A registered Washington lobbyist sat in on interviews that new House Majority Whip Steve Scalise conducted last month with candidates for his press staff, news reports say.
John Feehery, president of Quinn Gillespie & Associates, was a part of "multiple" official interviews with candidates, Politico reports
. He was the communications director for former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois — and his lobbying clients include AT&T, Sony Corp., Qualcomm, and 21st Century Fox.
Many of the clients and others have interests before Congress and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which the Louisiana Republican serves, Politico reports.
Scalise, who succeeded Rep. Kevin McCarthy
of California as whip last month, has named several top members of his staff but has not yet announced his communications director. He also was chairman of the Republican Study Committee.
Lawmakers rely on lobbyists for strategic advice at times, but having one sit in on or take part in interviews is "highly unusual," Politico reports.
Feehery defended his efforts to help Scalise in the selection process. He also has served as communications director for former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas.
"As a former House leadership communications director, I work with the office in strictly a communications strategy development capacity," he told Politico. "In this role, I've never advocated for or brought client issues before the office. In fact, I have never lobbied the office."
T.J. Tatum, Scalise's spokesman, told Politico that Feehery "provides feedback on quality of candidates" but does not make "recommendations, as far as yes or no."
Scalise makes all hiring decisions, he said. Asked whether Feehery's being a registered lobbyist created a possible conflict, Tatum told Politico, "He's a communications professional."
"The office met with and sought the advice of many current and former members of House leadership and their staff to gauge best practices while building up the whip operation," the spokesman said. "John Feehery is a well-respected former senior House leadership communications aide, whom the office has previously contracted with to provide media training.
"The office has only ever sought his advice and opinion as a communications professional with many years of House leadership experience."
Before his post with Quinn Gillespie as director of its governmental affairs operation, Feehery lobbied for the Motion Picture Association of America, Politico reports. He has also worked at the BGR Group lobbying firm.
In May, USA Today reported
that Scalise paid Quinn Gillespie & Associates $5,000 to review his communications operation.
Lynnel Ruckert, Scalise's chief of staff, told the newspaper that the firm "did some media training and also looked at the website and Twitter account."
Ruckert continues in his post under Scalise's new position.
Quinn Gillespie is no longer being paid by the office, according to a public records search by Politico.
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