The Scarlet Letter—L for Lobbyist

Lobbyists are people too. Some of them anyway.

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DENVER—There's a lot of chum floating around convention land, from the mini-bottles of Hogan & Harston antibacterial hand sanitizing gel to DNC water bottles to Lifetime network baseball caps to the assorted Obama T-shirts and Colorado shot glasses. But a particularly-sought prize (at least in some quarters) is the dreaded "Scarlet L." As in lobbyist.

D.C. lobbyists have been grumbling quietly about Barack Obama's anti-K Street crusade since he became the presumptive nominee. Lobbyists' cash became toxic at the Democratic National Committee within days of Barack Obama becoming the presumptive (no longer presumptive) party nominee. Lobbyists complained that they are merely exercising their constitutional rights to petition their government—and they're right. Painting all lobbyists as villainous is cheap and easy, and off-base. Plenty of lobbyists fit the mold of soulless corporate money-grubbers, but some also work on behalf of causes like women's rights, the environment, labor, and so on (or for my three conservative readers, on behalf of the unborn, gun owners, and politically powerless groups like millionaires and born again Christians). Some of my best friends are lobbyists, some even still retaining their souls.

Here in Denver lobbyists have had a lower profile than usual, though they're still sponsoring their share of parties and receptions. A couple of influence peddlers (or perhaps an influence-peddling couple) took a wry attitude toward the whole anti-lobbyist fervor: Lobbyists Tony and Heather Podesta wore "Scarlet Ls" around town in the spirit of Hester Prynne.

I heard of a member of Congress who told a reception full of (possibly amazed, certainly pleased) lobbyists that they are always welcome in his office.

I was wandering around the Pepsi Center a few minutes before Hillary Clintons' dramatic call for nomination-by-acclimation and I ran into a lobbyist friend. I joked with her that the lobbyist-ometers at the door should have prevented her entry into the building. We chatted a bit and talk turned to the evening plans. She is going to a Democratic Party party and I complained that it's closed to press—how could an evil lobbyist get in when a mere journalist was banned?

Perhaps, she suggested, I need a "Scarlet J."