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K Street Doors Finally Open for GOP

Former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.) is aiming to become the top lobbyist for the recording industry. Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) may take over Washington’s wireless phone association. And Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) has been rumored to be in line to direct the movie industry’s lobbying efforts.

Nearly a decade after Congressional Republicans swept control of the House and Senate, Corporate America has accelerated its efforts to put a GOP face on its Washington lobbying shops.

“I think it finally has sunk into people that the Republican-controlled Congress is here to stay,” said former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.), a lobbyist with Clark & Weinstock. “It has taken this town a long time to catch up with what has happened politically.”

Said Grover Norquist, a Republican activist and the president of American for Tax Reform: “It has finally dawned on people that the House and Senate are going to be Republican for the next decade or two.”

Norquist, a leader in the “K Street Project” to pressure corporations to hire Republicans, added: “This town is awfully slow to react.”

With Republicans firmly in charge of the House, Senate and White House, many businesses and trade associations only accept applications from Republicans these days.

In the last few months alone, Citibank, Comcast, Fluor, Microsoft and Shell have hired Republicans for top positions in their Washington offices.

And well-known Republicans are in line for some of the best-paid lobbying openings on K Street, such as the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Association of America.

The last time a major trade association reached across the aisle to hire a prominent former Democratic Member of Congress, Republicans bristled.

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), then the Republican Majority Whip, threatened to punish the Electronic Industries Alliance if they hired a Democrat to lead the association.

When the association hired former Democratic Rep. David McCurdy (Okla.) to the position, DeLay was slapped on the wrist. But he made his point. Since then, few Democrats have won lucrative lobbying positions.

Molinari is a finalist to take over the Recording Industry Association of America; Pickering is weighing a job offer from CTIA; and Tauzin has long been considered the heir apparent to take over when Jack Valenti leaves the Motion Picture Association of America, though the Congressman insists that he’s running for re-election.

For some positions, Republican Members are said to be competing against each other.

Reps. Mary Bono (R-Calif.), David Dreier (R-Calif.) and Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.) each have been mentioned as possible candidates for the movie or music industry posts.

When GOP Members are not competing with each other for lucrative jobs, they find themselves in contention with Republican strategists. GOP strategist John Buckley is considered to be a finalist for the recording industry post.

According to several lobbyists close to the search, Molinari is thought to be the frontrunner. But Buckley, now an executive with AOL, is said to be quickly gaining ground.

Said one lobbyist for the industry: “They have whittled it down from a long list to a small list.”

The RIAA is expected to make the decision shortly, though a spokeswoman for the association refused to confirm a timetable.

One factor expected to hasten the decision process: Hilary Rosen, the association’s current president, steps down at the end of this week.

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