Demand up for GOP on K St. after election

For the record: Jack Valenti doesn’t regret hiring Dan Glickman to replace him as chief lobbyist for the movie industry.

When Valenti tapped the former Clinton agriculture secretary and Kansas congressman to take over as head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Republicans complained that one of their own didn’t get the high-profile position.
Jack Valenti

Still steaming, Grover Norquist, the head of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform and a founding member of the so-called “K Street Project” a decade ago, yesterday called Glickman’s hiring a “studied insult by the film industry.”

After convincing Election Day wins — which expanded their majorities in the Senate and the House and kept President Bush in office for four more years — Republican leaders can continue to try to repopulate Washington’s famous lobbying corridor with their brethren, as a number of high-profile lobbying slots remain open.

Still, Valenti, a former aide to President Lyndon Johnson (D), said he’d do it all again — after noting that he first reached out Rep. Billy Tauzin. The Louisiana congressman turned the job down.

“I don’t think a lot has changed,” Valenti said. “I see no reason that any meritorious cause or long-term interest won’t be viewed favorably by Congress.”

While the MPAA filled its slot, the American Chemistry Council, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America are looking to fill their top spots. Embattled mortgage company Freddie Mac is looking hire a new chief lobbyist, as is Visa.

Will Democrats (and the people who hire them) suffer on K Street as they did in the polling booths?

To those associations and companies wondering, Norquist says that the movie industry’s loss of a key tax break in the final corporate tax package passed by Congress before the recess offers a cautionary tale. (Tax writers said that the cut was removed in an effort to keep the bill’s costs down and not as retribution for Glickman’s hiring).

Hiring Democrats is “stupid,” Norquist said.

A quick survey of officials from both parties found, however, that Democrats can still expect to find work, although the consensus seems to be that it might be a little better to be an elephant than a donkey these days.

Henson Moore, a former six-term Republican congressman from Louisiana who now heads the American Forest & Paper Association, said K Street won’t change in light of Tuesday’s results.

“If the White House had changed hands, or the Senate, or the House, then probably there would be an organization out there looking for something different,” i.e. a Democrat, Moore said.

But while Republicans have strengthened their control a bit, Moore added, “there is no issue in Congress where you don’t need help on both sides of the aisle.”

Moore, who himself was hired when Democrats controlled the White House and Senate, said the push isn’t as strong as it was immediately after Republicans took over the House in 1994.

Then the GOP was “faced with 40 or 50 years on K Street of Democrats being in control of most things because Democrats controlled Congress.”

“There was a lot of pushing and shoving and commenting to see that change, and K Street today does reflect the fact that there has been a change in Congress,” Moore said.

The K Street Project’s efforts over the past decade have included its attempt to keep the Electronic Industries Association from hiring former Democratic Rep. Dave McCurdy (Okla.). It did anyway.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael Oxley (R-Ohio) also reportedly pressured the Investment Company Institute to replace lobbyist Julie Dominick with a Republican. The group hired a Republican but didn’t fire Dominick, who later left to join Loeffler Jonas & Tuggey, which was founded by former Rep. Thomas Loeffler (R-Texas).

In addition to the MPAA, other associations recently have turned to Democrats. These include the Equipment Leasing Association and the Business Roundtable.

Anne Wexler, a Democrat at the bipartisan Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates, said hiring, particularly among lobbying firms, would not be affected by the election.

“I think most firms are bipartisan right now,” she said. “That trend, which started in the ’80s, will probably continue.”

Firms hire people depending on their expertise and their particular needs, and not necessarily their party affiliation, Wexler said.

But Wexler also noted that lawmakers on Capitol Hill do pay attention to who gets hired.

Valenti said he headed a “nonpartisan operation” during his 38 years running the MPAA. He said that he expected Glickman would do the same.

“I think Dan Glickman will be very careful to reach out to Republicans with warm embrace,” said Valenti, who added that he didn’t fear that MPAA would suffer because a Democrat is its public face.

“I never had anybody call me when we were searching for someone to tell me [hiring a Democrat] would be an unkind or ungracious act,” he said.

But Independent Insurance Agents CEO Robert Rusbuldt, who is close to Republican House leaders although his staff also includes Democrats, said Tuesday’s results would continue a trend started in 1994.

“There is going to be more demand for top Republicans,” he said.

Party leaders pay particular attention to major trade associations and corporations, Rusbuldt said.

That’s because the head of an association or corporation can affect where PAC money is spent and also influence the direction of the organization and the political attitudes of employees or member companies.

“People pay attention to these sorts of things,” he said.

While hiring at bipartisan lobbying firms may be less important to political leaders, for a few firms in town Tuesday’s results could be particularly helpful.

Such shops as Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, the Alexander Strategy Group, Fierce & Isakowitz, and the Federalist Group have built all-Republican firms.

These firms “have been very helpful to Republican candidates” both in terms of time and campaign contributions, said Federalist partner Drew Maloney.