Mike Lee, Utah's incoming freshman Republican senator, defended on Sunday his decision to hire a high-profile lobbyist as his chief of staff, a striking move in the wake of an election season in which talk of curbing K Street's influence on Washington politics was a common theme.
Lee defended the appointment during a conversation with "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace:
WALLACE: You have chosen an energy lobbyist as your chief of staff. Is that the right person to drain the swamp here in Washington? Incidentally, that's not the right person. But are you -- is that the right person to drain the swamp in Washington, an energy lobbyist?
LEE: I've hired the brightest political mind, political consultant and lobbyist in Utah, Manning Spencer Stokes. He is a brilliant man. He understands Utah politics and he understands Washington politics. And I need a man like that to help me in Washington.
WALLACE: And you're not scared off by the fact he's a lobbyist?
LEE: No. He's a lobbyist and he's a political consultant. And I'm not scared off by that. He and I share a common vision, which is more constitutionally limited federal government. He's willing to fight with me to achieve that objective. And that's exactly the kind of person we need in Washington, D.C. right now is someone who has that goal in mind.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported in November on the relationship between Lee and incoming chief of staff Spencer Stokes.
They have also both worked for EnergySolutions and Stokes is still registered to lobby for the nuclear services company, which operates a radioactive waste landfill in Utah.
Stokes is currently registered to lobby for 18 organizations in the state, including the Utah League of Credit Unions; Management & Training Corp., a private prison company; and a number of energy interests, including utilities and the Utah Association of Energy Users.
Last week, GOP Senator-Elect Ron Johnson of Wisconsin answered similar questions about his chief of staff, saying that he had selected seasoned lobbyist Don Kent because of his "organizational skills, for his ability to identify people of intelligence and integrity to staff my Senate office."
The Washington Post recently reported that, after campaigning on a platform to drain the swamp in Washington, a number of incoming Republican lawmakers had placed former lobbyists in integral staff positions.
Beyond these personnel choices, the Post also found that many freshman GOP legislators wasted no time before partaking in expensive fundraisers fueled by moneyed interests.
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