Last month, Barack Obama announced that “my party” would not take donations from federally-registered lobbyists or their PACs. Somehow, that news failed to make it to his own campaign. Roll Call took a peek at lobbying disclosures for the first half of 2008, and discovered $15,000 of donations from dozens of lobbyists:
Lobbyists might be persona non grata on the presidential campaign trail, but that hasn’t put them off of donating to the presumptive Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.).
Obama has pledged to forgo contributions from federally registered lobbyists. Yet, more than 40 have donated nearly $15,000 to his presidential campaign this year, according to records recently filed with the Senate and House.
The latest tally, as of Tuesday, comes as lobbyists have begun filing their LD-203 forms, a requirement of the Honest Government and Open Leadership Act of 2007. The provision requires lobbyists and all lobbying organizations to file forms to the Senate and House by July 30 and Jan. 30 that list ties to political action committees, federal campaign contributions over $200 and expenditures for events that honor officials covered by the law.
Roll Call asked the Obama campaign to explain this apparent reversal of policy. Team Obama claimed that they would refund any donation they find that came from a lobbyist — but that they rely on lobbyists to identify themselves at the time of the donation. That seems a little strange to me; if we can rely on lobbyists to be honest, then why does Obama reject their contributions at all?
Besides, the lobbyists say that Obama’s lips say NO, but his fundraisers say YES:
Despite those measures, only two of the 42 federally registered contributing lobbyists, David Taylor of Weil Gotshal & Manges and Kyle Danish of Van Ness Feldman, reported on their forms that the Obama campaign had refunded their money.
Others say that since their initial donation, they’ve received several fundraising requests.
“I sent a small check,” said Victor Kamber, a lobbyist at Carmen Group Inc. who gave Obama $200 after he had maxed out to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) campaign. “Since then I’ve been heavily inundated.”
Kamber, who is registered to lobby on behalf of Washington Hospital Center and MedStar Health, says he hasn’t received a refund from Obama.
The campaign says they will return contributions “soon” from these lobbyists. It could make it easier if they quit sending them so many requests for donations.
As I’ve written before, this is really a tiresome and pointless exercise. Lobbyists represent Americans on policy matters, and unless they’re conducting bribery, it’s a Constitutional exercise. The issue isn’t lobbyists but the expansive amount of spoils that they can grab at the federal level. If a candidate wants to reduce the influence lobbyists have, they would enact policies that shrink the reach and cost of federal government. Barack Obama’s policies do exactly the opposite, expanding government control and spending, increasing the spoils for lobbyists given to them by elected representatives.
It’s easy. Cut spending, reduce the size of government, and we can get rid of the corrupting influence that some lobbying brings. In fact, if Obama wanted to keep lobbyists from supporting his campaign, that’s exactly how he could best do it — and that would be a voluntary system with which lobbyists would certainly comply.