Campaign 2010

Mar 16, 2006

NRCC Befuddled That Simpson Won’t Pay for Access

DCCC Press

Mar 16, 2006

NRCC Befuddled That Simpson Won’t Pay for Access

Jessica Simpson Snubs President Bush and the NRCC, Thinks it is Wrong to Lobby the President at a Fundraiser

$2,500 Cost, per person for the NRCC dinner with President Bush

$7.5 million Fundraising goal for the NRCC dinner with President Bush

NRCC spokesman Carl Forti surprised at Simpson’s position: “I find it hard to believe she would pass up an opportunity to lobby the president on behalf of Operation Smile.” [Reuters, 3/16/06]

Simpson understands the difference between fundraising and paying for access: According to a Simpson source: “It just feels wrong. She would love to meet the president and talk about Operation Smile ... but she can't do it at a fund-raiser for the Republican Party.” [Reuters, 3/16/06]

Washington, D.C.) – Today, it became clear that Republicans will never support meaningful lobbying reform because playing by the rules simply does not compute. Jessica Simpson’s rejection of an invitation to an NRCC fundraiser because she thought it was wrong to lobby for her Operation Smile at a political fundraiser crystallizes their central resistance to reform. Republicans were befuddled at the fact that someone would not want to pay for access in order to lobby the president for their organization or interests.

After years of establishing a political machine that caters to K Street lobbyists and the special interests, Republicans who understand the political upside to lobbying reform are concerned about the reach of real reforms. There is no indication that things have changed in the Republican Party, especially after seeing their hesitance on meaningful lobbying and ethics reform, their resistance to signing on to Democratic proposals and their full speed approach to lobbyist fundraisers, selling access to the special interests.

“It would be easy to make a joke about Jessica Simpson’s rejection of the GOP’s invitation to lobby the president but actually it’s a disturbing look at the pay-for-access culture Republicans have nurtured,” said Bill Burton, communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “When it came down to the Republican House leadership, the president and Jessica Simpson, it was Simpson who took the ethical high ground. Not surprising from the same GOP crowd dragging their feet on meaningful lobbying and ethics reform.”

The Republican Record on Ethics and Lobbying Reform:

Republicans Opposed Closing The Lucrative “Revolving Door” Between Lobbying & Lawmaking. The vote was against a measure to prohibit Members of the House from negotiating lucrative job deals that capitalize on their committee membership. Politicians or federal employees frequently leave office for the insider game of lobbying and advising private interests on how to do business with the federal government. Special interests and the lobbyists they employ spent more than $13 billion lobbying Congress from 1998 to 2003. More than 250 ex-members of Congress now lobby Congress. Recently, former Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA) became PhRMA's top lobbyist after he helped draft a Medicare prescription drug bill as chairman of the Energy and Commerce panel. [HRS 5, Vote #5, 1/4/2005; Failed 196-219; R 1-219; D 194-0; I 1-0]

Republicans Voted to Weaken House Ethics Rules. The vote supported GOP House rules curtailing the ways ethics investigations can be launched, a day after the party retreated on two other ethics moves. Republicans passed a package of House rules that requires at least one Republican to agree before the ethics committee begins an inquiry. The committee's membership is evenly divided between parties, and previously a deadlock meant an inquiry would automatically begin. Former Ethics committee Chairman Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) broke with GOP leaders on the House floor, saying he thought the changes were a mistake since they were done without bipartisan discussion. Republicans abandoned their plan to gut a rule that allows the ethics committee to admonish a member even if no specific law has been broken, and were forced by Democrats to restore a rule requiring a party leader to step down if indicted. [HRS 5, Vote #6, 1/4/2005; Passed 220-195; R 220-0; D 0-194; I 0-1]

Republicans Voted to Let Lobbyists Wine & Dine Congress. The vote was for new rules that would allow lobbyists to cater meals to members' offices and let charities pay for lawmakers to travel and stay at golf resorts and other locales. The measure would allow outside interests to pay for “perishable food or refreshments offered to members of an office.” In 2002, for example, a lobbying firm representing pharmaceutical interests sent in dinner for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's (R-Ill.) staff while they were working late on a prescription drug bill. The weaker rules passed, 221-203. [HRS 5, Vote #4, 1/7/03; Passed 221-203; R 221-0; D 0-202; I 0-1; Washington Post, 1/8/03]

Republicans Voted Against Creating a Bipartisan Ethics Task Force. Twice. The panel would have equal representation of Republicans and Democrats to make recommendations to restore public confidence in the House ethics process. The measure was defeated. [HRS 213 , Vote #106, 4/14/2005; Passed 218-195; R 218-2; D 0-192; I 0-1; HRS 153, Vote #70, 3/15/2005; Passed 223-194; R 223-1; D 0-192; I 0-1]