Lobbyists set up in new Capitol quarters

Published January 25, 2010 5:50 pm

Association » 21 firms in group that pays rent for office space.
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Perhaps there's something poetic, jokes Spencer Stokes, that a marble lion named "Integrity" looks down on the new office space reserved for Capitol Hill lobbyists.

It's not the first word some would associate with the group of hired persuaders.

But it is in the shadow of the statue that lobbyists for the first time will enjoy their own workspace, tucked away behind a nondescript door in a basement hallway.

On the other side of that beige door in suite 85, the setup is plush, with the fresh smell of leather from the new couches and chairs and rich wood in the bookshelves.

Twenty-one firms have joined the Capitol Hill Association, as the group of lobbyists is called, and the lobbyists have paid about $2,000 apiece for the annual membership. That covers the $38,000 a year the association pays to the Capitol Preservation Board for use of the space.

In exchange, the lobbyists can use the copy or fax machines, three conference rooms, any of the several small cubicles, wooden lockers or the kitchen. Flat-panel televisions show the action upstairs in the House and Senate chambers.

Before, Stokes said, a lobbyist who needed to print a document or have a private meeting with a client would have to leave the Hill.

The rent the lobbyists pay to use the space allowed the Legislature to avoid adopting a proposal to charge nonprofit organizations to use meeting rooms at the Capitol complex.

Small framed quotations on end tables show a sense of bipartisan humor: then-President Nixon's "I am not a crook," line and President Clinton's "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."