K Street Comes Groveling Back; Dems Should Just Say No
by Jonathan Singer, Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 07:26:44 AM EDT
In the category of stories covering which party is on track to control Congress in January, this front page article in today's issue of The Hill by Alexander Bolton stands out: lobbyists and powerful corporations are now clamoring to give money to Democratic candidates, at least hedging their bets and perhaps banking on a Democratic Congress.
Lobbyists are key players on the Washington fundraising scene because they advise clients where to send their political contributions. That is especially true of lobbyists representing corporate clients because corporations are usually less politically savvy and experienced than labor unions or single-issue advocacy groups, such as environmental groups.
"Is there more interest in showing up at a Democratic fundraiser than three months ago? Absolutely," said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who would become chairman of the oversight and investigations subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee. "I've found it easier to do the fundraising than it was three or four months ago."
One Democratic lobbyist representing energy sector clients said that in recent weeks he has received calls from many of them looking to give money for Democratic candidates.
"It's been surprising," said the lobbyist. "In years past it's been really difficult to write checks to any Democrat." [emphasis added]
I understand that it takes money to run elections. I understand that it's difficult and counterintuitive for politicians to say no to contributions. But for the good of the party, Democrats should just say "no" to the Johnny-come-lately lobbyists and their corporate clients.
Democrats already have a great opportunity to retake the House this year even without a late surge of cash from interests inherently opposed to Democratic principles. Last night, Chris pointed to polling showing Democratic House candidates today leading in enough races to win control of the chamber were the election held today. Of course the election isn't held today, it is in less than six weeks. Yet the numbers do not lie. And should the prevailing political winds continue to blow as they have for the better part of the last year, even Republican incumbents who appear to be safe today could be in for a rude shock come November 7. As Charlie Cook rightly noted in a column earlier this month, in 1982, the year of the last major pro-Democratic tide in the House, "14 Republican House members who had double-digit leads on October 1 ended up losing."
Given that Democrats do not need these lobbyist donations to win this year, why take them? The prevailing logic holds that, should they win this year, Democrats would have an easier time governing with K Street than without it. But I am not certain that that's the case. In fact, I don't believe I'm out of line in assuming that if Democratic lawmakers become too beholden to the powerful lobbyists and the big corporations that they will feel it necessary to abandon at least some core planks of their platform.
However, if the Democrats said "no" to lobbyists today and win without them -- which, again, is a real possibility -- then the party will have a mandate to govern in the way it sees fit. Democrats will be able to pass real lobbying reform without fear of retribution because they will know that they don't need lobbyist dollars to win. Such a move would have the potential of completely upending Washington. And you know what? The party pledging to fundamentally change the way the people's business is conducted in Washington is going to have the support of a lot of voters this year.