Business Week has an interesting piece this week about the stigma of lobbying in the age of Obama, and how it’s driving lobbyists to rethink how they do business. True to form, some of the industry’s heavy-hitters have found a loophole: they’ve stopped calling themselves lobbyists. Obama pal Tom Daschle is now a “strategist” and “special policy adviser” on health care and finance at Alston & Bird; GOP lobbyist kingpin Ed Gillespie styles his services as “strategic planning,” “message development,” and “crisis management.” The new jargon, of course, means that they don’t have to register or disclose information about their lobbying activities. Sorry, I mean their strategizing activities.
The new terminology is convenient in another way, too: It allows Daschle to play the role of an independent expert on health care rather than someone with a direct financial stake in the legislative battle. For instance, Newsweek recently interviewed him about the issue, describing him only as Obama’s failed nominee for health care czar who is now “watching from the sidelines.” For his part, Daschle coyly noted that he felt “very fortunate to be able to play the role of what I would call a resource to members of Congress and to the White House and to others who are interested in public policy relating to health care.”