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Topics: Obamacare

Liberal governor candidate lobbied feds while a Maryland legislator

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Politics,Maryland,Timothy P. Carney,Columnists,Obamacare,Governor,Health Care,Campaigns,Lobbying,Ethics

The great progressive hope in Maryland's governor race has spent six years as a paid lobbyist for health care companies while simultaneously serving in Maryland's House of Delegates.

Heather Mizeur will tell you she worked on Capitol Hill as a staffer for Sen. John Kerry, served on the Takoma Park City Council and currently represents Silver Spring in the lower chamber of Maryland's legislature.

She's running for governor as the liberal in a packed Democratic primary to replace term-limited Gov. Martin O'Malley, D-Md. Mizeur's campaign website says she and her wife also "own a small business in Silver Spring and an organic farm on the Eastern Shore."

That "small business" happens to be a lobbying firm that has brought in $6.5 million representing clients -- mostly health care companies -- before Congress and federal agencies while Mizeur has been a state lawmaker.

Mizeur's campaign explained to me that the firm put a fence around Maryland: "Delegate Mizeur has never lobbied on behalf of any client in Annapolis. Heather and the entire Mizeur Group maintain a hard-and-fast policy against representing any client before the the State of Maryland."

Mizeur in the 1990s was legislative director for Rep. Joseph Kennedy, D-Mass., and then a lobbyist for the National Association of Community Health Centers. From 2000 to 2003, she ran Mizeur Strategies, which was not a federally registered lobbying group. In 2004, she became a top health-policy staffer for Kerry's presidential campaign, and then she spent a couple years as Kerry's policy director in the Senate.

In 2007, she passed once more through the revolving door, becoming a lobbyist at the K Street powerhouse K&L Gates. She registered to lobby on behalf of hospitals and health care IT companies, starting January 2007 - the same month she was sworn into office in Annapolis.

Alongside a slew of health care clients, Mizeur represented Starbucks, Microsoft, and BNSF Railway in Washington, while also representing Takoma Park and Silver Spring in Annapolis.

Mizeur left K Street in April 2008, and launched her own lobbying shop out of a humble townhouse in a downscale Silver Spring office park backing up to the Metro tracks. She brought with her some clients from K&L Gates, including the Acute Long Term Hospital Association and a smartgrid company called Current Group. Most of her clients were health care companies.

Simultaneously, Mizeur served in Maryland's House of Delegates on the Health and Government Operations Committee, and the Health & Human Resources Appropriations subcommittee. Also she got spots on the House Emergency Medical Services Work Group and was on the Maryland Medicaid Advisory Committee.

This was at the same time clients were paying her to lobby Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. She concentrated on Obamacare, Medicare payment policies, and other issues related to government funding of health care, according to federal lobbying filings.

At a time when President Obama has helped make "lobbyist" something of a dirty word, Mizeur's double-hatting has received surprisingly little attention. A recent 1,800-word Washington Post profile (the lead item on her campaign home page as I type) never mentioned her lobbying, referring only to her "working on heath care for various congressional Democrats and advocacy groups...."

Even Obama seems to have forgiven her the sin of lobbying. Mizeur's Facebook page says she "was appointed in 2009 by President Obama to the Executive Committee of the DNC and to a White House select advisory group tackling health reform." White House visitor logs show Mizeur visiting the White House eight times, including at least one intimate meeting with top staffers of the White House Office of Health Reform, Lauren Aronson and Sarah Fenn.

Mizeur, in late July, made it official that was seeking the governorship. Prominent liberal blogger Digby declared her "The Future of the Progressive Movement."

But given progressives' tendency to inveigh against corporate lobbyists, there's a tension here, especially because it's hard to discern the dividing lines between her campaign, her public service and her corporate lobbying.

Mizeur for Governor now occupies the same townhouse that was, a few weeks ago, home to The Mizeur Group. Throughout her time in Annapolis, the same people have served as her campaign staff, her legislative staff, and her lobbying staff.

Seeking comment for this column, and unable to find a public number for her campaign, I called the publicly listed number for The Mizeur Group lobbying firm. I got the voicemail of Jeremy Crandall, the finance director for her campaign.

Mizeur's arrangement is odd in many ways. But it's typical in this way: Her political climb has aided her economic climb.

Timothy P. Carney, the Washington Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at tcarney@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears Sunday and Wednesday on washingtonexaminer.com.

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