They talk big, but will candidates deliver the fundraising transparency we need?

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.

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.

The full article is here.

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 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.

Update [2007-8-8 15:57:17 by Laura MacCleery]:

Obama is singled out by the article below, but is far from the only one who is evading campaign finance laws. Look for a comprehensive analysis soon of the candidates' tactics in side-stepping campaign finance laws on

Obama's supporters get around money limit

by Lance Williams, Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

California supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama are using a controversial political committee to rake in donations in excess of what is allowed under tough federal campaign finance laws.

Exploiting a legal loophole, the Obama supporters have set up a so-called 527 group - an unregulated committee of the type deployed by Republican Swift Boat Veterans in the 2004 presidential campaign - as a centerpiece of political fundraising for the California Democratic primary in February.

So far, wealthy donors have written checks in the amounts of $90,000 and $50,000 to "Vote Hope 2008," the Obama supporters' 527 group, federal records show. The group is led by San Francisco lawyer Steve Phillips, son-in-law of wealthy financier and Democratic political donor Herbert Sandler.

Named for the section of the U.S. tax code that regulates these groups - and independent of the input or control of political candidates - 527 groups aren't subject to the Federal Election Commission's legal limit on contributions of $2,300 per donor per election.

The same Obama supporters have also set up a political action committee - the type of fund-raising device used by special-interest groups to funnel donations to multiple candidates - and used it to raise money for Obama's California campaign, records show. The political action committee also is called "Vote Hope 2008."

Tags: AFL-CIO, bundling, campiagn finance, Candidate, corruption, Debate, Democratic, disclosure, lobbying, Lobbyists, money in politics, obama, Presidential, Public Citizen, public financing, Tom Paine, WhiteHouseforSale (all tags)



Re: They talk big, but will candidates deliver

Good diary. Obama's no Washington lobbyists claim is about as false as you can make without outright lying. He is up to his ears in lobbyists.

by DoIT 2007-08-08 10:00AM | 0 recs
Re: They talk big, but will candidates deliver the

I completely agree. Why can't the politicians who claim to be real reformers even disclose their own sources of campaign money and fundraising practices? I guess its too much to ask Obama to live up to his own standards of grassroots support, and its very discouraging to me that he is the current golden standard.

by gberger 2007-08-08 11:29AM | 0 recs
obam has disclosed more than

any other candidiate running. he's the only one to show all his earmarks and to show who is bundling for him. your critique rings hollow.

by dpg220 2007-08-08 12:11PM | 0 recs
Talk about hollow

You think gberger's critique might ring hollow because he's Greg Berger who works for Laura MacCleery? I'm not saying for sure, but if she's making her employees comment about how great her posts are, the comments are probably going to come across as pretty hollow.

by Merger 2007-08-08 12:38PM | 0 recs
Actually public citizen loves obama electioncentral/2007/jun/22/pub_cit

Top Official At Nader's Old Group Sees Obama As Most Reliable Good-Government Ally

Craig Holman, the ethics lobbyist for Public Citizen, tells us the group endorses all the principles in Obama's speech. "These are all things we've been advocating for several years now," he says. "Obama has been working on many of these reforms for the last year."

Asked if this meant Obama was really better than the other Dems on good-government issues, Holman said: "Certainly in terms of his active roles. I would expect many of the Democratic candidates to endorse similar proposals. But Senator Obama has been actively working on these since even before he considered running for President."

by dpg220 2007-08-08 12:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually public citizen loves obama

Speculation adout Public Citizen and Obama is beside the point.

We thank anyone who supports ethics and lobbying reform, and Obama has been out in front on those issues. We DON'T do electioneering at all, and have no opinion on particular candidates for office.

As the diary makes clear, NONE of the candidates has the moral high ground here in terms of this specific issue -- disclosure of the details on bundling.

While Obama's disclosure thus far IS the best among a bad field, he does not provide full information on employers -- and this information is needed to verify the identities of donors.

The bottom line: On this issue, they can all do better.

P.S. Sure Greg works at PC. Thus he knew about the post. But he wrote that comment all on his own.

by Laura MacCleery 2007-08-08 12:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually public citizen loves obama

Great, just what we don't need: Obama the Naderite.

by DoIT 2007-08-08 03:17PM | 0 recs
Re: They talk big, but will candidates deliver?

Great post.  Until Obama and other candidates fully disclose their revenue sources, I find any of their claims to be "for the people" and above the influence of such lobbyists to be disingenuous.  Your post brings to light the blurred line between a lobbyist and a bundler.  Who carries more influence- a former registered lobbyist turned bundler or a bundler turned lobbyist?    

by Zillhouse 2007-08-08 12:18PM | 0 recs
Re: They talk big, but will candidates deliver?

Do you work for Public Citizen, too?

by Merger 2007-08-08 12:53PM | 0 recs
Don;t worry
They are WHITe lobbyists. The problem is with Latino American citizens bundling.
by Big Tent Democrat 2007-11-26 07:58AM | 0 recs


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