Tea Party Lawmakers Heart K Street

| Thu Dec. 9, 2010 12:51 PM EST

Well, that didn't take long.

The Washington Post's Dan Eggen reports that a number of Republicans, including tea party-backed senators-elect Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have hired former lobbyists as their chiefs of staff. Lee has hired former energy lobbyist Spencer Stokes, while Rand Paul has tapped anti-union lobbyist Douglass Stafford on board. In the House, Rep. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.) has brought on food industry lobbyist John Billings as his chief of staff.

From the Post:

Jesse Benton, Paul's campaign manager, said that Stafford "is not a lobbyist in the sense that people think," because he worked for a conservative advocacy group, the National Right to Work Committee. His stint included guiding the group's campaign against "card check" legislation favored by unions, Benton said.

"Senator Paul wants principled people on his staff that actually care about the ideas that he's going to fight for in the U.S. Senate, and that's what Doug has done," Benton said.

"Principled" isn't generally the first word voters associate with K Street. And delving into "sense of the word" semantics isn't going to fly with tea partiers who expect Paul and others swept into to power by the movement to help clean up Washington.

But this isn't just a tea party problem. Hal "Bring Home the Bacon" Rogers (R-Ky.), the incoming chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and a notorious earmarker, is considering hiring Bill Inglee, a Lockheed Martin VP and lobbyist, as staff director for the committee. Maybe the Tea Party will give Paul and Lee a free pass this time and assume they're just following the example set by the old dogs like Rogers.

As Eggen points out, "these cases illustrate the endurance of Washington's traditional power structure, even in the wake of an election dominated by insurgent rhetoric." Looks like it's back to business as usual.

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