Rep. Joe Barton has been unyielding in his quest to secure the Energy and Commerce gavel, but according to some lobbyists on K Street his recent use of committee resources to promote himself is going a step too far.
The Texas Republican, who is the panel’s ranking member, took the unusual step of sending a note to colleagues and supporters downtown from the committee’s official e-mail Friday, promoting his run for chairman.
The e-mail contained two recent news articles where Barton is quoted as being confident of assuming the gavel should Republicans retake the House majority. The articles also detailed what would be Barton’s legislative priorities next Congress.
Not all lobbyists found the move in good taste.
“Barton is now using official committee resources and list serves to promote his cause,” one Republican lobbyist said. “This is highly unusual and inappropriate.”
House Administration Committee spokesman Kyle Anderson said the e-mail was “under review” to determine whether it was an appropriate use of official committee resources.
Barton would need a waiver from the GOP Steering Committee in order to assume the helm. He has reached the end of his six-year term limit as the top Republican on the panel.
Other Republicans on the committee, including Reps. Fred Upton (Mich.) and John Shimkus (Ill.), have signaled they are interested in running for the gavel.
Barton spokeswoman Lisa Miller defended the use of committee resources.
“Two news organizations thought people should know that the once and future chairman of a major House committee has extensive, detailed plans to take on the failures of the Obama administration’s EPA and FCC,” Miller said in an e-mailed statement. “There are Democrats, K Street lobbyists and Capitol Hill lobbyists-in-training who may not like to hear about the conservative change that’s coming. But that work is about to become the fundamental business of the Congress, and anybody who thinks otherwise has brought a knife to a gunfight.”
Several GOP aides and former aides said Barton’s aggressive push to retain his position as the top Republican on the committee is, in part, coming from David Cavicke, Barton’s staff director.
About three weeks ago, Cavicke held a staff meeting to “rally” Energy and Commerce aides, telling them Barton had a good chance of becoming chairman but it would take a lot of hard work to get him there, according to aides familiar with the meeting.
GOP staffers and lobbyists cited frequent run-ins with Cavicke as one of the reasons all top committee staff would be vetted by the Steering Committee later this year.
“David Cavicke is a big part of the reason why Barton won’t get a waiver,” said one senior aide close to the committee. “He’s pushed Energy and Commerce from an ‘A’ Committee to a ‘B-’ and draws the ire of Republican leadership on a weekly basis.”