Barack Obama has pledged to end the influence of lobbyists, but that doesn’t keep him from fundraising at the offices of one of the most notoriously corrupt lobbyists in years. Newsday reported over the weekend that Obama took about $125,000 from Greenberg Traurig employees at their Miami offices last October. The firm made headlines when its biggest lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, admitted to several counts of corruption and was sentenced to prison:
Last fall, Barack Obama quietly slipped into the Miami headquarters of a major law firm scarred by the scandals of Jack Abramoff, its once-powerful Washington lobbyist who now sits in jail.
Arriving a little after 10 a.m. on Oct. 1, Obama spent the next three hours schmoozing, speaking in a video conference to branch offices and raising money at Greenberg Traurig, a billion-dollar firm with one of the biggest lobby shops here.
Obama has now raised about $125,000 from Greenberg Traurig employees — nearly half of it at the time of the event — more than from any of the other top law and lobby firms.
Symbolically, it was a starkly contradictory event: an appearance by the candidate who crusades most adamantly against lobbyists at the onetime firm of the poster child for out-of-control influence peddling.
Public anger over the Abramoff lobbying scandal led Obama to institute the ban on lobbyist money in the first place, an aide said last year.
The contributions apparently comprise the “smaller donors” that Obama likes to mention as his supposedly grassroots efforts. According to Open Secrets, Greenberg employees made 186 separate contributions to his presidential campaign, many of them in the last week of September 2007. It appears that the Obama campaign wanted the donations back-dated in order to get credit for the amounts in third-quarter fundraising figures.
Newsday says that John McCain and Hillary Clinton have also received money from Greenberg, and they’re correct. McCain has actually done better with Greenberg employees, to the tune of $142,000, and Hillary wins the gold medal with $163,000. However, among the broad spectrum of lobbyists and legal firms, Hillary has taken in $15.7 million and Obama $13.8 million. McCain comes in last at $4.2 million.
The problem isn’t so much the lobbying money. After all, lobbyists represent people with real concerns about how federal dollars get allocated. The problem is the oozing hypocrisy of politicians who demonize lobbyists on one hand and then pander to them for contributions on the other. Obama paid almost $3,000 in rental fees for that event in which he raised so much money, and he continues to shriek about lobbyists while chasing their money, claiming to represent the
little xenophobic religious gun-grabbing protectionist real Americans while doing so.
Here’s how politicians can reduce the influence of lobbyists: shrink the size and scope of the federal government. When taxpayers keep more of their own money and the federal government has less power, lobbyists won’t have a reason to plague Washington or to spread money and temptation around Capitol Hill. Since Barack Obama pledges to do the exact opposite, his election would have the direct effect of making lobbyists all the more relevant, and much richer.