POLITICS

Lobbyists donating to Obama, visiting WH

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

Lobbyists donating to a President's reelection bid is nothing new. Lobbyists visiting the White House is nothing extraorindary. But President Obama, his campaign, and his administration, again and again claim that they accept no lobbyist contributions, and that they don't give special access to lobbyists. I've written a dozen columns or blogposts about how this is false, but much of the mainstream media repeats it as if it's true.

But the New York Times (led by reporter Michael Luo) has regularly dug deep and hit hard regarding the Obama White House and its relationship with lobbyists. This weekend's big piece has excellent nuggets and paints a revealing picture.

The piece is framed by Skadden Arps attorney and Obama donor Antoinette Bush (whom I highlighted as a non-lobbyist lobbyist) last summer.

It also tells this great story:

When Los Angeles officials wanted White House backing for a program that would speed up local transit projects, they turned last spring to a California political operative, Kerman Maddox, a top Obama fund-raiser and party donor. “We thought he could help our outreach in Washington,” said Richard Leahy, chief executive of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
In an internal memo justifying Mr. Maddox’s hiring, the authority wrote that he had “direct access to the Executive Oval Office” and cited his position on the Obama campaign’s National Finance Committee. Mr. Maddox’s company Web site prominently features photographs of him with the Obamas.
One day after the authority signed off on his contract, Mr. Maddox made a $10,000 donation to the Obama re-election effort; he donated an additional $6,000 in June. In August, Mr. Maddox landed a meeting for himself and the authority officials with Melody Barnes, then director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, one of several meetings the officials were able to get.
The administration had previously been supportive of Los Angeles County’s efforts to accelerate its transit projects, but the following month, Mr. Obama also announced, as part of his jobs package, a proposal to significantly expand a Transportation Department loan program. The plan, which has drawn bipartisan support, is something Mr. Maddox’s clients had sought. Mr. Maddox, soon donated an additional $11,250 to the victory fund. He said in an e-mail that his donations were tied to fund-raising events and had nothing to do with visiting the White House.

Other highlights include the Times' account of recently deregistered lobbyist Lamell McMorris visiting the White House 20 times. McMorris, as I reported in a column in February, donated $35,800 through his lobbying firm itself -- yes, an actual corporate donation, from a lobbying firm, to Obama.

Read the Times piece. And also, recall the following details, anytime someone repeats Obama's phony anti-lobbyist talk.

 

  • He accepts donations from people who run lobbying firms, like Lawrence Rasky and Joseph Baerlein, of the lobbying firm Rasky Baerlein and Eugene Ludwig, who founded Promontory Financial Group.
  • He accepts donations from individuals who lobby the administration on behalf of their company, but are not registered to lobby, such as Vint Cerf of Google.
  • He accepts donations from recently deregistered lobbyists like Adam Golodner of Cisco.
  • He accepts donations from corporate "public affairs managers" like Ginny Hunt of Google, or VPs for public affairs like Tom Epstein of Blue Shield of California, and from Senior VPs for "public policy development and corporate responsibility" like Kathy Brown of Verizon.
  • He accepts donations from the spouses of registered lobbyists (who presumably share the same funds with the lobbyists) such as the spouses of lobbyists Susan Brophy and Andy Manatos.
  • His bundlers include Sally Susman who runs the lobbying operation at drugmaker Pfizer, which benefitted handsomely from Obamacare.
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