Partisan Intelligence

Posted April 27, 2007 at 5:51pm

Since their party took control of Congress earlier this year, a collection of Democratic lobbyists privately have been griping about the time it takes to wrestle information from Democratic offices on Capitol Hill. [IMGCAP(1)]

It’s not that they don’t get the information — eventually, they say. It’s that what takes a Republican lobbyist an hour to get out of GOP leadership staffers, might take a day for Democrats.

“Generally, Democratic staff are more guarded, more cautious, more suspicious of lobbyists and there’s a culture of distrust,” said one well-connected Democratic lobbyist who is with a bipartisan lobbying firm. “Republicans are just more transactional. It was just easier to get information from Republican staffers.”

The kind of information, this lobbyist and others said, is not top-secret intel but rather logistics about when something is coming to the floor or what is planned for a particular amendment.

“I think it’s that some Democratic staffers don’t understand that sharing that information doesn’t make them dirty,” said another Democratic lobbyist. “It’s not that I can’t get the information, but I have to work harder to figure it out than a Republican lobbyist does.”

A Democratic lobbyist said a “collective groan” has gone out among K Street Democrats about how they must explain to clients that they can’t always get the information as quickly as their GOP counterparts often do.

“It’s about priorities,” said the first Democratic lobbyist. “When a voice mail

goes in, it gets returned in this order: constituents, other staff and then, maybe, lobbyists. I think for Republicans, lobbyists are higher up on the food chain.”

A GOP lobbyist who also is part of a bipartisan firm said that while there are exceptions, the general rule is that Democratic offices cough up information more slowly than Republicans.

“The lobby business is much more about info,” he said. “When a client says we need to know how this amendment’s going to play out or when something’s going to be on the floor, Republicans can get that more quickly. I think it’s a cultural issue of them not viewing us as the bad guys.”

An in-house Democratic lobbyist said while that is “mostly true,” it’s all about “how connected you are. I think the really good consultants are still getting it, but as a general rule Democrats just aren’t as open about that stuff.”

Another Democratic contract lobbyist said he’s having a tougher time getting the same information out of Democratic offices, too. “They are keeping e-mails and scheduling information much closer than they used to,” this lobbyist said.

But he added that it’s not part of any anti-lobbyist conspiracy. “I think it’s just that Democrats aren’t as organized,” he said.

Not Over Yet. Strange bedfellows sometimes have stormy on-again, off-again relationships. Case in point, former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), whose post-Congress lobbying career has proved more compelling than his tenure on Capitol Hill, recently filed a termination report for his sometime client, the American Civil Liberties Union.

Barr, who has done lobbying work for the ACLU through his firm Liberty Strategies on and off since 2004, has severed formal lobbying ties for the second time. Liberty Strategies also cut off its formal lobbying work for ACLU in 2006. It reported earning $20,000 from ACLU for the first half of 2007, indicating the relationship was back on. So is it over now?

The former Congressman, who recently took on the Marijuana Policy Project as a client, could not be reached for comment. But an ACLU spokeswoman said the group still expects to work with the Republican-turned-libertarian, particularly on privacy matters.

K Street Moves. Candice Ngo, formerly an aide to the Senate Appropriations Committee, is joining the lobbying team for the American Diabetes Association.

• Computer firm Lenovo has named Jeffrey Carlisle as its vice president of government relations and general counsel.

Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.