From THINK PROGRESS:
A few months ago, House Republicans launched an effort called Americans Speaking Out, which purports to give average Americans the ability to offer their input on what Congress should do. It became quickly apparent that the enterprise was little more than a taxpayer-funded PR gimmick to help Republicans market their agenda for this fall’s elections, even as they ignored any ideas they didn’t already support. Now, under the banner of Americans Speaking Out, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has summoned advice from those who he truly seems interested in listening to: lobbyists. Roll Call reports that Boehner has invited “senior Republican lobbyists and top officials from several large trade groups” to a meeting at Boehner’s office to discuss “their suggestions for a new GOP agenda” [...]
A spokesperson for Americans Speaking Out defended the meeting, saying it was important to meet with large employers. But this is hardly the first time Boehner and his colleagues have run to lobbyists for help coming up with ideas.
As the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo has documented, congressional Republicans have “organized a pow-wow with lobbyists in order to devise a strategy” for nearly every piece of major legislation over the past year, from health care reform, to Wall Street reform, to climate change, to a jobs bill.
From Roll Call:
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) have invited senior Republican lobbyists and top officials from several large trade groups to the Capitol next week to provide their suggestions for a new GOP agenda.
Invitees included Dan Danner, head of the National Federation of Independent Business; Bruce Josten, top lobbyist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Jay Timmons of the National Association of Manufacturers; and Joe Stanton of the National Association of Home Builders.
Roskam serves as the vice chairman and “jobs policy director” of the America Speaking Out agenda project.
Republicans plan to release the agenda in September, but they say it is not meant to be a political document for use in the November elections.
From Matt Finkelstein at THE HUFFINGTON POST:
Yesterday, Roll Call reported that House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) will meet with an elite group of lobbyists next week to hear “their suggestions for a new GOP agenda.”
The meeting, which is scheduled for July 16, is hardly surprising on its own. Republican lawmakers have habitually huddled with lobbyists to formulate their opposition to President Obama’s policies, so it’s only natural that they would take a similar approach to crafting their own platform.
It is, however, astounding that Republicans have the nerve to hold a private meeting with lobbyists under the guise of “America Speaking Out” — the party’s feckless initiative to solicit ideas from the American public:
Republicans are justifying the powwow by calling it “an opportunity to hear from America’s job creators.” Nonetheless, a closed-door meeting with high-powered lobbyists clearly violates the principles on which America Speaking Out was conceived.
Here’s how Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the chairman of America Speaking Out, introduced the project back in May:
This is our effort, a Republican effort, to change the course of history and the policies in Washington, to return to 300 million Americans their voice in the way they are governed. We recognize that Americans don’t want an agenda imposed on them from Washington. They know that the best ideas don’t come from Washington. They come from the people.
But instead of debates behind closed doors, which has happened far too often in the last 18 months, we’re throwing open the doors and letting a little sunshine in. We’re giving Americans an opportunity to have their voices heard.
But next week’s sit-down does not reflect that spirit of openness. The invitees are longtime beltway insiders from the same interest groups that have dominated American politics for years. It’s difficult to argue that their sway with Congressman Boehner and the Republican Party does anything to “return to 300 million Americans their voice.” (The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for example, is bankrolled by a remarkably small group of donors.)
If Republicans were ever serious about creating an open forum, they now have a great opportunity to prove it: Boehner should broadcast his discussion with the lobbyists on the America Speaking Out website.
The choice for Republicans is simple. They can “open the doors” and deliver on the promise of America Speaking Out, or they can admit that they only answer to lobbyists and their ongoing outreach to regular Americans is a sham.