Presidential Senator Candidates Take Big Lobby $$

Hillary was a Senator and just recently a lobby issue could be a problem given the Transpacific Partnership Pact that is so contentious in the country right now.

Per Lee Fang: While Hillary Clinton has demurred over her position on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, her campaign has partnered with a pro-TPP law and lobby firm to raise money.

At The Intercept, Lee Fang reports that Clinton’s campaign held a fundraiser in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday with the political action committee of a law firm called McGuireWoods. Lobby registration documents reveal that a subsidiary of the group lobbies on behalf of Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest producer of pork, to pass both the TPP and “fast track”—a special presidential mandate that nearly eliminates Congress’ role in crafting trade legislation.

The fundraiser occurred as Congress rescheduled a vote on fast track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

Fang continues:

Despite mounting pressure to take a position, Clinton has only provided [noncommittal] answers regarding her stance on both TPP and TPA. On Sunday, at a rally in Iowa, Clinton said there should be better protections for American workers and called for the president to work with Democrats in Congress — hardly a clarifying statement. Earlier that day, her chief pollster dismissed a call from ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos to provide a clear stance on TPA, casting the issue as simply “Washington inside baseball.”

For the event in D.C., billed as a “Conversation with John Podesta, Campaign Chair,” the Clinton campaign website said that I could learn the exact location only after RSVPing through a donation. I gave one dollar to find out. Apparently, that wasn’t enough. Instead of providing the address of the fundraiser as the campaign website had said it would, the campaign directed me to a site where I could volunteer.

Lobby money owns Washington DC, of this there is no dispute. The 10 largest lobby operations include the following industries:

The Technology lobby, the Mining lobby, the Defense lobby, the Agriculture lobby, Big Oil lobby, the Financial lobby, the Big Pharma lobby, the AARP lobby, the Pro-Israel lobby and the National Rifle Association lobby. The primer of these lobby groups is found here.

So what Senators that are running for president are on some lobby dollar hooks?

From Open Secrets:

Three of five senators running for WH have big backing from lobbyists

Three of the five U.S. senators running for president have made super-fans out of a few K Street lobbyists, an analysis of campaign finance data by OpenSecrets Blog shows.

Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have each raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from current or one-time federal lobbyists throughout their careers, the analysis shows. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has raised $82,050 from the same pool and Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ (D-Vt.) total fundraising haul from lobbyists stands at an even more paltry $50,075.

Neither Sanders nor Paul have hidden their disdain for lobbyists, so there’s some logic to their low fundraising totals from those in the profession. Both candidates, in their announcement speeches, railed against those who want to influence politics with money — Sanders referred to “billionaires…and their lobbyists,” Paul called them “special interests” — and struck similar tones.

“Both [Paul and Sanders] have publicly decried the influence of corporations in American public life,” Joshua Rosenstein, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer and expert on lobbying, said. “If you are a corporation, is it possible that you view each of them as relative lost cause? Sure.”

For some candidates, it’s not bad politics to keep K Street at arm’s length. In 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama pledged not to accept donations from lobbyists and refunded money to those who did contribute. After taking office, he barred federally registered lobbyists from joining advisory boards in his administration, before partially rolling back that ban last year.

But no 2016 hopeful has followed that lead, as the Wall Street Journal reports. And setting Paul and Sanders aside, the other senators running for president have already wooed a handful of lobbyists with deep pockets and a willingness to give to anyone who might help their clients.

In all, Graham has taken in $753,841 during his congressional career from current or one-time federally registered lobbyists who contributed more than $200 to him. Rubio and Cruz have received $571,952 and $265,043 from the same group, respectively. Those sums include donations to the senators’ campaign committees and leadership PACs.

Rubio, Cruz and Graham each have at least one lobbyist donor who, along with their spouses in some cases, has given in excess of $20,000 to the candidate’s campaign and PAC. Rubio has Ignacio Sanchez, a presidential bundler for Mitt Romney in 2012 from the firm DLA Piper; he represents Al Jazeera Satellite Network and Diageo PLC. Cruz has lobbying revolver Charles Cooper of Cooper & Kirk and his wife, Debra.

Graham, a senator since 2003, has enjoyed financial support from current or former lobbyists longer than his GOP Senate colleagues running for president. William H. Skipper, Jr. of the American Business Development Group, Reed Scott of Chesapeake Enterprises and his wife, and presidential bundler Van D. Hipp of American Defense International and his wife, have each given Graham more than $20,000 over the years.

The most Paul has received from any one lobbyist barely tops $6,000; that came from Charles Grizzle of Grizzle Co., who currently represents several Kentucky-based clients like the University of Louisville and the Louisville Regional Airport Authority. Sanders topped out at $3,000 from Nancy Zirkin of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and her husband.

The data analysis only covered sitting U.S. senators. Other presidential candidates or potential candidates who have served in federal office, like former Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and one-time House member, now governor, John Kasich (R-Ohio), haven’t run a Senate or House campaign in some time. And for former governors like Rick Perry and Jeb Bush, state data on which of their donors were lobbyists isn’t available. Fundraising reports for candidates’ presidential campaigns won’t be available till mid-July, and the super PACs backing them don’t have to report until the end of that month.

Still, it’s clear that the non-Senate candidates also have their eyes on K Street money. Clinton has already reached out to prominent lobbyists on her side of the aisle, while Jeb Bush started seeking commitments from Washington allies even earlier this year. Lobbyists are reportedly starting to line up behind him.

Despite that fact that making contributions may be good for business, Rosenstein noted, many lobbyists also donate for ideological reasons.

“While they certainly have to be pragmatists about what they’re doing…and that certainly drives some of the giving,” he said, “there might very well be an equal or greater ideological segment of the lobbying community that aren’t driven by pragmatic reasons,” Rosenstein said.


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Denise Simon