Critics of RNC Chair Candidate J.C. Watts Point to Lobbying Career

Critics of RNC Chair Candidate J.C. Watts Point to Lobbying Career

Even though RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has secured nearly double the votes he needs to retain his chairmanship, Republicans last week floated former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts as a potential replacement. But his post-Congressional lobbying career may dissuade Watts from even mounting a run in vain, as the party tries to disassociate itself from the corporate welfare policies often associated with K Street. 

Watts was a conservative Congressman and successfully helmed GOPAC, an organization that recruits Republican candidates. He is also a dynamic spokesman who happens to be black. 

But Watts, who ran the wishbone as quarterback for the University of Oklahoma almost as well as anyone in the sport, became a master pitchman after leaving Congress for some questionable companies.  

According to John Fund, Watts lobbied for a payday-loan trade association, a Cherokee Indian tribe and an infamous group that ran late-night infomercials  to a now-bankrupt group pitching “free money” government grants on late-night TV.

That group — National Grants Conferences — is now bankrupt, but Watts and Hayworth were associated with the group that ran late-night commercials that “recruited viewers to spend at least $1,000 for ‘seminars’ on how to obtain federal grants for various government programs.” 

As Tim Carney, one of the foremost chroniclers of crony capitalism on both sides of the aisle, notes, some of Watts’s other corporate clients included AT&T, defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, and NASCAR. 

Ties to lobbying, though, have not prevented RNC Chairmen from succeeding. 

For instance, Priebus headed his law firm’s  “Government Practice Group” before becoming RNC Chair. 

According to the National Review, “Priebus’s firm, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, even created a “Stimulus Legislation Team” — of which Priebus was listed as a member — that promised clients to ‘identify opportunities, prepare appropriate proposals and make targeted contacts to secure funds'” from President Barack Obama’s stimulus program. Priebus later said that, even though he was the head of the firm’s “Government Practice Group,”  his name was listed in error on the announcement, and membership in the group was also listed in error on his official biography. 

Haley Barbour, who is regarded as one of the best and most effective RNC Chairs, was also a prominent lobbyist. During Newt Gingrich’s famed “Contract With America” 1994 midterm election campaign, it has been said that Barbour, with his fundraising prowess, purchased the microphone Gingrich used to nationalize the historic midterm elections that gave Republicans control of the House of Representative for the first time since 1954.