governor, and his son Andrew, 29, is a top state government lobbyist whose client list is studded with major donors to his father.

Here in Washington, Blunt has converted what had been an informal and ad hoc relationship between congressional leaders and the Washington corporate and trade community into a formal, institutionalized alliance. Lobbyists are now an integral part of the Republican whip operation on par with the network of lawmakers who serve as assistant whips.

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