President Bush's choice of former Montana governor Marc Racicot to head the Republican National Committee continues a long established practice by both Republicans and Democrats of hiring lobbyists as party chairmen.
While serving as the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Racicot will maintain his position with the Houston-based law firm of Bracewell and Patterson. He has declined however to accept the $150,000 salary that comes with the top job at the RNC.
Racicot is a registered lobbyist for energy, timber and mineral interests at Bracewell and Patterson. The American Forest and Paper Association, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Enron, The National Energy Coordinating Council, the Recording Industry Association of America, and Quintana Minerals, are all clients which Racicots represents. According to lobbying disclosure reports, the companies and trade groups paid $710,000 in lobbying fees to his firm in the first six months of 2001 alone.
As a Washington representative of the industry trade group National Electric Reliability Council, Racicot lobbied Vice President Dick Cheney and his energy task force director, Andrew Lundquist, on the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempts to force old plants to update their clean air equipment.
The task force headed by Cheney recommended that the Justice Department consider dropping lawsuits it has filed against some companies for alleged environmental violations.
The White House defended Racicot’s decision to continue his lobbying activities while serving as RNC chairman.
“There’s been ample history on both the Democratic and Republican side of chairmen being involved in either lobbying or having outside sources of income,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told the Associated Press.
Fleischer has done his homework.
As the Center reported in The Buying of the President 2000, Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1993 to 1997, “lied to the public and his fellow Republicans for four years,” when he claimed that he was planning to resign from his lobbying firm Barbour, Griffith & Rodgers.
Barbour maintained his financial ties to the firm even though he declared in 1993 that he would “be selling [his] financial interests in [his] law firm.”
“I didn’t want a Member [of Congress] to ponder whether I was coming down there for the Republican Party or for some business deal that is in Haley’s interest,” he later asserted. Records that Barbours firm submitted in 1996 to the Justice Department showed that he never sold his share of the firm.
Under Barbour’s tenure, several firms simultaneously made large contributions to the RNC while simultaneously paying Barbour’s firm to promote their interests in Washington.
When he left the RNC and returned to his firm in 1997, he brought with him more than a dozen new corporate clients, many of them the most generous GOP patrons, including tobacco companies RJ Reynolds, Phillip Morris, UST Inc., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. and Loews Corp. All five were among the top 50 soft money donors to the RNC and its affiliated committees.
The Democratic National Committee has also tapped lobbyists to lead them. In its 1992 report Private Parties, the Center detailed the conflicts of interest of, among other party heads, Ronald Brown, the then-DNC chairman.
Brown, who became the DNC chief in 1989, continued to receive income from the lobbying firm Patton, Boggs & Blow, of which he remained a partner. He maintained business relationship with at least three of the firm’s clients.
During his tenure at the DNC, he solicited government business for both his law firm and the company he headed. Though Brown maintained that he had done no outside client work, records obtained by the Center contradicted him.
According to a report in The Washington Post, FBI agents questioned Brown for five hours on the revelations contained in the Center’s report.
Among others, Brown represented the Duvalier government of Haiti until the Duvaliers were forced to flee the island nation, which required him to register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department. He remained a registered foreign agent even after he became the DNC chairman in February 1989.