How Things Really Work …. G.O.P.’s Moneyed Class Finds Its Place in New Trump World


CLEVELAND — In his unlikely rise to the Republican nomination Donald J. Trump attacked lobbyists, disparaged big donors and railed against the party’s establishment. But on the shores of Lake Erie this week, beyond the glare of television cameras, the power of the permanent political class seemed virtually undisturbed.

Though Mr. Trump promises to topple Washington’s “rigged system,” the opening rounds of his party’s quadrennial meeting accentuated a more enduring maxim: Money always adapts to power.

At a downtown barbecue joint, lobbyists cheerfully passed out stickers reading “Make Lobbying Great Again” as they schmoozed on Monday with Republican ambassadors, lawmakers and executives. At a windowless bar tucked behind the Ritz-Carlton hotel, whose rooms were set aside for the party’s most generous benefactors, allies of Mr. Trump pitched a clutch of receptive party donors on contributing to a pro-Trump “super PAC.”

And on Tuesday night, as Republican delegates formally made Mr. Trump their presidential nominee, a few dozen lobbyists and their clients instead sipped gin and munched on Brie puffs in an oak-paneled room at the Union Club. They had come to witness a more urgent presentation: Newt Gingrich, a top Trump adviser and Beltway fixture, painting an upbeat picture of the deals they could help sculpt on infrastructure projects and military spending in the first hundred days of a Trump administration.

“It is the business of Washington,” said Michael J. Anderson, a Democratic lobbyist who represents American Indian tribes, after watching Mr. Gingrich speak. “Mr. Trump is talking about changing the paradigm. It’s not changing one bit. The political and influence class is going on as before.”

In Cleveland, even some of those who had worked against Mr. Trump’s candidacy now saw opportunity.

In dozens of private receptions, behind a scrim of barricades and police officers, they inspected their party’s new Trump faction with curiosity and hope. There were spheres of influence to carve out. There was money to raise and money to be made, whether or not Mr. Trump ended up in the White House. There were new friends to make and old relationships to nurture.

“This is an event like no other — there are governors, senators, members of Congress,” said Eric J. Tanenblatt, a longtime ally of the Bush family whose law firm, Dentons, hosted Mr. Gingrich’s remarks on Tuesday. “For people who operate in and around government, you can’t not be here.”

And so, far above the din of protesters and delegates, on the 49th floor of the Key Tower, Squire Patton Boggs, a lobbying and legal powerhouse, held packed receptions honoring Ohio and Florida officials. Not far away, Mike Leavitt, the former Utah governor turned consultant for pharmaceutical companies and health insurers, was slated to lead a panel on policies to spur the development of prescription drugs. As Speaker Paul D. Ryan helped tamp down anti-Trump efforts on the convention floor, his political operation ran a daily series of receptions and hospitality lounges for members of the “Speaker’s Council,” the top donors to House Republicans.

“You have these two worlds colliding a little bit here,” said David Tamasi, a lobbyist at the firm Rasky Baerlein and a top Republican fund-raiser on K Street, who joined Mr. Trump’s team after his preferred candidate, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, went down to defeat. “That’s what’s going to be interesting: How do the establishment guys make those folks feel at home?”

They are doing so, in part, by footing the bill.

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