Opinion
              FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2004 file photo, Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, gestures during an interview with the Associated Press in his on Capitol Hill in Washington. Citing frustration with the climate in Congress, LaTourette has announced he will retire. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

When Lobbyists Attack: Steve LaTourette’s Embarrassing Anti-Tea Party Screed

Photo of Jenny Beth Martin
Jenny Beth Martin
Chairman, Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund
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      Jenny Beth Martin

      Jenny Beth Martin is co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, the nation’s largest tea party organization, and is also chairman of the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.

Watching a grown man have a hissy-fit registers somewhere between desperate and pathetic on the Silly Scale. That was the response among conservatives early this week upon reviewing the latest ravings of Steve LaTourette, the former Republican congressman and self-anointed arbiter of which voices may be heard in Congress.

In an August 3 screed, he erupted with a full-throated attack on conservative groups for their efforts to bring change to Washington, DC. Replete with the requisite name calling for such attacks, LaTourette accuses those with whom he disagrees of lining their pockets and not delivering on their promises, referring to last week’s House votes on illegal immigration as a case study of why he doesn’t like groups like ours.

After arguing that conservatives aren’t delivering any results to their supporters, LaTourette goes into detail about how we succeeded in delivering results to our supporters on illegal immigration, the biggest conservative victory over the liberal Democrat agenda in the 113th Congress. Tens of thousands of grassroots Americans called Congress expressing their opposition to a very bad bill that would have paved the way for unilateral amnesty by President Obama. This public outcry resulted in a second bill that cured many problems in the first and was ultimately passed by the House.

The defeat of the first immigration package, to which LaTourette confesses his support, was an example of conservatives taking the rubber stamp away from the House GOP leadership and demanding Congress assume its proper responsibility under the Constitution. Tea Party Patriots and others emerged with force and convinced House Republicans to prevent President Obama from granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.

Therein lies the rub. Popular grassroots activism is a threat to the business models of Washington lobbying firms, including McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies, LLC, whose president is LaTourette. These firms make their millions by convincing clients to write big checks in exchange for these firms throwing their weight around in Congress. After all, if you want Congress to do something, just hire a lobbyist like those at LaTourette’s firm, for it is they who can influence events in exchange for a fee.

But when ordinary Americans flex their collective muscle to enact positive change, like Tea Party Patriots and other groups did in regards to illegal immigration, LaTourette’s firm and others have to work harder to make a buck. More to the point, lobbyists who supported that terrible illegal immigration bill must now explain to their understandably angry clients why those six and seven-figure lobbying fees were wasted and did nothing more than line the pockets of the respective lobbyist. Sounds awkward.

LaTourette’s less cordial response to all of this is likely driven less by ideology or political strategy than by financial interests. By accident or design, his tantrum was on behalf of a large swath of the Washington, DC lobbying industry whose power was just co-opted by a bunch of motivated American citizens who did, en masse, what lobbyists do every day, except without the Gucci loafers.

Grassroots activism makes professional lobbying riskier and when an activity becomes riskier, people (read: clients) tend to spend less money on it. If you’re a registered lobbyist, that’s not good for business. So LaTourette’s logical reaction is to attack conservative groups for accepting contributions in pursuit of policy and acknowledging our success in the process, sort of like Pepsi attacking Coke for tasting better.

It’s important to understand that there’s nothing inherently wrong with lobbying. It’s protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution and we wholeheartedly support the right of LaTourette’s firm or any lobbying firm to petition the government for redress of grievances, even if their views differ from ours.

We would also hasten to mention to Mr. LaTourette that redress is not reserved exclusively to lobbying firms. It is the natural right of all Americans and he would do well to understand this fact, accept it, and grow up.

Jenny Beth Martin is co-founder of Tea Party Patriots.