Trailing independent candidate Greg Orman in the polls and increasingly unpopular with Kansans after 34 years in Congress, Sen. Pat Roberts is calling in the big guns on K Street to save his political career.
“Ask any lobbyist of anyone in Washington if they’ve gotten a call from Pat Roberts. He’s stepping up,” one Beltway Republican told The Hill, in its report on Roberts’ bid to rake in lobbyist cash as he seeks a fourth Senate term. The Hill also quoted lobbyists from the firms Greenberg Traurig, K & L Gates, and the Keelen Group, all of whom attested to Roberts’ assiduous fundraising efforts.
Their anecdotes are corroborated by publicly available campaign finance data. In addition to Wichita-based Koch Industries and financial institutions like Blackstone Group and Goldman Sachs, the Washington lobbying firm Alston & Bird ranks among Roberts’ top campaign contributors.
The senator’s courting of K Street is fraught with risk. The reason he’s likely to be the first Republican to lose a Senate election in Kansas since 1932 is the widespread perception among Kansas voters that he has lost touch with the state and become a creature of Washington. An infusion of lobbyist contributions may help fill Roberts’ campaign coffers, but it ultimately reinforces the image problem that has landed him with a 37 percent favorability rating among likely voters.
Moreover, Roberts’ moves on K Street come as he’s attacking Orman over his personal wealth. There was always something disingenuous about a right-wing Republican assailing a rival’s riches, but relying on Beltway lobbyists to keep his campaign afloat brings an added layer of hypocrisy to Roberts’ attacks.
Six years ago, Roberts was singing a very different tune on lobbyists. In 2008, his Democratic opponent was former Rep. Jim Slattery, who joined the lobbying firm Wiley Rein after his departure from Congress in 1995. Roberts’ campaign slammed Slattery over his lobbying career, running an ad that denounced the former congressman as a D.C. lobbyist “Gucci loafers and all.”