There is something uniquely depressing about the fact that the National Portrait Gallery’s version of the Barack Obama “Hope” poster previously belonged to a pair of lobbyists. Depressing because Mr. Obama’s Washington was not supposed to be the lobbyists’ Washington, the place we learned to despise during the last administration.
But our anger diminished while K Street kept on going. Now the Washington Post, that great barometer of the capital’s consensus, has taken on what can only be described as a worshipful attitude toward the lobbyist set. And as its journalistic leader ushers in a new era, the attitude of the capital changes: Let us give thanks that our lobbyists are prosperous.
“The economy may stink for some, but things are going swimmingly for Democratic insiders,” a page-one story in last Sunday’s paper asserted. And the stage on which those Democratic insiders flaunt their prosperity, an Italian restaurant called Tosca, is the object of the paper’s admiration.
We learn, for example, about the fussy food the lobbyists like to eat; about how you can divine a lobbyist’s “status” by how they are greeted by the restaurant staff; but most of all we read about where the lobbyists sit.
“Table 45, tucked discreetly behind the servers’ station,” the Post tells us, “always goes to Steve Elmendorf, a hot hand these days in Democratic lobbying circles” (emphasis in the original). According to lobbying disclosure forms filed with the U.S. Senate, Mr. Elmendorf has lobbied for Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Clear Channel. Nevertheless, he was not always such a well-seated power-broker: He “started out on the banquette,” the Post notes, and had to earn “his upgrade.” How he accomplished this is not described. Like the precise services lobbyists provide for their clients, I suppose, his promotion at Tosca must remain one of the mysteries of democracy.