Friday, August 18, 2006

Dem's Star Rising from K Street to Heartland

A good indicator of something looking set to happen is when a large number of people with inside information are ready to bet money on it happening. The Washington Post's Jeffrey H. Birnbaum reports that exactly this is happening on K-street -- the moniker for the political lobbying business in DC, named after the street where many of the offices are located.
Washington lobbying firms, trade associations and corporate offices are moving to hire more well-connected Democrats in response to rising prospects that the opposition party will wrest control of at least one chamber of Congress from Republicans in the November elections. In what lobbyists are calling a harbinger of possible upheaval on Capitol Hill, many who make a living influencing government have gone from mostly shunning Democrats to aggressively recruiting them as lobbyists over the past six months or so.

"We've seen a noticeable shift," said Beth Solomon, director of the Washington office of Christian & Timbers, an executive search firm that helps to place senior lobbyists and trade association heads.

In June, one of Washington's largest lobbying law firms, DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary LLP, transferred the chairmanship of its government affairs practice from a Republican, Thomas F. O'Neil III, to a prominent Democrat, James J. Blanchard, a former governor and congressman from Michigan. "Being a Democrat didn't hurt me, that's for sure," Blanchard said. "This is going to be a big Democratic year."

At Patton Boggs LLP, another lobbying powerhouse, the calculation is similar. "Democrats' stock has clearly risen in the interviewing process this year as the chances for a Democratic takeover [of the House] have increased," said John F. Jonas, the head of Patton Boggs's health practice. "Serious hiring" of Democrats, he added, has become "a high priority here at Patton Boggs." "Earlier this year, the propensity was to look mostly at Republicans" as candidates for lobbying jobs, said W. Michael House, director of the legislative group at the law firm Hogan & Hartson. "Now, we're looking at both Republicans and Democrats closely."

Lobbying managers have for years tended to hire Republicans because both Congress and the White House are controlled by the GOP, and access to officials at both places is lobbying's stock in trade. But, in recent months, many of Washington's top lobbyists said in interviews that their decision-making has been altered by an emerging consensus among election experts that the Democrats will boost their numbers in the House and the Senate in the midterm elections Nov. 7 and have a strong shot of winning a majority in the House.

As a result, the job market for Democrats has expanded, and the K Street Project -- shorthand for efforts by Republican lawmakers and lobbyists to pressure corporations and trade groups to hire GOP lobbyists only -- has faded away.
The K Street Project -- to hire, among the many people getting off public service at the Hill, only Republicans -- was fairly successful until recently. This not least because the Republican control of Congress also meant that bi-partisan advice was less welcome, and funding more forthcoming for conservative causes.

The end of the K Street Project is one more reason things are looking bright for the Democrats for the midterms. Se e.g. also "Republicans Losing The 'Security Moms'" and especially David Broder's "For the GOP, A Heartland Plunge".

The big question, however, is whether the Dem's have done anything positive to deserve this attention? Or if it is not just the usual reversal of the tide
-- democracy's basic function -- that now sends the voters back? As mentioned before (here and especially here) the Democrat's have serious internal issues to solve, certainly concerning foreign policy -- issues which will explode if they take over Congress.

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