Remembering Racicot 

“Where are they now?” With most former Montana politicians this can be a difficult question to answer. As Montana isn’t usually considered a springboard to the national stage, many state politicians resign themselves to quiet private life, maybe penning the occasional newspaper column or serving on a board or two. Former Gov. Marc Racicot is an exception.

After leaving Montana, as some pundits say, in a miserable state, Racicot was shortlisted for the Attorney General’s post. Surprisingly, he turned President Bush’s offer down, citing “a great sacrifice associated with it [the job] in terms of time.” A year later, Racicot’s time was much in demand as a registered lobbyist for the Houston law firm of Bracewell & Patterson.

As a lobbyist, Racicot represented Enron, the American Forest and Paper Association, the National Energy Coordinating Council and others to great effect. The Los Angeles Times reported that he lobbied Vice President Dick Cheney on behalf of the National Electric Reliability Council on the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempts to force outdated plants to update their clean air equipment. The Cheney task force later recommended that the Justice Department consider dropping suits it had filed against companies for alleged environmental violations.

While still a lobbyist, Racicot was offered another prestigious post by Bush—the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee (RNC). This job he took. All of this under an administration that had promised to “restore honor and dignity” to Washington.

“It’s essentially having access to the heart and soul of the party’s fundraising operation and then turning around and going to a congressman and saying, ‘Oh, by the way Enron, who I happen to represent, is interested in X, Y and Z,’” says Bill Allison of the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington, D.C.-based non-partisan government ethics watchdog. “The clout of having that is just amazing. I can’t think of better lobbyist, except for maybe the President’s father.”

Shortly after agreeing to head up the RNC, Racicot received criticism for holding both jobs and stopped acting as a registered lobbyist for Bracewell & Patterson. But Racicot, who couldn’t be reached for this story, still works for the firm, something Allison says isn’t appropriate.

“Potentially, the conflict is still there,” he says. “Officially, yes, he’s no longer lobbying. Although presumably if one of his old clients needs to draw on him, he may not make the phone call himself but someone can call and say ‘I’m Marc Racicot’s partner and we are still interested in X, Y and Z.” Just deciding not to represent a client directly doesn’t mean that his firm doesn’t have the same clout having the party chairman on its payroll.”

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