K Street Prepares for Televised Rendezvous With GOP Leaders

Posted July 15, 2010 at 7:00am

Trade association lobbyists aren’t shying away from attending a meeting House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) are holding Friday, despite the Members’ decision to stream the meeting live on the Internet.

Boehner and Roskam invited more than 20 senior Republican lobbyists and top officials from large trade groups to the Capitol to get the advocates’ input on the new GOP agenda. The meeting is part of the House leaders’ America Speaking Out initiative, which is focused on getting Americans’ suggestions for a new policy agenda for the party to launch this fall.

House Republicans decided to tap K Street as well as ordinary voters — but then said the meeting would be broadcast after liberals pounced on the session as an example of the GOP’s coziness with corporate interests. The meeting will also be broadcast on the group’s UStream and Facebook pages.

Although lobbyists have a reputation for operating behind the scenes, the move to televise the meeting isn’t scaring off trade association types. Several lobbyists, including Dirk Van Dongen of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, Bruce Josten of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and John Emling of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, plan to attend the meeting.

Dan Danner, head of the National Federation of Independent Business; Bill Graves, the former Kansas governor who now leads the American Trucking Associations; Jay Timmons of the National Association of Manufacturers; and Joe Stanton of the National Association of Home Builders were also invited.

“We are actually serving our members,” Van Dongen said of going to the meeting. “We view our role in this meeting as being their voice, and we’re going to present what we get from our members.”

NAW polled 2,000 of its members for their thoughts on what can jump-start the economy.

Still, House Republicans’ decision to televise the meeting isn’t sitting well with everyone.

“Health care looked like ‘America’s Funniest Videos’ was shooting it — it was pretty bad from a quality standpoint,” said one Republican lobbyist who is attending the meeting.

Because the invitation is from Boehner’s office, the lobbyist said the event is becoming a “check-the-box” meeting where attendance is mandatory. But some sources say they expect that Members will play more to the cameras by focusing on their organizational talking points as opposed to real political strategy.

“I assume [leadership] is going to be less candid with us,” the lobbyist said.

America Speaking Out spokesman Brendan Buck said in an e-mail that he doesn’t expect the discussion at the meeting to change because it is a public format.

“We’re streaming it because this project is about transparency and open government, and we take that seriously,” Buck wrote. “We imagine the thoughts on job creation will be the same regardless of the meeting’s format.”