August 8, 2007

Is 'Lobbyist' a dirty word?

Gee, to hear John Edwards and Barack Obama talk, all lobbyists should be painted with the same broad brush. (Isn't this what the right wing does to us?) When Hillary Clinton defended taking lobbyists money, she said that many lobbyists represent people like you and me. And you know what? It's true. There are lobbyists for autistic children, seniors, the disabled, union workers, women, and on and on. Thomas Edsall over at The Huffington Post in his article "Who Is The Purest of Them All?" sheds a little more light on this controversy and takes a closer look at who Obama and Edwards get their donations from. They may not get them from "Washington lobbyists" but they get plenty of high dollars from industry bigwigs and have their own ties to lobbyists.

Edwards and Obama may not be taking contributions from federally registered lobbyists, but that does not mean that their money is as pure as they'd like us to believe.

Edwards' 2004 campaign manager, Nick Baldick, who is currently a senior adviser to the 2008 campaign, is a founder of the Washington lobbying firm Avenue Solutions, which includes among its clients Aetna, Northwest Airlines, the Healthcare Leadership Council, Medco, Travelers Cos. Inc., and the Financial Services Roundtable.

Baldick left the firm in 2006 to found Hilltop Public Solutions which, according to its website, has "managed winning campaigns for clients that have included the nation's largest financial services firm, one of the nation's largest airlines, a major fast food retailer, the world's largest healthcare provider, and numerous additional industry leaders." It generally performs these services at a state level and is not federally registered.

At least three staffers on the Obama campaign were registered as federal lobbyists, although two worked for such pro-Democratic clients as the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the Environmental Defense Fund. The third, Emmett Beliveau, worked at Patton Boggs LLP, which includes among its clients Giner Electrochemical Systems, the Offshore Marine Service Association, ABT Associates, and Preferred Communications Systems.

In addition, the campaign web site reports that Edwards has received $6.5 million from lawyers, many of them trial lawyers; $668,590 from employees in the investment banking industry; $254,297 from officials of the health care industry and $218,290 from operators of hedge funds.

Obama has been no slouch in this territory, according to Opensecrets. Employees of investment banking firms gave him $3.2 million; real estate companies $1.3 million; health companies, $701,993; and hedge funds $652,105.

Clinton's contributions fit much the same pattern.

Edsall ends with this:
The reality is that CEOs, managers and officers of companies with large stakes in public policy are major sources of campaign contributions. Except for mega-rich self-funders like Steve Forbes and Ross Perot, every serious contender for the nomination has tapped into the same general universe of donors.

At the Kos debate, a number of the candidates, including Clinton, agreed that the only way to resolve the issue of special interests and campaign contributions is public financing of campaigns.
So Hillary's challenge to us to look at her record vs her donors is really important . And it's just as important to do the same with every other candidate.


Anonymous said...

I don't have enough time to go into this at the moment but we both know that lobbyist for the working class do not have the same clout as lobbyists from the GOLD MINING INDUSTRY and the ENERGY INDUSTRY, for example.

BTW, thanks for posting the caucus info. It was a little bit helpful. However, still, we don't know where the State Dems are going to get the counting "machines". The Repugs are getting them from Clark County. Considering Rory Reid is on the Clark County commission, one has to wonder if that is what the Dems will do too. There are plenty of those machines down there.

Desert Beacon said...

I'm not sure if the NV legislature is still doing this, but once upon a time there were two kinds of lobbyist badges in Carson City. Blue on white for the non-paid public interest lobbyists, and white on blue for paid special interest lobbyists. Members of the biennial circus claimed it made the sharks easier to spot in the water -- rather like a noticeable fin. As for Harvey Whittemore, no badge was/is necessary.

Public financing of elections is part of the answer, but no panacea. Lobbying will still be part of the process be it from General Motors or the UAW, General Dynamics or Common Cause. Something we can all do for the moment is find a public interest lobby which which we are in agreement and support it.

cls said...

Thanks to both of your for your comments.

NMR: I am still dogging the NSDP for an answer to your questions.

DB: I like the idea of the colored badges!

Diana Smith said...

I would recommend the book Hillary,Inc. You can also go to and archive May 30 for the interview of the man who wrote this book. Also The Nation magazine cover story with Hillary and staff represented about a month ago is telling. Time to wake up people and find out who is hired by these democratic candidates. Just because they have millions does not mean the people have sold their vote and don't know what is behind it all. There still is no power like the power of the people.