Obama's Lobbyist Connection
By Michael Isikoff | NEWSWEEK
Jun 2, 2008 Issue
When Illinois utility Commonwealth Edison wanted state lawmakers to back a hefty rate hike two years ago, it took a creative lobbying approach, concocting a new outfit that seemed devoted to the public interest: Consumers Organized for Reliable Electricity, or CORE. CORE ran TV ads warning of a "California-style energy crisis" if the rate increase wasn't approved--but without disclosing the commercials were funded by Commonwealth Edison. The ad campaign provoked a brief uproar when its ties to the utility, which is owned by Exelon Corp., became known. "It's corporate money trying to hoodwink the public," the state's Democratic Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said. What got scant notice then--but may soon get more scrutiny--is that CORE was the brainchild of ASK Public Strategies, a consulting firm whose senior partner is David Axelrod, now chief strategist for Barack Obama.
Last week, Obama hit John McCain for hiring "some of the biggest lobbyists in Washington" to run his campaign; Obama's aides say their candidate, as a foe of "special interests," has refused to take money from lobbyists or employ them. Neither Axelrod nor his partners at ASK ever registered as lobbyists for Commonwealth Edison--and under Illinois's loose disclosure laws, they were not required to. "I've never lobbied anybody in my life," Axelrod tells NEWSWEEK. "I've never talked to any public official on behalf of a corporate client." (He also says "no one ever denied" that Edison was the "principal funder" of his firm's ad campaign.)
But the activities of ASK (located in the same office as Axelrod's political firm) illustrate the difficulties in defining exactly who a lobbyist is. In 2004, Cablevision hired ASK to set up a group similar to CORE to block a new stadium for the New York Jets in Manhattan. Unlike Illinois, New York disclosure laws do cover such work, and ASK's $1.1 million fee was listed as the "largest lobbying contract" of the year in the annual report of the state's lobbying commission. ASK last year proposed a similar "political campaign style approach" to help Illinois hospitals block a state proposal that would have forced them to provide more medical care to the indigent. One part of its plan: create a "grassroots" group of medical experts "capable of contacting policymakers to advocate for our position," according to a copy of the proposal. (ASK didn't get the contract.) Public-interest watchdogs say these grassroots campaigns are state of the art in the lobbying world. "There's no way with a straight face to say that's not lobbying," says Ellen Miller, director of the Sunlight Foundation, which promotes government transparency.
Axelrod says there are still huge differences between him and top McCain advisers, including the fact that he doesn't work in D.C. But his corporate clients do have business in the capital. One of them, Exelon, lobbied Obama two years ago on a nuclear bill; the firm's executives and employees have also been a top source of cash for Obama's campaign, contributing $236,211. Axelrod says he's never talked to Obama about Exelon matters. "I'm not going to public officials with bundles of money on behalf of a corporate client," Axelrod says.
Hey, ObamaNation, Hillary today said "People who deserve a shot"!!!!
As in SHOOTING? AGAIN??
Hillary: Why I continue to run
BY HILLARY CLINTON
Sunday, May 25th 2008
... I am running for all the men and women I meet who wake up every day and work hard to make a difference for their families. People who deserve a shot at the American Dream - the chance to save for college, a home and retirement; to afford quality health care for their families; to fill the gas tank and buy the groceries with a little left over each month.
Opensecrets.org, the Web site of the Center for Responsive Politics, is the most authoritative source on campaign finances. Basing its reports on data from the Federal Election Commission, the Center shows that Obama indeed doesn't take much money from a sector the Center calls "lobbyists." Through the end of December, Clinton received more than $800,000 and McCain around $400,000 from this group, which the Center says includes people who work for lobbying firms at the local, state, and federal level and their relatives who are not otherwise employed, as well as those who are officially registered as Washington lobbyists. Obama received contributions of about just $86,000 from this group. Obama's Web site says he doesn't take money from Washington lobbyists or political action committees,and the Center says that if his campaign finds that the money came from registered Washington lobbyists, it does get returned.
How meaningful is this? "It's a politically smart position for him to take. It sounds profound," says Massie Ritsch, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics. "But in fact neither PACs nor lobbyists give a lot to presidential campaigns. He's not leaving a whole lot of money on the table by eschewing PACs and lobbyists." PAC money represents only about one percent of all the money in a presidential race because, Ritsch says, so many people donate that their contributions dwarf PAC money.
Significantly, the Center's lobbyist sector excludes in-house lobbyists who work solely for one company, union, trade association, or other group. These people may lobby, but their contributions are grouped in the totals for the various industries they represent, along with contributions from other employees in the sector, their relatives, whatever PAC money has been raised, and donations from trade and professional associations which, of course, carry lots of weight in the horse trading that occurs when legislation is drafted. (Corporations cannot contribute directly to candidates.)
Contributions made by the various industry sectors tell the real story in a presidential race. And Opensecrets.org shows that Obama is picking up gobs of money put on the table by these special interests--including those involved in health care, which will surely have a lot riding on the outcome of the election and will expect to be heard after the election is over.
especially older white women. Is it a Kenyan polygamist thing where women are treated as poperty? Jealousy because women were his competitors in whatever affirmative action program he or Michelle was in?