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Haley Barbour Defends Lobbyist Past, Claims It Adds To Presidential Resume

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 12/20/10 12:38 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:20 PM ET

Haley Barbour Lobbyist President

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour recently called the negative stigma often attributed to lobbyists unfounded, arguing that his own K Street credentials would make him especially well suited to be president.

"You bet I was a lobbyist," Barbour proudly declared when asked by the Weekly Standard about his past work for lobbying giant Barbour Griffith & Rodgers. "Lobbying is just like being a lawyer arguing a case in a courtroom ... It's a form of advocacy."

But Andrew Ferguson, Barbour's interviewer, notes that Barbour's former firm stands out as a rather stark example of the culture of callousness and excess that has long marked the lobbying industry.

Ferguson writes:

For all its certified Republican fondness for limited government, BGR was, like all Washington lobbying firms, a creature of big government. Big government is what made Haley Barbour rich. Without it no one would have needed to hire him to beg Congress or the executive branch for loopholes, exemptions, tax credits, line items, carve-outs, extenders, earmarks, or any other of its infinite blandishments. Because the primary tool of lobbying is talk, it is a low-expense, high-reward business. Of all the methods of Beltway banditry -- public relations, advertising, polling, image consulting, campaign management -- it is by far the most lucrative, with profit margins often reaching 50 percent. Barbour and his partners sold the firm in 1999 to the international marketing company Interpublic. The New York Times reported the price to be $20 million, paid on condition that Barbour and his partners continue to run the business.

But that history doesn't discourage Barbour, a Republican, who unblushingly took his defense of his lobbying career one step further, describing it as a selling point for a potential White House bid.

"The first thing a president's going to have to do when he takes his hand off the Bible is start lobbying," Barbour said. "He's going to need to lobby Congress. He's going to need to lobby the bureaucracy. He's going to need to lobby the governors. He's going to need to lobby our allies and our international competitors. And I'm a pretty good lobbyist."

Barbour also stood by his earlier assertion that he would not make a final decision on whether to run for president until spring, after Mississippi's state legislature has gone into recess.

Read the entire Weekly Standard profile of Barbour here.

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