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2003-06-18

Bush Taps 'Embedded Lobbyist' to Head RNC

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We talk to Public Citizen’s Joan Claybrook on longtime lobbyist Ed Gillespie and the merger of the Republican Party and corporate America.

Enron. Microsoft. Verizon. Viacom. Tyson Foods. DirecTV. Daimler-Chrysler.

These are just some of the corporations that have hired lobbyist Ed Gillespie in recent years. In 2000, Gillespie co-founded the lobbying firm Quinn, Gillespie & Associates, which has quickly grown into one of Washington’s most powerful lobbying groups. Enron alone paid Gillespie’s firm $700,000 to lobby the White House on the electricity crisis on the West Coast.

But now Gillespie has a new client, the Republican National Committee.

On Monday, President Bush tapped Gillespie to serve as the RNC’s new head. As party chair, Gillespie will work closely with the White House and congressional leaders on policy matters and election strategy.

"This is just one more step in the merger of the Republican Party and Corporate America," says Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, which published the report "Ed Gillespie: The Embedded Lobbyist, New Chairman Brings Corporate Loyalties to Top Job in the GOP". "Ed Gillespie is a richly rewarded lobbyist who greased the wheels in Congress and the White House for Enron, one of the most crooked companies in U.S. history. And now he’s at the head of the GOP. That should tell citizens where President Bush’s interests lie."

Gillespie told the New York Times that he would retain his stake in his lobbying firm but would do no work and collect no salary as long as he is a party official.

"He has represented the companies that are most anti-consumer," Claybrook told Democracy Now!. "It’s really incredible he is now going to be the head of the Republican National Committee, and yet retain his interests in his lobbying firm."

Claybrook says that despite Gillespie’s claim that he will do no lobbying work or collect a salary from his firm during his tenure as head of the RNC, "his clients know and other potential clients know that he is in the position to call the shots. And that’s what the company cares about. So they would clearly stay with his firm, be added to his firm, so that they can get what they want supported by the administration."

The Public Citizen report says that since the firm started in 2000, Quinn, Gillespie & Associates has collected over $27 million in lobbying fees through 2002. "They represent some of the biggest corporations in America, including, as well, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which pays them almost a million dollars to lobby for a class action bill that would keep consumers from being able to join together and bring lawsuits," Claybrook says. "And that’s a very difficult forum for consumers because the federal courts don’t like to certify class actions."

Public Citizen’s report also looks at Gillespie’s relationship with Enron, which paid his firm $700,000 in 2001 alone. Since the Martha Stewart indictment, a lot of people have raised questions about why the government hasn’t taken a similar approach to Ken Lay, the former head of Enron.

Claybrook says Enron paid Quinn, Gillespie "to lobby the White House on the electricity crisis in the West coast. Enron was trying to get total deregulation so that they could continue to cook the books. And they also were attempting to influence, of course, the federal energy regulatory commission hearing in Washington."

The White House supported Enron’s efforts and Claybrook says Gillespie was "a key player in that."

Public Citizen also details how Gillespie channeled money from Daimler-Chrysler and Enron to the "21st Century Project," which bought print and television ads in July 2001 promoting the administration’s energy plans. Claybrook said that meant deregulation.

"[Gillespie] is a handmaiden for whatever the corporate interests are," says Claybrook. "Those corporate interests generally are anti-consumer and whatever suits the whims of the corporation in terms of increasing their profits, no matter what the cost to the public."

Claybrook says Gillespie’s appointment as head of the RNC shows clearly the agenda of President George W Bush. "He’s what you might call a corporatist, that is whatever the corporations want, that’s what he supports."

The report "Ed Gillespie: The Embedded Lobbyist, New Chairman Brings Corporate Loyalties to Top Job in the GOP" can be found at http://www.citizen.org.

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