If we didn’t know better, we might call the Hilary Rosen-Ann Romney dustup “the lobbyists’ revenge.”
President Barack Obama has been so unrelenting in his criticism of the influence industry that the American League of Lobbyists recently sent him a letter asking him to tone it down.
“You have attacked lobbyists as being a primary source of political dysfunction, yet you have embraced those lobbyists who chose to call themselves consultants, advisors, or any other name besides a lobbyist,” the league’s president, Howard Marlowe, wrote.
(We should note that Marlowe addressed the letter to “Barak H. Obama,” which, if we didn’t know better, might also qualify as lobbyists’ revenge.)
Rosen, a Democratic strategist and former lobbyist, scored points for the opposing team Wednesday by potentially undercutting one of Obama’s greatest strengths – his significant lead among women voters.
Here’s what she said on CNN during a discussion about Mitt Romney: “Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing.”
Her comments sparked a fusillade on Twitter, uncounted talk show discussions, and, no doubt, a continuing barrage from the GOP and the blogosphere.
Ann Romney seized the moment, sending out her first tweet: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”
As Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post later tweeted: “Hilary Rosen has handed Romney an opportunity at a time and on an issue he most needed it.”
Now a managing director of the communications firm SKDKnickerbocker, Rosen used to be chair and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America.
Senate filings show that she lobbied during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations on issues such as youth violence, advertising, industry competition, internet radio, copyright, consumer rights and “possible government restrictions on entertainment products.”
Rosen also lobbied during the Bush years on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, where she dealt with topics such as same-sex marriage, domestic partner benefits and employment discrimination.
Rosen handled communications for BP after the Gulf oil spill, but was never a registered lobbyist for the firm.
She is not currently registered to lobby in Washington or New York.
The Obama team has gone out of its way to point out that Rosen is not a paid adviser to the campaign or to the Democratic National Committee. (The DNC does work with another managing director of SKDKnickerbocker, former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn.)
Obama has repeatedly stated that he will not employ lobbyists in his administration or his campaign. The pledge has inevitably brought criticism, particularly because of his reliance on bundlers who are active in the industry.
The New York Times last year named 15 Obama fundraisers who, while not registered lobbyists, are heavily involved in the influence sector.
As we wrote last month, the Republican National Committee denounced Vice President Joe Biden for hiring former lobbyist Steve Ricchetti as a senior counselor.
Blowback has come in other forms, beyond fault-finding by Republicans and the media.
As The Hill reported in February, Democratic lobbyists who were prevented from fundraising for the president’s re-election bid have shunned the super PAC supporting his candidacy.
Although Priorities USA Action accepts donations from lobbyists, few have contributed so far.
Update: Rosen apologized to Ann Romney Thursday, conceding, “My words on CNN last night were poorly chosen.”
Rosen said: “As a partner in a firm full of women who work outside of the home as well as stay at home mothers, all with plenty of children, gender equality is not a talking point for me. It is an issue I live every day. I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended. Let’s declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance.”