Lobbyists Lose Places as Push Comes to Shove

WASHINGTON -- Bank lobbyists were on the outside looking in at the House Banking Committee hearing Wednesday after some of the seats they had attempted to reserve were taken over by members of Acorn, a community group promoting housing and banking legislation for the poor.

"For the first time, there are real people inside," said Jake Lewis, chief of staff for Banking Committee Chairman Henry Gonzalez, D-Tex. Mr. Lewis's son Chris is executive director of Acorn's office here.

Lobbyists started saving places in line at midnight, hiring stand-ins to wait for the 10 a.m. markup of the Bush banking plan. A bus-load of Acorn members from Baltimore and Philadelphia arrived at 6:25 a.m.

Who Did What?

There is a dispute as to what happened next. A lobbyist for the Independent Bankers Association of America said her hired hand, who had been waiting since midnight, lost his place because Acorn members crashed the line.

But Jake Lewis said lobbyists "were the aggressors." They used Capitol Hill "pass" cards to let the stand-ins inside the Rayburn building where the hearing room is situated, ahead of the Acorn group waiting outside, he said.

And some stand-ins were trying to hold places for more than one person, which is not allowed, he said.

Latecomers Chased

Mr. Lewis said a sergeant-at-arms chased stand-ins arriving after 6:25 a.m. to the back of the line but that stand-ins who arrived earlier were not affected.

"The lobbyists pay someone $20 an hour to stand in line for them; they sleep late, come here in pressed suits, and then expect to get in right away," scoffed Mr. Lewis.

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