The Hill reports that Majority Leader Bill Frist is enlisting the support of Sen. Rick Santorum to craft a conservative version of a lobbying reform bill. The selection of Santorum suggests that the Senate leadership is not seriously committed to lobbying reform. Santorum cannot reasonably be considered a credible messenger for reform because he was largely responsible for creating the culture and environment in which Abramoff’s criminal activity thrived.
Santorum was a key player in implementing the “K Street Project,” an effort by conservatives in the wake of Bush’s 2000 victory to monopolize influential positions at trade associations and corporate government affairs offices. The Washington Monthly described Santorum’s role:
Santorum’s Tuesday meetings are a crucial part of that effort. Every week, the lobbyists present pass around a list of the jobs available and discuss whom to support. Santorum’s responsibility is to make sure each [job opening] is filled by a loyal Republican–a senator’s chief of staff, for instance, or a top White House aide, or another lobbyist whose reliability has been demonstrated. After Santorum settles on a candidate, the lobbyists present make sure it is known whom the Republican leadership favors.
Santorum created an environment in which Abramoff flourished. From NPR’s Marketplace (1/5/06):
The infamous K Street Project”¦set up a money-generating machine to fuel GOP campaign coffers and think tanks. But in the process, jobs also got traded for official acts, including legislation, and that’s illegal. Abramoff simply took advantage of K Street’s ingenious scheme. Trading jobs for official acts is one of the charges against him.
Having recently returned his campaign contributions from Jack Abramoff, Santorum has apparently been deemed clean enough to help fix the problem he once helped create.