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K Street Files: Member Watch

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As the new Congress officially gets under way, several former Members of Congress still haven’t announced where they will be hanging a shingle in 2009.

Some of the Members expected to head to K Street, including Democratic Rep. Bud Cramer (Ala.) and Republican Reps. Christopher Shays (Conn.), Kenny Hulshof (Mo.), Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) and Jim Walsh (N.Y.), remain undecided, according to headhunters.

There are exceptions. Former Republican Rep. Tom Davis (Va.) has joined Deloitte Consulting, while Jim McCrery (La.) is at Capitol Counsel.

The recruiting dance is taking longer than years past as the deteriorating economy forces lawmakers and firms to look more carefully at their choices.

Cramer, a former appropriator, and Reynolds, a one-time tax writer and National Republican Congressional Committee head, are considered among the most sought after of the unsigned talent.

Hulshof, too, is a potential K Streeter, although he has expressed little interest in staying in Washington, D.C.

The former Ways and Means panelist has unsuccessfully plotted his return to the Show Me State on numerous occasions during the past decade, including an ill-fated gubernatorial run last year and an failed bid to head up the University of Missouri.

“Firms are making sure it’s the right fit before pulling the trigger now,” said Ivan Adler, a headhunter at the McCormick Group. The standard is “a spec higher because they are coming without any guarantee of business,” Alder said.

K Street Etymology. In her new book, former American League of Lobbyists president Deanna Gelak appears to debunk the generally ascribed origin of the verb “to lobby,” finding multiple uses of the verb before its reputed coinage at the Willard Hotel.

Ostensibly a primer for aspiring lobbyists published by TheCapitol.Net, “Lobbying and Advocacy” traces the much-maligned word back to the early 19th century — decades before it typically crops up.

Local lore has it that the term “lobbying” was first coined to describe loiterers looking to buttonhole President Ulysses S. Grant, a frequent imbiber at the Willard Hotel bar in the late 1860s.

Not so, argues Gelak, who unearthed several earlier instances of the term’s usage, including one citation in 1820, “two years before Ulysses S. Grant was even born.

“There is evidence of the terms ‘lobbying’ or ‘lobbyists’ being used to pertain to persuading public officials before Grant became president in 1869,” Gelak writes. “Therefore, the term could not have been first coined in the Willard Hotel lobby.”

Citing the “History of Congress,” Gelak found one instance of the word’s usage on the House floor in 1808, when lawmakers were debating whether to relocate the federal government.

“We have heard it said that if we move to Philadelphia, we shall have a commanding lobby,” an unidentified lawmaker said on the House floor. “We shall learn the sentiments of the population!”

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