Will Romney's K Street ties drag him down in the primary? 

In the 2010 Republican primaries -- especially for Senate -- being the candidate of K Street was a big negative. Will that populist strain persist this year, and will it hurt Mitt Romney?

Here's what Sam Stein and Paul Blumenthal write about Romney's activities this week:

The Romney for President committee is hosting a fundraiser on Tuesday that is being billed as a "Lawyers for Romney" event. Taking place at the offices of the high-profile firm Patton Boggs LLP, the affair will feature a veritable who's who of insider Republican officials. Not all of them are lawyers, however. Several are lobbyists with deep, influential client lists....

Even without [Koch lobbyist Andrew] Siff on the docket, the Romney fundraiser features some K-Street heavy hitters. Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott is listed as a host. The Mississippi Republican has lobbied for a wide variety of companies with legislative interests before the government, including Goldman Sachs, Raytheon Company, AT&T, and Delta Airlines, which is currently fighting to reverse union-election laws that would make it easier for its workers to organize. J.C. Boggs, who lobbies on behalf of Prudential Financial, and SAP (among others) is also named as a host, as is Darryl Nirenberg, who lists Wal-Mart and MKW Capital, a leading venture capital firm, as clients.

Romney has quite a corporatist streak in him, I argued in my column on him. Trent Lott, corporatism, PAC money, K Street money. We've seen this pattern before -- and it doesn't bode well for Romney. Here's what I wrote last fall:

In Colorado’s Senate primary last week, the Tea Party trumped K Street as Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck upset former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. Norton, herself a former lobbyist who tried to run from that background, raised $293,000 from PACs. Buck got only $2,500 in PAC cash.

Buck got zero support from Republican lawmakers’ PACs while 15 GOP incumbents funded Norton, including leaders Mitch McConnell, Lamar Alexander, John Thune and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Two senators who have cashed out to K Street — Mel Martinez and Trent Lott — also put their money behind Norton.

Kentucky shows an even starker contrast. Before the May 18 Senate primary, secretary of state and McConnell acolyte Trey Grayson had raised a half million dollars from PACs —20 times the PAC haul of upstart Rand Paul. Paul got a check from outgoing curmudgeon Sen. Jim Bunning, but 18 Republican senators bankrolled Grayson’s campaign, plus the Republican Mainstreet Partnership and three top House Republicans.

Grayson pocketed political action committee cash from businesses that have sided more with Obama than with Republicans, such as $10,000 from drug maker Pfizer — a key champion of Obamacare. Other Grayson funders are a rogues’ gallery of subsidy sucklers and regulatory robber barons: bailout bandits like the American Bankers Association and the Managed Funds Association; Obamacare backers like the American Hospital Association and a dozen drug companies; ethanol baron Archer Daniels Midland; cap-and-trade profiteers like Duke Energy; and government contractors like the Chubb Corp. and Northrop Grumman.

A K Street lobbyist who had represented AIG during the bailouts hosted a fundraiser for Grayson, and at least a dozen lobbying firms and industry groups backed him with cash. And of course, Trent Lott was a Grayson donor.

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Timothy P. Carney

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