For some incoming Republican lawmakers, the road from their home districts to Capitol Hill detours onto Washington's K Street, home to many prominent "public affairs" firms. A number of 2011 freshmen -- who railed against incumbents beholden to lobbyists -- have hired registered lobbyists as senior aides.
The Washington Post
reports that Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican who defeated Sen. Russ Feingold after complaining that Feingold "embraced lobbyists and declared himself to be on their side," has himself hired homeland security lobbyist Donald H. Kent Jr. as his chief of staff.
Among others the Post cites:
- Sen.-elect Mike Lee (Utah) has hired energy lobbyist Spencer Stokes as his chief of staff.
- Tea party favorite Rand Paul (Ky.) has brought on anti-union lobbyist Douglas Stafford as his top senatorial aide.
- Rep.-elect Charlie Bass (N.H.) has named food industry lobbyist John W. Billings as his chief of staff.
- Rep.-elect Chip Cravaack (Minn.) has hired former lobbyist Rod Grams (a one-time U.S. senator) as his interim chief of staff.
Craig Holman, of the watchdog group Public Citizen
, said hiring from K Street is akin to putting "hired guns" on the staff, giving their former corporate clients an unfair advantage when relevant legislation is before Congress.
But aides to the newly-elected GOP lawmakers insist otherwise, saying the former lobbyists were hired only for their expertise.
"Congressman Bass demands all staff adhere to all House rules and ethics guidelines," said Bass spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne.
Johnson's office didn't respond to requests for comment, the Post said.