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House GOP leader Tom “The Hammer” DeLay Like no other Republican in Congress, House majority leader Tom DeLay has actively worked to boost the number of GOP lobbyists in Washington. His role as a key ally of the K Street Project — an effort to help promote Republicans into top lobbying slots — is already the stuff of D.C. legend. But DeLay has done more than just advocate for GOP lobbyists. As his years in the party’s congressional leadership have piled up, he has sent a powerful array of ex-staffers onto K Street. They’re armed not only with their connections to DeLay, but also with the experience of working for one of the most effective political operations on Capitol Hill. The most prominent DeLay vets to move into lobbying are Edwin Buckham and Susan Hirschmann, who both served as chief of staff for the Texas representative, and Tony Rudy, who worked for him as deputy chief of staff. Because of their DeLay ties, a flood of clients and millions of dollars in lobbying fees have poured into their firms. The three former staffers are also in demand by members of Congress looking to curry favor with DeLay, according to other lobbyists. If Republican members want to chair a committee or subcommittee, they must get support from the House GOP leadership. To influence DeLay, they sometimes turn to Buckham, Hirschmann, and Rudy, says a lobbyist who spoke on condition of anonymity. This gives the trio “incredible, incredible clout,” says the lobbyist, because if a member wins a chairmanship, he may feel a debt of gratitude to the person who put in a good word with DeLay. Buckham and Rudy lead the all-Republican Alexander Strategy Group. Rudy joined the firm in the summer of 2002 from Greenberg Traurig. Shortly after he came aboard, several clients switched firms as well: the National Automobile Dealers Association, Fannie Mae, Eli Lilly and Company, and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. The firm has signed on a dozen new clients this year, including BellSouth Corporation, MGM Mirage, and Time Warner Inc. Rudy credits DeLay with instilling a sense of how to meet the needs of Congress: “[DeLay] has an innate sense of how the institution works. He is like a conductor of an orchestra, somebody who can make beautiful music.” Anyone who worked on DeLay’s staff “saw how he understood the importance of listening to members,” Rudy adds. Ever since she left the Hill in 2002, Hirschmann has been a hot commodity, too. Not only is she still close to her former boss, but she also hired many of his current top advisers. Hirschmann landed at D.C.’s Williams & Jensen and has been a client magnet ever since. In 2004 alone, she has signed on to lobby for 13 clients, a very respectable number for any lobbyist. Her clients include the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, The Brink’s Company, FedEx Corporation, Motorola, Inc., the National Indian Gaming Association, and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America. Hirschmann did not return calls seeking comment. Congressional staffers have long cashed in on their Capitol Hill contacts by moving into lobbying. But DeLay’s team seems to have spawned more lobbyists than other GOP leaders. House speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) and majority whip Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) have surprisingly few coattails on K Street. (A notable exception is Gregg Hartley, Blunt’s former chief of staff, who joined Cassidy & Associates last year as its chief operating officer.) But DeLay’s influence on K Street looms even larger because of his ongoing efforts to change the partisan makeup of Washington lobby shops. Since he began his rise through the GOP’s leadership ranks in the late 1980s, DeLay has championed like-minded Republican lobbyists. Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform, which spearheads the K Street Project, says that DeLay “understands the importance of K Street being Republican.” Partisan maneuvering, however, isn’t the only reason DeLay’s former staffers have a leg up in the lobbying business. Many, including Buckham, Hirschmann, and Rudy, were on DeLay’s staff when he was majority whip. “Working in a whip operation instills a certain discipline that you don’t get in other leadership offices,” says Jack Howard, president of Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates. Howard explains that whip operations “attract good people, but are also good training.” Norquist agrees: “If you’ve been part of whipping the House, you have a pretty good idea of how things are going to go, who could stop things, how you could make things happen.” DeLay has made political enemies, of course — no one with the nickname “The Hammer” is ever going to be universally loved. And in recent months, he’s been linked to two ongoing investigations. One, by the Senate, is examining $45 million in payments made by Native American tribes to DeLay’s former spokesman Michael Scanlon and lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In the other probe, Texas authorities are looking into fund-raising efforts that allegedly aided Republican redistricting plans in the state. On September 21 an Austin grand jury indicted three DeLay aides and eight corporate donors on various felony charges. (Lawyers for the defendants have denied any wrongdoing.) According to The Washington Post, DeLay has hired two criminal defense lawyers to represent him in the Texas investigation. His office did not return calls for comment. But the troubles haven’t spilled over to his ex-staffers on K Street. They appear to be set for a long haul in the lobbying world � particularly as long as the GOP hangs on to the House. According to Howard, who worked on Capitol Hill for several Republican leaders, “The thing that’s always impressed me about Tom, and the people he’s surrounded by, is that they’re focused on the bottom line. They get things done.”

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