“I was a Republican before I was a lobbyist,” said Blalock, who represents dozens of major corporations including BP, Coca-Cola and Time Warner. “For me it’s about working for a cause I believe in and not about my business of lobbying.”
David Donnelly of the Public Campaign Action Fund, which favors public financing of elections, said such claims “ring hollow” because of the pivotal role played by lobbyists in raising money for politicians.
“These lobbyist donors get an immense of amount of access and influence over elected officials, and the rest of us get one lousy vote,” Donnelly said. “It is a business model that relies on lobbyists making campaign contributions, raising money for candidates and being in the most helpful position they can be in to benefit their clients down the line.”
Under recent reforms, which were co-sponsored by then-Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), presidential candidates are required to identify any lobbyists who act as campaign bundlers, gathering together donations from friends and associates. But lobbyists who merely host a fundraiser or contribute individually to campaigns are not required to be identified as lobbyists in reports to the Federal Election Commission.
The Post analysis cross-matched names in the FEC’s contributions database with lobbying disclosure records filed in Congress to identify K Street donors. The total number of lobbyist donors is almost certainly higher.
Obama’s practice of refusing lobbyist contributions fits into a broader goal of seeking to curb the influence of special interests in Washington. After The Post inquired this week about two lobbyists who gave to the campaign, spokesman Ben LaBolt said the contributions would be returned.
The lines separating former and current lobbyists are often thin: One supporter terminated his lobbying registration on behalf of a Japanese insurance association on April 18, then gave Obama $900 on April 20.
The Obama campaign came under fire from environmentalists and watchdog groups this week for hiring former lobbyist Broderick Johnson as a senior adviser. Before leaving the Bryan Cave firm in April, Johnson had a decade-long career representing dozens of clients including TransCanada, which is seeking U.S. approval for a controversial oil pipeline from Alberta to Texas.
LaBolt said Johnson will refrain from any issues involving past clients.
“For years the President has fought to ensure that Washington lobbyists don’t have undue influence over the policymaking process,” LaBolt said in a statement. “There’s no doubt that special interests are pouring contributions into the coffers of our potential opponents and their allies because they believe that large corporations and millionaires and billionaires should get tax cuts instead of the middle class and that Wall Street should be able write its own rules again.”
Many GOP lobbyists and campaign aides bristle at such rhetoric and accuse Obama of hypocrisy. Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan said Obama “has already broken his own policies when it comes to lobbyists,” pointing to the campaign’s hiring of Johnson.
“All Rick Perry donors must comply with the same contribution limits and federal disclosure rules and we respect that,” Sullivan said. “Governor Perry makes policy decision based on his conservative philosophy and on what’s best for his constituents.”
Cultivating donors on K Street has been central to Romney’s fundraising efforts, aimed in part at cementing his reputation as the candidate of establishment Republicans. One key fundraiser this year was a “Lawyers for Romney” luncheon at Patton Boggs, Washington’s largest lobbying firm with $40 million in billings last year. Hosts including former senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) raised $5,000 or more, with individual donations starting at $1,000, according to an invitation.
Romney’s top lobbyist fundraiser is Patrick J. Durkin, managing director of Barclays Capital, who raised $355,000 through September, disclosures show.
“People who contribute to Mitt Romney’s campaign do so because they support Mitt’s conservative agenda to create jobs and grow the economy,” campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
Not all lobbyists involved in the campaigns think of themselves as part of K Street. David Beightol of Dutko Grayling said he is primarily a state-level consultant who only registers as a lobbyist “out of an abundance of caution.” Beightol has raised just under $90,000 for Romney.
“It’s mostly posturing,” Beightol said of Democratic complaints about lobbyist fundraising. “It’s just a political game.”
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