Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has selected David Hoppe, a former adviser to Republican congressional leaders and a longtime Washington lobbyist, to serve as his chief of staff, should Ryan be elected House speaker this week, as is widely expected. The hiring was finalized after Hoppe and Ryan, both Wisconsin natives and proteges of the late New York congressman Jack Kemp, had conversations about Ryan’s desire to staff the speaker’s office with seasoned aides who are also deeply familiar with conservatism, according to people briefed on the talks.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been so cozy with corporate lobbyists in recent years, they've effectively had a seat at the table for every major policy dispute. When Congress worked on Wall Street reform, Boehner huddled with financial-industry lobbyists. When Congress worked on health care reform, he huddled with insurance lobbyists. When Congress worked on climate change, Boehner huddled with energy lobbyists.
We'll learn soon enough whether his successor will pursue a similar course, but the Washington Post reported over the weekend on Paul Ryan's new chief of staff.
In a written statement, the incoming Speaker said of Hoppe, “Dave has been a foot soldier in the conservative movement, and he is a good friend. His decades of experience fighting for the cause and his passionate commitment to conservative principles are just what I’m looking for to create a new kind of speakership.”
For those who are concerned about corporate lobbyists already having outsized influence over Capitol Hill policymaking, Paul Ryan's first big hire probably isn't encouraging news. And to be sure, Hoppe has had success on K Street, coming to the incoming Speaker's office from Squire Patton Boggs, a powerhouse D.C. firm, after having worked at Quinn Gillespie & Associates, as well as his own Hoppe Strategies.
His client list includes some very familiar, very lucrative names: Delta, AT&T, Ford, Cayman Finance, and Amazon, among others.
But Hoppe is also a former vice president at the Heritage Foundation, and a long-time congressional staffer for a variety of prominent Republicans.
Lee Drutman made the case late yesterday that one of the more important takeaways from this story is the fact that "the most experienced and qualified people" up for congressional jobs are often found in the private sector, because that's where insiders "make the real money in Washington."
"If we don't like the idea of individuals jumping between the public and private sector, we need to take the idea of investing in government more seriously, so that somebody like Hoppe might make a career as a public servant and not get mixed up with corporate clients to send his kids to college and pay his mortgage," Drutman added. "Instead, after decades of stagnating congressional staffing levels, it's no wonder that Ryan, like many other congressional leaders, turned to the private sector. That's where the majority of experienced policy and political talent works. And that's the real problem."
As for the incoming Republican leader's priorities, I also found it interesting that Ryan stressed ideological credentials. The Wisconsin congressman wanted someone "familiar with conservatism," a "foot soldier in the conservative movement," someone with "experience fighting for the cause," and a "passionate commitment to conservative principles.”
Note, Ryan made no reference to policymaking or governing, emphasizing Hoppe's ideology -- and nothing else.