- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2007

Liberal lobbying groups are trying to flex their newfound muscle on K Street after a dozen years in exile, promising to avoid the same tactical mistakes that led to the downfall of, and jail sentences for, some Republicans last year.

“Washington has been congested with conservatives abusing their power for far too long,” said Toby Chaudhuri of the Campaign for America’s Future (CAF), a progressive lobbying organization.

“We’re cleaning out the stables on Washington’s K Street power corridor, opening the back rooms to the public light,” he said. “We have an opportunity to challenge the grip the right has had on our imaginations and our policies over the past quarter-century.”

Part of that effort includes lining up prime real estate along the K Street corridor of Northwest Washington, which has been the traditional home of lobbyists in the nation’s capital. The group yesterday announced it is moving to K Street while simultaneously doubling its office space. It has traditionally relied on grass-roots support for its campaigns.

Mr. Chaudhuri said CAF has signed a 10-year lease for the new office space, which will be shared with fellow liberal activist organizations including the Progressive Majority, the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, Americans United and USAction.

“Maybe they are moving over to K Street so they can get their contributions more directly from the AFL-CIO headquarters,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative organization with close ties to K Street. “They are a front group for organized labor. These are the anti-reformers.”

Despite their deep ideological differences, CAF and other liberal organizations are trying to emulate some of the tactics used by Mr. Norquist in helping the conservative movement rise to power. For instance, Mr. Norquist hosts the “Wednesday meetings,” a weekly gathering of conservative activists, strategists and Republican congressional staffers.

The CAF now hosts its own biweekly patchwork of ideological allies that they call the “Tuesday Group.”

“After the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 and the White House in 2001, Norquist and a network of conservatives tightened their hold on power by dominating lobbying firms on K Street and building upon patronage, contracts and one-party rule. The changeover in Congress last month has helped alter this political culture,” Mr. Chaudhuri wrote in the release.

“Yes, it’s flattering, except it doesn’t work for them,” Mr. Norquist said of the comparison. “What unites our various causes is the desire to be left alone by the government. They can’t sit around the campfire, because the only thing that unites their coalition is the desire for more government funding.”

Nonetheless, CAF helped to organize and fund a successful advertising campaign last year against several Republican lawmakers, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and former Ohio Rep. Bob Ney.

After stepping down from his leadership position, Mr. DeLay decided against seeking re-election and now runs a Web site that focuses on issues of importance to the conservative base. Mr. Ney also decided against running for re-election after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy and making false statements stemming from his connections to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Last year in January, Mr. Abramoff pleaded guilty to three felony counts for his role in defrauding American Indian tribes and charges of corruption of public officials.

CAF says it hopes to use its new location to focus on energy independence and to “create a national conversation about providing health care coverage for everyone in America.”

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