Thursday, April 17, 2008

Obama tied to lobbyists, but boasts of not taking money

From USA Today on April 16, 2008: "WASHINGTON — Barack Obama often boasts he is "the only candidate who isn't taking a dime from Washington lobbyists," yet his fundraising team includes 38 members of law firms that were paid $138 million last year to lobby the federal government, records show.Those lawyers, including 10 former federal lobbyists, have pledged to raise at least $3.5 million for the Illinois senator's presidential race. Employees of their firms have given Obama's campaign $2.26 million, a USA TODAY analysis of campaign finance data shows.
Thirty-one of the 38 are law firm partners, who typically receive a share of their firm's lobbying fees. At least six of them have some managerial authority over lobbyists.

"It makes no difference whether the person is a registered lobbyist or the partner of a registered lobbyist, if the person is raising money to get access or curry favor," said Michael Malbin, director of the Campaign Finance Institute, a non-partisan think tank.
Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said that while Obama's refusal to take money from lobbyists "isn't a perfect solution or symbol, it does reflect Obama's record of trying to change the way that Washington does business." He declined to elaborate.

Lobbyists have long played key fundraising and policymaking roles for candidates, and lobbyists are raising money for both Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain.

Obama fundraisers who work for law firms that lobby and share the fees include:

•Allan Katz, a Florida lawyer who chairs the government relations practice of Akerman Senterfitt. The firm took in $3.6 million for Washington lobbying last year, according to public records compiled by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. The firm touts on its website "an enviable level of access" for clients.

•Mark Alderman, managing partner of Philadelphia's WolfBlock law firm. The firm's lobbying subsidiary earned $930,000 in Washington last year representing clients including defense contractor Lockheed Martin, records show.

•Scott Blake Harris, managing partner of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, a Washington telecommunications law firm. Harris withdrew as a lobbyist for Microsoft and Cisco in June, but his partners still lobby, he said.

"My practice isn't going to be helped by this at all," said Harris, who said he got involved with Obama after his 14-year-old son interned in the senator's office. "I went to see him because of how nice he'd been to my kid, and I was captivated by his vision."

Katz, who got to know Obama over dinner, said his lobbying business "will be fine whether he wins or whether he loses."

Alderman said he was "just blown away" after meeting Obama. "This is not a business proposition for me," he said.


These 38 fundraisers for Barack Obama's presidential campaign work for law firms that have lobbying operations in Washington, D.C. The dollar figure reflects the minimum amount each has pledged to raise for the campaign.


Scott Harris $200,000 DC Harris, Wiltshire and Grannis

Allan J. Katz
$200,000 FL Akerman Senterfitt

Michael Lawson $200,000 CA Skadden, Arps

John Levi $200,000 IL Sidley Austin

Karol Mason $200,000 GA Alston & Bird

Thomas J. Perrelli $200,000 VA Jenner & Block

Thomas A. Reed $200,000 VA Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis

Christina Tchen $200,000 IL Skadden, Arps

Tony West $200,000 CA Morrison & Foerster

Mark L. Alderman $100,000 PA Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen

Timothy M. Broas $100,000 MD Winston & Strawn

Peter Bynoe $100,000 IL DLA Piper

Gregory B. Craig $100,000 DC Williams & Connolly

Norman Eisen $100,000 DC Zuckerman Spaeder

Nicole Lamb-Hale $100,000 MI Foley & Lardner

Andrew Schapiro $100,000 NY Mayer Brown

Charles C. Adams Jr. $50,000 Switzerland Hogan & Hartson

David Burd $50,000 DC Arnold & Porter

Tom Cole $50,000 IL Sidley Austin

Michael H. Dardzinski $50,000 China Reed Smith

Howard W. Gutman $50,000 MD Williams & Connolly

Jeff Horwitz $50,000 NY Proskauer Rose

David C. Jacobson $50,000 IL Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal

Hrishi Karthikeyan $50,000 DC Covington & Burling

Ronald Kirk $50,000 TX Vinson & Elkins

William T. Lake $50,000 DC WilmerHale

Edward Lazarus $50,000 CA Akin Gump

Jack Levin $50,000 IL Kirkland & Ellis

Kenneth G. Lore $50,000 DC Bingham McCutchen

Charles B. Ortner $50,000 NY Proskauer Rose

Susan Pravda $50,000 MA Foley & Lardner

Paul N. Roth $50,000 NY Schulte Roth & Zabel

John Schmidt $50,000 IL Mayer Brown

Robert M. Sussman* $50,000 DC Latham & Watkins

Kathryn Thomson $50,000 VA Sidley Austin

Barry B. White $50,000 MA Foley Hoag

Steven M. Zager $50,000 TX Akin Gump

Robert S. Litt n/a MD Arnold & Porter

* Robert M. Sussman retired as a partner on December 31, 2007.
Source: Obama for America, Center for Responsive Politics, Public Citizen