- The Washington Times - Friday, June 14, 2002

Stop the presses. Republican operatives are playing politics. In Washington of all places. So proclaimed The Washington Post in a page one, above-the-fold story on Monday: "GOP Monitoring Lobbyists' Politics/White House, Hill Access May Be Affected."

Imagine this. In the nation's capital, there are Republicans, organized by conservative activist Grover Norquist, who are researching and compiling the political activities of lobbyists. It is here, of course, where these same lobbyists have spent their careers exerting considerable influence upon congressional and executive branch decisions that have increased federal spending and taxation from less than $100 billion per year in the early 1960s to more than $2 trillion per year in fiscal 2003. It should hardly come as a surprise that Mr. Norquist, a lobbyist himself, is also the president of Americans for Tax Reform, an organization concerned about both the level and the distribution of America's gargantuan federal tax burden.

Oh, goodness. Given the indispensable role of lobbyists in increasing federal spending and taxes by a factor of 20 over four decades, who could possibly think that a lobbyist's party registration or his history of campaign contributions would be worth knowing? In the nation's capital, no less? Merely to pose those questions is to invite two others. To wit: Who would not want to know this information? And, frankly, why hasn't this vital information been researched and reported long ago?

Among those who clearly do not want us to know this information are Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid. Referring to Mr. Norquist's evolving report, which, appropriately enough, has been called the "K Street Project," Mr. Daschle told The Post that he was "appalled that anybody would be that brazen." On the Senate floor, Mr. Reid decried the project, saying it amounted to "keeping lists of people's personal activity." He said compiling this public information was "on the verge of being criminal."

This is absurd. Among the items in the document, according to The Post, are the names of the lobbyists and their firms; their party affiliation; other places the lobbyists have worked as political operatives; and how much money they have raised for or contributed to politicians and political causes.

Mr. Reid speculated that the information could be used for "intimidation, professional retaliation or character assassination." And he compared the collection of such valuable public information to "McCarthyism." Good grief. Hearing Mr. Reid's reaction, one might think he was referring to the Clinton White House's improper accumulation of nearly 1,000 raw FBI files on Republican politicians.

For the past decade, congressional Democrats have been screaming about the need for campaign-finance "reform." Regardless of where one stood on the brand of "reform" that Democrats were pushing, there was nearly unanimous agreement that maximizing the disclosure of political contributions was a very good move. It was then. And it still is. Especially for lobbyists.

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