Steny Hoyer’s K Street Project


Now that the Democrats have taken back Congress, members are jockeying for leadership positions. Among them is Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who announced he would seek the number two job in the House leadership, Majority Leader, the morning after the election. By all accounts the Maryland Democrat has been paving the way for this post for some time. As Zach Roth points out in a recent profile of Hoyer in Washington Monthly, the Democrat, if successful in securing the job, will have something in common with one of his Republican predecessors — Tom DeLay. Like DeLay, Hoyer has made it his business to cultivate close ties to K Street, which, Roth notes, may not make him the best choice for Majority Leader, particularly since the Democrats have taken pains to distance themselves from the lobbying scandals that ensnared top Republicans:

…There is no doubt he has worked hard to curry favor on K Street. Over the last year and a half, he has ramped up an effort—begun soon after taking over the whip’s job—to raise money for Democrats from Washington business lobbyists. Starting in late 2004, Hoyer and three close allies—Reps. Crowley, Tauscher, and John Tanner (D-Tenn.)—launched an energetic K-Street-outreach program, with a goal of raising $250,000 for vulnerable Democratic incumbents by June 2006. Later, they would switch the focus to raising money for promising Democratic challengers, increasingly basing their pitch on the growing likelihood that Democrats would retake the House this fall, and thus be in a position to pass legislation. Hoyer’s particular political gifts—his persuasiveness, his talent for negotiation, and his willingness to see all sides of an issue—appear to have made him well suited to the task. “We find mutual interests, mutual ways to help each other,” says [Bill] Cable, [Hoyer’s] chief of staff.

But the outreach has at times complicated Democrats’ efforts to capitalize on the slew of Republican influence-buying scandals—from Abramoff to DeLay to Cunningham to Safavian to Ney—that has come to light over the last year and a half. After Hoyer’s office posted on its website a news story describing the fundraising project, Republicans were quick to call Hoyer a hypocrite for attacking the GOP over Abramoff while at the same time touting his relationships with lobbyists. Hoyer’s staff quickly took the story down.

…More problematic than the fundraising program has been Hoyer’s stance on lobbying reform, in which he has consistently stood in the way of Democratic efforts to unite behind a far-reaching approach. Hoyer’s opposition to reform appears to be of long standing, and well known on both sides of the aisle. Back in October 1994, Congress had been considering a lobbying reform bill that many lawmakers privately considered too restrictive. According to Roll Call, DeLay and Hoyer were walking down the Capitol steps shortly before leaving for the October recess in advance of the midterms that would bring the GOP to power, when the Texan “cupped his hands around his mouth and chuckled to Hoyer, ‘But lobbying reform is dead!'” DeLay, it seems, understood even then that he and Hoyer were of one mind on the issue.

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