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GOP seeks to limit access
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GOP Monitoring Lobbyists' Politics
White House, Hill Access May Be Affected
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By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 10, 2002; Page A01
Republicans are researching the party affiliation and political contributions of hundreds of lobbyists in Washington, part of a campaign that could deny government access and prime lobbying jobs to Democrats, according to people familiar with the project.
Copies of the bulky dossier, being compiled by conservative activist Grover Norquist and other prominent Republican lobbyists, will be given to top White House officials and GOP lawmakers when completed, the sources said.
Early drafts of the report are already in the hands of a few senior administration officials and lawmakers, according to two people familiar with it. GOP lawmakers are not helping compile the report, but many privately support it.
The report -- dubbed the "K Street Project" -- has been evolving in fits and starts over the past few years, but has been expedited and expanded now that Republicans control the White House and federal agencies. Several Republican lobbyists have complained that they aren't getting the access to federal agencies they feel they deserve.
"What's different this time is you will have this list to control access" to the White House, Congress and federal agencies, according to a GOP lobbyist working on it. "That's been very clear from the discussions."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said he was unaware of any administration official with copies of the report. And even if officials had them, he said, "the president's decisions are based on the merits and what's in the best interest of the American people."
Republicans involved in the effort said they plan for it to be used by White House officials, lawmakers and staff to determine who can meet with party leaders in discussions of policy matters. The idea is to alert GOP officials and staff members to Republicans who "deserve" such access and to Democrats who don't, said one lobbyist involved. It will also give busy lawmakers and officials an idea of whom they are dealing with, even if they don't choose to keep Democratic lobbyists out of their office.
The document lists the lobbyists' name, where they work, which party they belong to, where they have worked politically and how much money they have contributed to both candidates and causes of both parties.
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he knew the report is being compiled and is interested in seeing a copy when it is completed.
"I don't know if it will affect one piece of legislation," Davis said. But contributions to the wrong party can "buy you enemies. People often don't remember who gave them contributions. But they remember who gave to their opponents." He predicted House committee chairmen will be interested in getting a copy.
Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform and is a frequent visitor to the White House and GOP congressional offices. He said the report's chief aim is to prod trade associations, lobbying firms and corporations to hire more Republicans to represent them in Washington. Norquist lamented that companies and associations may unknowingly retain too many Democrats "who don't represent their interests" in a city now ruled primarily by Republicans.
Democrats expressed outrage that Republicans were politically profiling at best -- and blacklisting at worst -- the denizens of K Street, Washington's main enclave for lobbyists.
"I am appalled that anybody would be that brazen," said Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.).
He said his lobbyist friends have cautioned him that Republicans are pressuring firms to purge Democrats. "If they put this in writing, that puts a whole new dimension to this practice," Daschle said.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.) last month hosted a private meeting in the Capitol, during which Norquist asked a group of about two dozen lobbyists and staffers to help complete the project, according to sources familiar with the meeting.
He handed out a thick list of lobbyists, some with their party affiliation and past political jobs already identified. He asked the lobbyists to help fill in the blanks, and told them his own staff would research the political contributions.
Santorum did not return calls requesting comment.
"They clearly want to get this into the hands of White House officials," said a GOP lobbyist who attended the meeting. Norquist is an ally of Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, and several other White House officials. Rove said in an e-mail exchange he has "seen no such list."
"I have put it together and shared the material and [gotten] it out to elected officials," Norquist said. But he refused to specify the recipients.
Some GOP lobbyists said they worry that the dossier -- compiled from public disclosures of campaign contributions -- will not reflect money they helped raise by hosting golf tournaments or similar events where many guests write checks to a candidate.
Lobbyists attending the Santorum meeting included former representative Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.) of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P.; Gary Andres, senior managing partner of the Dutko Group Inc.; and Tom Korologos, President of Timmons and Co. Inc. Andres and Korologos declined to comment. Paxon left a message but later could not be reached for comment.
Ever since they won control of the House in the 1994 elections, some key Republicans such as Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) have advocated aggressively tracking the political proclivities of lobbyists. They have wanted to use the information primarily to remove Democrats from top positions at trade associations and Washington-based offices of major corporations.
Because Democrats controlled the House and Senate for so many years, most government relations offices of corporations and trade associations were run by Democrats. Many still are, much to the chagrin of DeLay and other Republicans.
The House ethics committee formally admonished DeLay in 1998 for pressuring the Electronics Industry Association not to hire former representative Dave McCurdy (D-Okla.) to run the organization. DeLay wanted Paxon to get the job.
Earlier this year, Santorum spread the word on K Street that GOP leaders wanted more Republicans hired at trade associations. Shortly after, Santorum and House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (Okla.) publicly chided Boeing for hiring Rudy de Leon, a former aide to Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), to run its Washington office.