Monday, March 15, 2004

Ari's Got a New Corner
In this city of politics and power, influence is everything. And if the White House and Capitol Hill are two of the main points of this nexus, K Street is a third.

It is on K Street, of course, that many of the lobbyists and political consultants make their home. And while you'll be lucky to find it mentioned in any guide-book - despite the recent eponymous television drama produced by heart-throb George Clooney - there are few places in the Western world that wield as much influence as this east/west throughfare.

Remember when Howard Dean, the one-time Democratic front-runner, used to rail against the influence of Washington lobbyists? Remember when he used to complain of how lobbyists were buying up politicians on Capitol Hill? He meant the folk on K Street. K Street should not be taken literally. These days lobbyists have their offices all over the city and the term has become shorthand for the industry as a whole.

But some of the biggest names are still there on the boulevard once known as 'Gucci gulch' because of its well-heeled employees and expense-account restaurants. One of the latest big names to join the lobbying industry is Ari Fleischer, former spokesman for George W Bush. The man who went to unnatural lengths to avoid giving a straight answer to a straight question is setting up a communications consultancy.

Apparently, he charges $30,000 (£17,000) a month and demands a two-year contract for advising clients 'how to think through their various activities'. It is a nice little earner since it's a job he handles between writing his memoirs and giving speeches at thousands of dollars a turn.

There is still talk about reducing K Street's influence. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee apparent, said that if elected he would sign an order to bar former government officials from becoming lobbyists for five years.[Nitpicker emphasisi]
And I thought he wanted to spend time with the family. Take a deep breath Scotty, maybe it will be worth it after all.


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