Lobbyists despised but not ridiculed

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Some lobbyists are amused by the scorn, which even extends to family members.

One lobbyist, Stephen Brown, said his daughter, who attends a liberal arts college in the Northeast, revels in the notoriety of his job.

“She enjoys flaunting the fact her father’s an oil company lobbyist,” he said, adding that they’ve found a new bonding activity.

“I sat her down, and we watched [the movie] ‘Thank You for Smoking,’” he said. “We made that an annual tradition.”

Mr. Brown, who has lobbied for everyone from Venezuelan-owned Citgo to the Fraternal Order of Police to the Grateful Dead, said the current level of animosity isn’t higher than usual.

“We’re about normal. I think that a good lobbyist, an experienced lobbyist, isn’t going to pay attention to this stuff for more than half a second. This, too, shall pass,” he said.

That must be a relief to the budding young lobbyists in the Montana YMCA’s Youth Legislature program, who are lured into signing up for lobbying rather than the program’s legislature, press corps or Supreme Court with the following promise: “You will use lobbying skills in your adult life! This is a job with a real career track! So, sign up to be a lobbyist!”

According to the program’s rules, lobbyists are given special treatment. Only lobbyists can fill empty legislative seats, only lobbyists can use the program’s Internet connection to do research during the event, and only lobbyists are allowed to move into positions in the governor’s Cabinet.

That’s a far cry from the real White House, where lobbyists may be the only ones shut out of the next administration, given the direction in which the two presidential campaigns are going.

If Mr. Obama wins the presidency, he will have a hard time filling the assistant secretary slots in his administration if he refuses to hire lobbyists, and that will leave a number of angry power players in town.

“The Democratic lobbyists, having been second in line now for 14 years, this all happens just as they’re about to get back to the front of the line. If I [were] a Democratic lobbyist, I would be very annoyed at this particular turn of events,” Mr. McKenna said.

Still, he said, the real joke may be on Mr. McCain, who has had to ax a top fundraiser and a handful of other officials because of their lobbying connections. That has left him struggling to raise money.

Mr. McKenna blames Mr. McCain’s eponymous campaign-finance reform bill for making money a dirty word in politics and for pointing to lobbyists as the conduit for that money.

McCain did it,” he said.

Mr. Rosenthal, the Rutgers professor who has written “The Third House: Lobbyists and Lobbying in the States,” said lobbyists suffer at the hands of their portrayal in the press, which often boils political controversies down to who gives political contributions and what their interests are.

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