Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Senator Obama and lobbyists

ST sends a link to an AP report about lobbyists working for, or endorsing, the Obama and McCain campaigns. The Lurking Canary says these reports are surfacing only now because of blatant sexism in the media/blogosphere, and calls Senator Obama a hypocrite for his claim to not take contributions from lobbyists.
Here's my take on the article, that started off as a response to Ciccina's post but has been considerably expanded:

[Folks] can keep yelling "favoritism! sexism!" all [they] want - but a simple Google search reveals this is old news. For example, see this Reno Gazette-Journal article in August 2007, and this WaPo FactChecker in October 2007.

As far as I can remember, Senator Obama has always said that federal lobbyists cannot contribute financially to his campaign (WaPo calls that technically correct) - and Obama hasn't claimed to be pristine (USA Today, via the WaPo article):

"I have a bunch of friends who were state lobbyists. The fact of the matter is ... I played poker with them, so I don't think that lobbyists are evil," said the first-term Illinois senator. "I just think they've got an agenda and you got to be clear about that, and not pretend that they don't."
<snipped - RS>
Obama said Thursday he was not being hypocritical.
"I haven't gone around blasting Hillary" for accepting lobbyist money, Obama said in a 20-minute interview after touring the popular Iowa state fair with his wife and two young children. "What I said is she doesn't recognize the problem."
"My argument is not that we're perfect. I suffer from the same original sin of all politicians, which is we've got to raise money," Obama said. "But my argument has been and will continue to be that the disproportionate influence of lobbyists and special interest is a problem in Washington (and) in state capitals."
"The argument is not that I'm pristine, because I'm swimming in the same muddy water," Obama said. "The argument is that I know it's muddy and I want to clean it up."
[emphasis added - RS]

As for endorsements - well, there ain't much that can be done about that, and when these lobbyists also happen to be prominent public figures who were elected at some point.... The most prominent example in recent times (of public figures turned lobbyists, not of Obama-endorsers!) is ex-Senator Trent Lott (R-MS), who apparently quit his Senate post early to avoid a new law that prohibits elected officials from lobbying for two years after leaving office (by quitting early, Lott has to avoid lobbying for only one year) - see confirmation of this plan here.

Senator Obama, along with Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), had a major role in getting that new ethics reform passed. Yes, that's a page, but the NYT agrees, and here's a Senator Feingold page. PolitiFact from the St Petersburg Times/CQ says his claims on this issue are Half-True, but gives him credit for advocating with (egads!) Republicans for stronger rules on earmarks disclosures and emboldening other Democrats to vote for the Republican amendment and for a collaborative provision (with Senator Feingold). Here's what Obama plans to do on this front (which includes an independent counsel measure that failed to pass with the Senate bill) - and no, that ain't a page.

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