WASHINGTON: Top Republicans are delving into the backgrounds of lobbyists and association executives in DC, compiling information on who is loyal to the GOP and who is not. The goal of the "K Street Project" is to deny access to left-leaning operatives, thereby forcing associations and lobbying firms to hire more Republicans.
Leading the operation is Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and a conservative with close ties to the Bush Administration. According to those involved, the project is not something new - the compilation of lobbyist loyalties has been going on for at least a few years. But an article in The Washington Post last week brought the issue to light, and now Democrats are demanding disavowals from the White House as public affairs professionals denounce the campaign as a form of partisan McCarthyism.
"We really believe the strength of associations lies in the diversity of opinions, and we obviously believe strongly in that diversity, said Jim Clarke, senior VP of public policy for the American Society of Association Executives, and himself a former Republican spokesman. "I've enjoyed seeing Republicans hired as much as anybody, but, at the same time, you have to get the right person for the right job."
The "credentials being compiled include past contributions to the Republican party and political campaigns, as well as party affiliations.
"It's not a secret that both political parties have always recognized people for working on campaigns, holding fundraisers, and otherwise supporting candidates, said Public Affairs Council president Doug Pinkham. "However, most administrations haven't publicly encouraged litmus tests for lobbyists and association CEOs. When you cross that line, you're inviting a negative response."
President Bush refused calls from Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid (D-NV) to condemn the K Street Project last week, because "he's not part of it, according to press secretary Ari Fleischer.