Last night, Presidential hopeful Barack Obama reiterated once more that he does not take money from lobbyists:
OLBERMANN: Thirty seconds. Senator Obama, I know you and Senator Edwards have taken a firm stand against accepting money from lobbyists, yet you allow them to raise money for you and, as the phrase goes, "Bundle it." What's the difference between those things?
OBAMA: No, no. I do not have federal registered lobbyists bundling for me, just like I don't take PAC money. (APPLAUSE) And the reason that's important is because the people in this stadium need to know who we are going to fight for. And I want to be absolutely clear that the reason I'm in public life, the reason I came to Chicago, the reason I started working with unions, the reason I march on picket lines, the reason that I'm running for president is because of you... (APPLAUSE) ... not because of the folks who are writing big checks. And that's a clear message that has to be sent, I think, by every candidate.
Click here for full transcript.
While Obama's assertion is reality-based, he is dancing on a technicality, since several of his bundlers have recent histories that include lobbying. In April, Alex Bolton reported in The Hill that:
Three of Obama's top fundraisers, who each have raised more than $50,000 for his campaign since January, were registered as lobbyists last year, according to reports filed with the Senate Office of Public Records. In 2006, Alan Solomont of Solomont Bailis Ventures earned $90,000 in lobbying income; Tom Reed, of Kirkland & Ellis, lobbied for the Seismological Society of America, the Nanobusiness Alliance, and the Airport Minority Advisory Council; and Scott Harris, of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, represented Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Dell and Sprint-Nextel. The full article is here.
All three Obama fundraisers have said they are no longer lobbyists, although the public records office has not posted contract termination reports for any of them.
Several other major Obama fundraisers also have histories of lobbying government officials for a living. Thomas Perrelli was a lobbyist for Jenner & Block as recently as 2005. Until 2003, when Obama was a member of the Illinois Senate, Peter Bynoe was a registered state lobbyist representing Boeing and other corporate interests, according to the Illinois secretary of state. They have both raised at least $50,000 for Obama's presidential bid, according to his campaign.
In fact, at least five of Obama's disclosed bundlers have registered in the past with the Senate Office of Public Records. Three of them hadn't filed the normal paperwork indicating termination of their lobbying contracts, though Alan Solomont, Tom Reed and Scott Harris all told they Hill they had stopped lobbying.
(You can confirm the lobbying IDs with the Secretary of the Senate's lobbying database. For example: Alan Solomont; Tom Reed; Scott Harris. One of them, Thomas Perelli, of Jenner and Block, lobbied for victims of the August 1998 Africa embassy bombings. Which raises the point that many have made in comments that not all lobbyists are alike.)
The article went on to point out that some fundraisers for Obama are corporate officers of companies that hire lobbyists. At least 10 other major bundlers work for companies that have lobbied the federal government, including Bill Kennard of the Carlyle Group.
And late last week, the Los Angeles Times noted that Obama has taken in more than $1.4 million from firms with partners registered to lobby the federal government.
That total likely includes money brought in by two federal lobbyists who don't appear on Obama's "official" fundraising list. John Corrigan and Sanford Stein both had their personal donations to Obama returned, the LA Times reported. They also were asked not to help with fundraising, but not until after they had sent out emails for a fundraiser that helped Obama bring in $190,000 from Illinois donors between June 6 and June 11th. Did Obama return the money Corrigan and Stein helped to bring in? He hasn't said.
As today's Tom Paine article on the candidates' "Secret Santas" describes, the candidates are actually ALL being less-than-forthcoming about the details of their fundraising operations.
Public Citizen sent letters today to all of them calling on them to "put their mouths where their money is" and come clean on their bundling operations. It's a sad day when the Democratic hopefuls are disclosing less campaign finance information than did masters of secrecy Bush and Cheney in 2004.
You can find out what we do know about the presidential candidates' bundlers at www.WhiteHouseforSale.org and collect tips on bird-dogging the candidates on their poor disclosure of bundlers here.
Public Citizen, among others, is calling for a law to require disclosure of all bundling activity (and not merely by lobbyists, as in the recently passed lobbying and ethics bill). Relying on voluntary disclosure of information about bundlers makes us all too dependent on the whims of candidates.