Top lobbyist joining White House
WASHINGTON – President Bush on Wednesday tapped veteran GOP strategist and lobbyist Edward Gillespie as White House counselor, adding another Washington insider to a key position in his administration as it continues to battle with Congress over Iraq, the Justice Department and immigration.
In Gillespie, Bush is gaining one of Washington’s top Republican strategists and someone who has been a key ally outside the administration since the beginning of his term. Gillespie was a spokesman for Bush during the 2000 Florida recount, helped steer his two Supreme Court nominees through the Senate confirmation process and served a stint as chairman of the Republican National Committee during the 2004 campaign.
Along with the new White House counsel, Fred Fielding, and a number of lower-level appointments, Gillespie represents an influx of veteran Washington hands into a White House that once seemed to prize its opposition to the ways of the nation’s capital. With the administration facing multiple investigations by congressional oversight committees and a fierce battle in Congress to maintain support for funding of the Iraq war, that kind of experience will be essential, in the view of many outside allies of Bush.
Gillespie’s background as one of Washington’s top lobbyists for corporate interests quickly proved a magnet for criticism Wednesday. As chairman of the firm Quinn Gillespie & Associates, Gillespie has been registered to lobby for 57 companies and associations in the financial services, telecommunications, pharmaceutical and transportation fields. Gillespie’s firm had come to be seen as the one to see if a company wanted access to the White House.
“This shows the reverse revolving door, spinning at the stratospheric level,” said Don Simon, a Washington lawyer and former general counsel for Common Cause, the good-government advocacy group. “Someone who is at the top of the corporate lobbying world is going into the top of the White House staff, and it shows the sometimes incestuous relationship between lobbyists and government.”