Monday, May 26, 2008

Lobbyists and ....

I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over. I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists — and won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president.

— Barack Obama, Speech in Des Moines, IA, November 10, 2007

All candidates talk about taking on the lobbyists. They claim to oppose lobbyists' influence over Washington and loudly and proudly talk about not take money from lobbyists. But what really happens when the camera and lights go off? The facts have been reported on the internet but in very large part, the MSM has virtually ignored this issue. You decide:

the Illinois Democrat's policy of shunning money from lobbyists registered to do business on Capitol Hill does not extend to lawyers whose partners lobby there.

Nor does the ban apply to corporations that have major lobbying operations in Washington. And the prohibition does not extend to lobbyists who ply their trade in such state capitals as Springfield, Ill.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Sacramento, though some deal with national clients and issues.

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Some of the most influential players, lawyers and consultants among them, skirt disclosure requirements by merely advising clients and associates who do actual lobbying, and avoiding regular contact with policymakers. Obama's ban does not cover such individuals.

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In Tallahassee, Obama held a fundraiser attended by several statehouse lobbyists, taking checks from lobbyists for trial attorneys, the insurance industry, fast-food chains and sugar cane growers. State and federal issues often are related, as noted by the law firm Akerman Senterfitt, whose Florida-based members donated $7,000 to Obama. On its website, Akerman notes it combines Tallahassee connections with "an involved federal political action committee" to provide its clients "with an enviable level of access."

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On May 2, Obama is scheduled to attend a $2,300-per-ticket breakfast 10 blocks from the Capitol. The hosts include 22 lawyers. Although they are not federal lobbyists, three in the past have been registered lobbyists; they all work at firms that have Washington lobbying operations or hire outside lobbying firms to contact lawmakers. ... One lawyer co-hosting the Obama event has represented companies fending off litigation over toxic waste cleanup, and another represents employers on affirmative action requirements, force reduction and early retirement programs, their firms' websites say.
- An Asterisk To Obama's Policy On Donations, Dan Morain; Los Angeles Times; Apr 22, 2007; A.1

So, is it only a matter of semantics, or is it more of the same? "I don't take money from lobbyists," only from the lawyers that represent them and their corporate interests. Is this a distinction without a difference? If a candidate or Senator is willing to mingle with, to lend an ear, to accept large sums of money from those in DC and the 50 states who represent lobbyists, and large corporate and monied interests, then what do words really mean?

Maybe its all about truly ignoring lobbyist influence and not allowing money and lobbyists to influence legislative agendas. That would be a good thing. You decide:

Away from the bright lights and high-minded rhetoric of the campaign trail, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has quietly worked with corporate lobbyists to help pass breaks worth $12 million.

In his speeches, Obama has lambasted lobbyists and moneyed interests who "have turned our government into a game only they can afford to play."

"It's an entire culture in Washington -- some of it legal, some of it not," the Democratic hopeful told a New York crowd in June, rallying support for his ethics reform agenda.

But last year, at the request of a hired representative for an Australian-owned chemical corporation Nufarm, Obama introduced nine separate bills exempting the company from import fees on a range of chemical ingredients it uses in the manufacture of pesticides and herbicides. Nufarm's U.S. subsidiary is based in Illinois.
- The Blotter: Despite Rhetoric, Obama Pushed Lobbyists' Interests; Justin Rood;; July 6, 2007

But, Obama responds that he was really only helping his constituents in Illinois. He was simply making those foreign products from NuFarm more available and cheaper for his constituents. Now, that sounds good, working hard on Capitol Hill for local constituents. But, then reality sets in:

In a statement to ABC News defending the measures, Obama's spokesman echoed Junker's argument.
"Just like he fought for funding to ensure Chicago's transit system remains affordable and to invest in ethanol research, Senator Obama helped keep costs low for Illinois residents by helping them get the goods they need to do their jobs," Ben LaBolt wrote.

But the company's financial reports indicate that may not be the case. In a glowing financial report issued just two months after Obama introduced Nufarm's numerous tariff-lifting bills, Nufarm told its shareholders it was making more money than ever before in North America because it had increased its prices on its U.S. and Canadian customers, predominantly farmers.

Nufarm saw "strong revenue growth" in North America, it said in a July 31, 2006, company report. "Net profit was also up strongly," driven in part by "price rises on key products," it said. Nufarm trades on the Australian Stock Exchange.
- The Blotter: Despite Rhetoric, Obama Pushed Lobbyists' Interests; Justin Rood;; July 6, 2007

And, what about lobbyists and monied influence and protecting the environment? That's a key issue in the current campaign, right. Against lobbyist influence, and pro-environmental reform? You decide:

However, the Illinois senator's stance on pending legislation and his adviser's ties to the mining industry are raising questions in a state where mining is an economic engine in rural areas. Democrats will vote in presidential caucuses Jan. 19, and Obama's position could help him against rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards, who have not taken a clear position on the bill.

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The General Mining Law of 1872 allows the mining industry to pull gold, silver and other minerals from federal lands without paying royalties. The industry opposes changes to the law and several efforts to reform it have failed.

A House-passed bill would impose a royalty of 4 percent of gross revenue on existing hard-rock mining operations and 8 percent of gross revenue on new mining operations. The reform bill also would put new environmental controls on hard-rock mining, set up a cleanup fund for abandoned mines and permanently ban cheap sales of public lands for mining.

Obama said the legislation, favored by environmentalists, "places a significant burden on the mining industry and could have a significant impact on jobs." He also opposes the proposed fees.

Obama's statements are largely in line with the those of Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, a miner's son who has long fended off significant reform and defended the industry as critical to the rural West. Nevada is the largest gold-producing state in the nation and ranks behind only South Africa, Australia and China internationally.

Vassiliadis, a longtime Nevada power broker, is a member of Obama's Nevada steering committee and has contributed $2,300 to his campaign. He is a lobbyist for the Nevada Mining Association at the state level and the chief executive of the advertising and lobbying firm hired by two mining companies to lobby for them in Washington.

Denver-based Newmont Mining Co., one of the world's largest gold producers, hired Las Vegas-based R&R Partners' Washington, D.C. office in January. The firm has represented silver and gold miner Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp., in Washington since 2006.
Obama-Mining Lobbyist Ties Scrutinized; WJLA-TV; November 14, 2007

Monied influence seeps from political campaigns. That includes Obama's and his opponent's. Actions and facts belie public speeches and the oft-stated position that lobbyists will not influence actions.


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