WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 - With a pierced tongue, a goatee and previous employment as the owner of a record store and label called Seven Dead Arson, the young man is not a typical buttoned-down Washington lobbyist. But Joshua Hastert, 27, does have something increasingly common in lobbying circles - family ties to a Congressional leader.
Mr. Hastert is the eldest son of J. Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House. Chester T. Lott Jr., the son of the Senate Republican leader, Trent Lott, is a registered lobbyist. Linda Daschle, the wife of the Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, is a senior public policy adviser at one of Washington's premier lobbying firms, serving aviation interests.
Numerous relatives of Congressional and administration officials are employed in lobbying shops around Washington, as they have been for years. Some ethics watchdogs say such arrangements are potentially troublesome, and the fact that relatives of three of the four top members of Congress work as lobbyists illustrates how pervasive and accepted the practice has become.
Others say the lobbyists have every right to pursue their line of work as long as they observe ethics rules and keep their professional distance from their powerful relatives.
Mr. Hastert and Mrs. Daschle, 47, say that their well-known last names can hurt as well as help, and that they are entitled to pursue their chosen livelihood, especially in a city where so much employment is government-related.
"Why should a spouse, just because she is married to a high-profile public official, have to walk away from a career?" asked Mrs. Daschle.
No rules prohibit lobbying by relatives, and any effort to regulate it raises free speech concerns. But it has always made ethics groups a little uneasy.
"It is the smarminess and incestuousness that is most objectionable," said Charles Lewis, the director of the Center for Public Integrity. "It blurs the distinction between the public and private sector when part of the family is in the private sector enriching themselves through the public sector."
Mrs. Daschle, who works at Baker, Donelson Bearman & Caldwell, reported in Congressional lobbying records that her firm received almost $1.5 million last year from her clients, which included American Airlines, Northwest Airlines, the American Association of Airport Executives, the Cleveland airport, Boeing, Loral and L-3 International, one of the companies chosen by Congress to supply airports with bomb detection equipment.
She said that in the interest of complete disclosure, her reporting of her lobbying income included fees for activities other than traditional lobbying on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Lott represents some clients on his own and others through a partnership with Larry Hopkins, a former congressman from Kentucky. Last year, the firm of Lott & Hopkins reported being paid about $60,000 by BellSouth, $60,000 by an insurance firm and $30,000 by a manufacturing company.
This year Mr. Lott has registered Lott & Associates to serve as a lobbyist for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and a company in Louisiana that designs and builds vessels used in the offshore oil and gas industry. Both of Mr. Lott's firms are based in Lexington, Ky., where Mr. Lott also oversees some Domino's pizza franchises, a fact his father is fond of noting when discussing the burdens government can place on free enterprise.
"My son is a small businessman and he has to deal with OSHA and E.P.A. and all the government requirements that come," Senator Lott said in a recent speech.
Neither the senator nor his son would comment for this article, but in June, Senator Lott told the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call that he did not discuss relevant legislation with his son.
Mr. Hastert, who as a youth spent considerable time in Washington because of his father's Congressional duties, only this summer joined a small lobbying firm, Federal Legislative Associates, which specializes in clients in the high-tech industry.
"I'm just kind of learning the ropes," Mr. Hastert said.
He originally planned to move his record label here. Then he ended up doing some government affairs consulting for an Internet music enterprise and enjoyed it.
"I realized that doing consulting and government relations on the Hill took up a lot less time than running a record store and brought in a lot more money," Mr. Hastert said. He said that politically he considered himself an independent who saw good and bad in the approaches of both parties. He is now assisting an Illinois company that is helping Congress and the Department of Labor develop programs to prepare displaced workers for jobs at high-tech industrial sites.
David Miller, a principal in the lobbying firm who brought in Mr. Hastert, said he was impressed by Mr. Hastert's approach to issues. He also said Mr. Hastert was not one to trade on his family name.
"The fact that he is the speaker's son was certainly a factor, but he's really cool," Mr. Miller said.
Mr. Hastert said that he would never lobby his father and that he had had to disabuse prospective clients of the idea that as the speaker's son he could have his way in the Capitol. "Inevitably, the Hastert name helps," he said. "But a lot of offices think I have more pull than I really do, so I have to work twice as hard." He said he had told prospective clients, "If you think I am going to the House leadership, and especially my father's office, to get this pushed, it isn't going to happen."
Mrs. Daschle said she chose not to lobby the Senate on behalf of her clients. Though the Senate must ultimately approve any legislation, she said her husband could not be expected to be aware of obscure bill language she was working on with House legislative aides.
"Staff members are pretty junior and may or may not know who I am," said Mrs. Daschle, who was a deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration during the Clinton presidency. "When clients retain me, they don't retain me because I am Tom Daschle's wife."
Many other lobbyists have familial connections to the Bush administration or Capitol Hill. Brad and Lorine Card, the brother and sister-in-law of Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, are lobbyists, as is Diane Allbaugh, the wife of Joseph Allbaugh, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Scott Hatch, the son of Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, has prominent clients. The son and son-in-law of Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the second ranking Democrat in the Senate, work as lobbyists, and several congressmen have wives or children who work the halls.
A few years ago, lobbying by Randy DeLay, the brother of the House Republican whip, Tom DeLay, led to accusations of favoritism, and Representative DeLay banned his brother from his Congressional office.
Gary Ruskin, the director of the Congressional Accountability Project, said lobbying by relatives was acceptable as long as the lawmakers and their kin observed the boundaries.
"In a world where power couples exist, it is unfair to punish the spouse," said Mr. Ruskin, who said "strategic fire walls" should be put in place to prevent undue influence. "The key question is whether or not the members provide special favors or benefits for the clients of their relative lobbyist. Those ought to be investigated by the appropriate ethics committee."
Re: "In Capitol, Last Names Link Some Leaders and Lobbyists"
The fact that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert's son, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's wife and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott's son are wrapped-up in lobbying -- and that it all smacks of conflicts of interest -- should come as no surprise when getting elected, or appointed to office like Secretary of State Colin Powell and his FCC son, simply means that feeding from the power trough in Washington comes with the territory. Indeed, when it comes to trading on political family names like Kennedy, Bush, Gore and Clinton, maybe it's time to change the name of our Capitol to Nepotism, D.C.
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