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Friday, March 29, 2013

Who's a lobbyist

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2013 at 9:33 AM

THE UNLOBBYIST: Blanche Lincoln.
  • THE UNLOBBYIST: Blanche Lincoln.
I got a note last night from Steve Patterson, former aide to former U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, objecting mildly to my calling her a lobbyist in an item about Sen. Mark Pryor's comments on gay rights.

He made a point worth addressing:

...after the two-year moratorium expired, the Senator did not register as a lobbyist at the federal or state level. This is easily verified by the public record. She is a "strategic adviser" for her firm Alston+Bird's clients but she does not contact Members of Congress on their behalf. She spends much of her time advocating for regulatory reform; appearing as a political analyst on MSNBC and other cable news shows; and serving on the Board of Entergy Corp.

I was well aware that Lincoln is not a registered lobbyist. This was my response:

Distinction without a difference except legally. I follow the same practice with Mike Ross and used the term for Tim Hutchinson's time as strategic advisor. When you are paid to speak publicly in behalf of causes with related political elements and you do so w/o qualification except as former member — quack quack.

When you are advocating changes in the law publicly (or, excuse me, providing education heavily weighted in the direction favored by your benefactors), you are lobbying by my lights. And by the lights of the U.S. tax code in many cases, I might add, if not by the specific rules of Congress.

I went through this debate in a different direction the other day with a Republican operative busily trying to tear down Mike Ross because of the presumption he'd be the strongest candidate to oppose Asa Hutchinson, the Republican gubernatorial candidate. He contended Ross was lobbying though the law didn't allow him to do so yet. I told him he was preaching to the choir substantively, but not legally. Ross is currently prohibited from being registered as a lobbyist, having just departed Congress, and insists he is not one. As a matter of law, he's undoubtedly correct, but I call him a lobbyist anyway. His own employer, the giant Southwest Power Pool, calls him its senior vice president for governmental affairs. His employer's CEO Nick Brown said, “I can think of no one better to help SPP become more proactive in the state and federal legislative arenas ...."

Pro-active in the legislative arena?

Quack quack.

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