Don’t stand so close to me: female lobbyists complain of limited access to Republicans

Posted on October 6, 2010

John Boehner

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With even a hint of impropriety possibly being the kiss-of-death to a politician’s career, it’s no wonder that Minority Leader Boehner issued a warning earlier in the year to Republicans to avoid “partying” with female lobbyists.  The advice makes perfect sense but seems to have upset the women lobbyists who complain the extra precautions some lawmakers are taking is limiting their access.

From The Hill:

The concern about the appearance of impropriety is not new on Capitol Hill. Perception, after all, is everything in politics.

 But female lobbyists are raising new concerns that access to male Republican lawmakers has been further hampered by a warning made earlier this year by House Minority Leader John Boehner.

The Ohio Republican privately told a handful of male Republicans to avoid getting drunk and partying with female lobbyists at after-hour parties on Capitol Hill, according to a July report in the New York Post.

Some women on K Street, who say they are already at a disadvantage to their male counterparts, are upset about the reports of Boehner’s edict and say it represents yet another obstacle. There are just 17 Republican women in the House compared to 56 Democrats, while the Senate has just four Republican women compared to 13 Democrats.

“What year are we in again? Is this 1960?” asked one female Republican lobbyist. “There’s no problem with congressmen drinking at the Capital Grille [Restaurant] with their male lobbyist-friends, which happens every night of the week. But somehow if they do it with a woman, it doesn’t look good. That’s just an outdated attitude and one reason we don’t have more women in top Republican leadership jobs.”

While I can sympathize with the additional layer of difficulty being placed on the female lobbyists in trying to do their jobs, I can’t help but think, “What do they expect lawmakers to do?”   And although these same women admit there are a “few bad apples,” they protest that they all shouldn’t be placed in the same group. Well, how is a lawmaker to know who the “bad apples” are until after the fact?  I’m sure every lawmakers who’s gotten into hot water over a lobbyist probably thought the lobbyist was a “good apple” until the you-know-what hit the fan.

Maybe instead of conducting government’s business in bars and restaurants, ALL lobbyists should have access to lawmakers during office hours only.  Or, better yet, as was suggested by one of the commentors to The Hill article: why not, in this age of the internet, teleconferencing and technology, do away with Washington offices entirely and keep the lawmakers in their states and districts?  With all the electronic avenues of access, there’s no reason all lawmakers must congregate in one town to legislate. This way the influence of lobbyists might possibly be limited and the lawmakers could be in closer contact with their constituents.

Posted in: Politics