Both Democratic presidential candidates keep harping on two topics in the campaign. They want to end lobbyist influence in Washington, and they want to keep foreigners from unfair competition in American markets. The latter message has generated considerable enthusiasm, and blaming lobbyists has always been a winning political message.

However, both need to explain how they managed to break those same promises as Senators (via Instapundit):

Both Democratic presidential candidates, who promise to curb the influence of corporate lobbyists in Washington, helped enact narrowly tailored tax breaks sought by major campaign contributors.Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign has accepted $54,350 from members of a law firm that in 2006 lobbied him to introduce a tax provision for a Japanese drug company with operations in Illinois, according to public records and interviews. The government estimates the provision, which became law in December 2006, will cost the treasury $800,000.

In 2002, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton introduced legislation at the request of Rienzi & Sons, a Queens, N.Y., food importer, according to company president Michael Rienzi. The provision, which became law in December 2004, required the government to refund tens of thousands of dollars in duty charged on imported tomato products, Rienzi told USA TODAY.

Rienzi gave $110,000 to committees set up to support Clinton’s 2000 Senate race, records show. Rienzi family members contributed an additional $52,800 to her campaigns since 2000. Michael Rienzi also said he donated to Bill Clinton’s presidential foundation, but he declined to say how much.

Got that? They both received tens of thousands of dollars from lobbyists in order to make it easier for foreigners to compete in American markets. Hillary’s change made it tougher on American tomato farmers to compete against foreign farmers, while Obama’s allowed the Japanese to expand their competition against American pharmaceuticals, although at least it created jobs in this country.

How did they manage to do that? A little-known rule in Congress allows members to create exceptions in tariff laws every two years, individually, somewhat akin to earmarks. Basically, this process exists to sell Congressional influence to the highest bidder. Lobbyists can make a fortune for their clients with a little down payment to a single Senator or Representative.

One presidential candidate refuses to introduce tariff suspensions, considering them dirty politics. John McCain has what he calls a “standing policy” that rejects private-relief bills or any bills intended for the purposes of any one person. I’d say that Obama and Hillary talk the talk, but only McCain walks the walk. I guess the New York Times missed this in their haste to tie McCain to lobbyist interventions.

Cross-posted at Captain’s Quarters.