The headline of this piece by Tim Carney in the right-leaning opinion section of the Washington Examiner sounds ominous: “Romney moves closer to K Street, at his peril.” This is the sort of breathless hysteria one expects from the New York Times, which perceives the dastardly hand of business behind every politician (except when Barack Obama was having considerable success wooing business leaders in 2008). In fact the entire piece amounts to this: Mitt Romney has brought back into the fold well-known conservative Vin Weber who also works as a lobbyist. Horrors. (Recall how the left-wing media played gotcha upon the discovery that some of the McCain campaign operatives had worked as lobbyists? That went on until Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s associations with similar types became apparent.)
The notion that Romney, who is already running an explicitly pro-business, pro-private sector campaign, will be tainted by the likes of Vin Weber is fanciful.
Meanwhile, today Politico proclaims: “Rick Perry woos K Street and Wall Street.” Oh, my, another tainted candidate? To the contrary, Perry’s courting of GOP establishment types suggests he is attending to a weakness, namely a lack of credibility outside Texas money and political circles. (“Some lobbyists and finance types are privately leery about Perry’s sometimes heated anti-establishment rhetoric – his assertion last week that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s monetary stewardship could be ‘treasonous’ and might prompt ‘pretty ugly’ treatment from Texans remains a point of concern.”)
This is not to say that the candidates’ relationships with business is irrelevant. The degree to which the presidential contenders confuse being business-friendly with defense of free-markets and conservative economic principles is legitimate subject of inquiry, as I have written. How the candidates speak about tax reform, energy and agriculture subsidies and free trade will tell us whether they are enamored of big business or of pro-growth, pro-free market policies.
A final note: The rise of the Tea Party movement, the financial meltdown, and the bailout frenzy have set off an unusual alliance of anti-business animus between the right and the left. It’s important for conservatives to keep a clear head on this one. Their policies should reflect a pro-capitalist, pro-growth and their relationship with business should be characterized by neither animus or inappropriate coziness. To assess that, the best guides are the candidates’ records and agendas.