Some of Washington’s most prominent lobbyists have been seeking elected office, and nowhere is that more of a trend than in Virginia: Democratic super lobbyist Terry McAuliffe is now governor, and Republican lobbyist Ed Gillespie is on the verge of announcing a bid to challenge Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA).
The National Journal notes that it is “odd timing for lobbyists to be seeking office, because they’re closely linked to the country’s dysfunctional and unpopular politics,” as “polls show that the public holds their profession in particular contempt: Lobbying ranked as the least trustworthy and honest profession in the country, according to a December Gallup survey.”
Though “members of Congress rated higher” than lobbyists, those in “America’s least popular profession have decided that the public will vote them into office anyway.”
In Florida, Republicans are also expected to nominate lobbyist David Jolly to run against Alex Sink for the seat of the late Rep. Bill Young (R-FL).
The dean of lobbyists, Haley Barbour, successfully left his lobbying career to become Mississippi’s governor but ultimately decided against a presidential run in 2012 because he believed that his past would be too much baggage for an electorate that was already loathing “Boomtown.” The National Journal notes that Barbour is friendly with both Gillespie and McAuliffe. During the 1990s, it was said that Barbour bought the bullhorn that Newt Gingrich used to lead the Republican “Contract with America” revolution in 1994. Gillespie also played a role in that success before starting a bipartisan K-Street lobbying firm.
Democrats and Republicans conceded that being a lobbyist running for office is like having a little more weight on a horse; it makes it harder to run because Americans suspect ex-lobbyists will use their positions of power to cater to the entrenched interests of “Boomtown’s” permanent political class instead of fighting for their constituents.
The Republican base has been lukewarm to Gillespie because of his support for amnesty and entrenched ties to Karl Rove.