Steve Benen has an unsettling post over at the Washington Monthly about House Republicans' corporate fundraising efforts this year, and the "familiar ring of the K Street Project" in their pitch. Roy Blunt, you may recall, was "the Republicans’ official K Street liaison" during Tom DeLay's Washington reign. He doesn't talk about his role in this capacity very often these days, for obvious reasons.
Benen points to a weekend Washington Post story, which reports that "House Republican leaders have met privately with corporate executives and lobbyists to argue that their giving has tilted too far toward Democrats and that they need to steer more money to industry-friendly GOP candidates in key races in 2010." Remembering that this culture of corruption is what "drove the GOP from power in 2006," Benen writes:
The notorious K Street Project became synonymous with Republican excesses of the Gingrich/DeLay/Bush era, and for good reason. Among its components was a heavy-handed scheme to "encourage" corporate PACs to contribute to Republican candidates, or face adverse consequences...
It would be an exaggeration to suggest these tactics have been brought back in earnest. But we're starting to see hints of the old, ugly, corrupt machine when Republicans leaders not-so-subtly remind business leaders that the party is "keeping score." In other words, GOP officials expect to be back in the majority in 2011, and if corporate lobbyists want to start writing legislation again, the way they did before there was a Democratic majority, they'll have to buy that influence again.
When the NRCC's Greg Walden met with 80 corporate PAC leaders in March, for example, he said he wasn't making any threats. He simply said Republican leaders are "evaluating giving patterns," and in the next breath, he pointed to competitive congressional races where these lobbyists "can make an investment in a Republican candidate you will like."
I seem to recall subtle messages like these being featured on "The Sopranos." I can hear Boehner now, "That's a nice amendment you want in the appropriations bill. It'd be a shame if something happened to it."
Republicans gave the American political system a bad name during their reign of error. There are already hints that the sequel will be more offensive than the original.
Interestingly, Roy Blunt may be one of the few -- if only -- elected leader who was both integral to the "K Street Project's" creation and able to raise money in 2010 with a wink and nod about the prospect of a new incarnation. Back in the day, remember, Blunt was named one of CREW's "20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress" on two separate occasions (here and here), and was an early inductee in Public Citizen's Hall of Shame
Regardless of Blunt's fate in 2010, we should all hope that Benen's fears are unfounded. Just remember what things looked like in the first go-'round.
Washington Post, 5/17/05: House Majority Whip Exerts Influence by Way of K Street
"Blunt's organization in scope has begun to rival "DeLay Inc." -- the political fundraising committees, extensive favor-giving and alliances with Republican lobbyists that the majority leader has used to become one of the most influential leaders in memory."
New York Times, 11/21/06: "Same Old Party"
"Roy Blunt embodies the insidious, half-legal corruption that has permeated the G.O.P. majority since 1995. Blunt’s election as minority whip, by a 137-to-57 margin, was a defiant Republican rejection of calls to clean up their act. Warnings by Blunt’s challenger, John Shadegg of Arizona — “We ceded our reform-minded principles in exchange for a ...tighter grip on power” — went unheeded."
The New Republic, 8/7/06: "Arm candy, Beltway-style"
"Since his 1996 election, Blunt's swift rise in the House has been credited to his close ties to K Street--ties undoubtedly strengthened by his friendly relations with the go-to gal for Altria, which just so happens to be one of Blunt's top campaign contributors. Perlman, meanwhile, could not have asked for a more energetic champion of her employer's interests than her congressional beau."
The Star, 11/29/02: "Blunt's elevation to majority whip is proof of insider power"
"His uncontested election this month as majority whip after just three terms shows he has mastered the game. The whip is the third-highest position in the House GOP leadership behind Speaker Dennis Hastert and newly elected Majority Leader Tom DeLay. As such, Blunt is part of the Republican triumvirate that controls the ebb and flow of business in the often-fractious House of Representatives...'There's nothing that happens in Congress that Roy Blunt isn't a major architect of,' said White House Political Director Ken Mehlman."
Washington Post, 1/11/06: "Lobbying Colors GOP Leadership Contest; Rivals for DeLay Post No Strangers to K St."
"The annual vacation, dubbed a "boys' trip" by detractors, points to an issue underlying the current House leadership race: Both Boehner and his rival for majority leader, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), have extensive ties to the same K Street lobbying world that stained DeLay's reputation and spawned the Abramoff corruption scandal."
NY Times, 10/9/05: "When Lawmaking and Lobbying Are All in the Family"
" Blunt's family ties have raised anew the questions that have been kicked around Washington for years about the propriety of making the business of government a family business."
The Hill, 10/1/03: "House Majority Whip Roy Blunt has had setbacks in politics and his domestic life, but he is still near the top of the greasy pole"
"The Post story reverberated around Capitol Hill, and, like his 1992 bid to become Missouri's governor, it revealed Blunt's normally well-concealed ambition and comfort with hardball politics."
The Star, 2/13/09: "Is Blunt the BEST Senate candidate?"
"Blunt, though, is D.C. personified. Not only does he have more K Street ties than Mark Shale and Jack Henry combined, he’s married to a lobbyist. His son is one. His links to that world, and by extension former Majority Leader Tom “The Hammer” DeLay, and by extension (again) disgraced superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, are ingredients for a Democratic campaign feast. Those connections are a big reason why Blunt’s fellow Republicans rejected the Missourian as majority leader in 2006, ultimately denying him his dream of becoming House speaker."
CREW, 2006: "Beyond Delay: The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress"
Blunt comes in at #1: "Rep. Blunt's ethics issues stem from the misuse of his position to benefit family members, his connections to Jack Abramoff, and a trip paid for by a foreign agent."
CREW, 2005: "Beyond DeLay: The 13 Most Corrupt Members of Congress"
"Rep. Blunt’s appointment is a case of ‘new boss, same as the old boss.’ While Rep. Blunt may be new to the job, he has long followed Rep. DeLay’s pattern of ignoring campaign finance laws and ethics rules."
Public Citizen, 1/13/06: "Roy Blunt: Ties to Special Interests Leave Him Unfit to Lead"
"In this report, Public Citizen compiles a disturbing dossier on Blunt, based on original research and a comprehensive compilation of news accounts of recent months. In the end, what emerges is a portrait of a legislative leader who not only has surrendered his office to the imperative of moneyed interests, but who has also done so with disturbing zeal and efficiency."
CREW, 1/12/06: "Ethically Challenged Reps. Blunt and Cantor Not Fit for Leadership"
“If Members of the House were truly committed to cleaning up the cesspool that Congress has become, they would not even consider Reps. Blunt and Cantor to lead the way."
The Washington Post's WhoRunsGov.com Profile
"As the Republicans’ official K Street liaison, Blunt helped transform the lobbying community into a vote-winning force for House Republicans."
Nobody likes sequels.