Correction to This Article
Earlier versions of this article, including in the print edition of The Washington Post, incorrectly identified Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) as a senator-elect. He is a representative-elect. This version has been corrected.
The Influence Industry

New Republican lawmakers are hiring lobbyists, despite campaign rhetoric

A variety of new faces showed up for the first day of the "lame duck" session in Congress.

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By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 8, 2010; 10:52 PM

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.

These cases illustrate the endurance of Washington's traditional power structure, even in the wake of an election dominated by insurgent rhetoric. In addition to hiring lobbyists, many newly elected House Republicans have begun holding big-dollar fundraisers in Washington to pay off debts and begin preparing for 2012.

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.

Rep.-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).

Voters in Indiana chose a former lobbyist, Dan Coats, to represent them for a second time in the Senate. But Coats, also a former U.S. ambassador to Germany, has hired a non-lobbyist as his chief of staff.

Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for the Public Citizen watchdog group, said hiring senior aides from K Street gives their former corporate clients an unfair advantage.

"Lobbyists for the most part are hired guns that represent corporations and other special interests that pay for them," Holman said. "Those lobbyists now have direct access to the political agenda of these lawmakers."


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