House Majority Whip Steve Scalise got some help interviewing potential new hires for his press shop from an unlikely source: a federal lobbyist. Quinn Gillespie & Associates' John Feehery sat in on and participated in multiple official interviews with job candidates last month for the new majority whip's press operation. Scalise has not yet announced who he will name as his communications director. Sometimes lawmakers rely on lobbyists for strategic advice. But inviting a lobbyist into an interview is highly unusual. Several ethics lawyers and current and former leadership aides said they have never heard of a similar arrangement.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) is the newest member of the House Republican leadership, recently taking over the powerful House Majority Whip position. And with the new gig comes a bigger office and larger staff.
On the surface, that's not interesting. What is interesting is the way in which the Louisiana Republican is putting his team together.
It's genuinely bizarre. It's hardly a secret that House GOP leaders work closely with corporate lobbyists, but the idea that the House Majority Whip would have a lobbyist literally sit in on job interviews suggests a partnership that's unseemly, even by the standards of this Congress.
Indeed, note that the Politico report added that Feehery isn't just some random figure on Capitol Hill: he's "registered to lobby on behalf of major corporations like AT&T, Sony Corp., Qualcomm, 21st Century Fox and others that have interests before Congress and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, of which Scalise is a member."
For his part, the corporate lobbyist who sat in on Scalise's interviews noted that he used to work directly for the House Republican leadership as the communications director, so Feehery's input makes sense as the new Majority Whip hires communications aides.
But it's hard to overlook the way in which the House GOP leader has effectively brought a corporate lobbyist in as a partner, as if they're all on the same team and the lines between lawmakers and lobbyists is blurred.
That's not illegal, and as best as I can tell, it doesn't violate ethics rules, but it does reinforce the impression that corporate lobbyists have a direct role in helping run the place in the Republican-led House.
It's an impression obviously rooted in fact. As we talked about a couple of years ago, when Congress worked on a jobs bill in 2010, the House Republican leadership huddled with corporate lobbyists. When work on Wall Street reform got underway, John Boehner and the GOP huddled with industry lobbyists. When Congress worked on health care reform, Boehner and the GOP huddled with insurance lobbyists. When an energy/climate bill started advancing, the GOP huddled with energy lobbyists. In 2012, when the STOCK Act was being considered, the GOP huddled with financial industry lobbyists.
Now lobbyists are even sitting in on congressional job interviews.
Aren't politicians at least supposed to keep up appearances, maintaining the pretense of keeping K Street at arm's length?