In Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech, President Obama singled out for praise an Afghanistan veteran who was nearly killed by a roadside bomb, a Hispanic immigrant who beat the odds to get into college, and a pizza-shop owner who recently raised his employees' pay to $10 an hour.
Somehow, the president failed to include any Washington lobbyists on his list of heroes—an omission that apparently disappointed some in the influence-peddling industry.
Here’s what Rich Gold of Holland & Knight—the firm’s clients include Raytheon, Dow Chemical, and the Mortgage Bankers Association—told Politico, when asked what he’d like to see Obama say:
“I want to hear, ‘You know what? I was wrong about lobbyists. You guys aren’t nearly half bad; I don’t know how I would possibly deal with the guys on the Hill without you around; and thank goodness you’re there to help out.’”
Others in the trade didn’t set their hopes quite that high. They just wanted Obama to LEAVE LOBBYISTS ALOOONE.
“Silence will speak volumes,” Nick Allard, dean of Brooklyn Law School and a partner at Patton Boggs, told The Hill in advance of the speech. “Finally ending the stock anti-lobbying verbiage would perhaps reflect the maturity of the administration and the pragmatic acknowledgment that the problems and dysfunction in Washington are not caused by lobbyists.”
And Howard Marlowe, a former president of the Association of Government Relations Professionals—a lobbyist for lobbyists, in other words—fretted that Obama might see a political upside in going after his crowd.
“If he’s desperate to score some points with the public, he will use this opportunity to bash lobbyists,” Marlowe told The Hill.
It’s hard not to notice that these concerns for the tender sensibilities of lobbyists come at a time when the wealthiest Americans writ large are beset by “a deep-seated anxiety that the national—and even global—mood is turning against the super-rich,” as Politico put it in a story published Thursday.
That broader fear may or may not have much basis in reality. But the notion that Washington lobbyists are an oppressed group could hardly be less timely. The day of Obama’s speech, The Hill reported separately—under the headline "K Street getting a big boost"—that lawmakers plan to move all 12 annual appropriations bills for the first time in two decades, giving lobbyists more leverage over where federal money is spent.
“In terms of morale on K Street, it’s great. In terms of business, yeah, if bills are moving, that creates opportunities,” Jim Walsh, a former Republican congressman now at K&L Gates, told the paper.