On Thursday, the New York Times took a look at where President Obama’s mountain of re-election cash is coming from. Guess what they found?
Despite a pledge not to take money from lobbyists, President Obama has relied on prominent supporters who are active in the lobbying industry to raise millions of dollars for his re-election bid.
At least 15 of Mr. Obama’s “bundlers” — supporters who contribute their own money to his campaign and solicit it from others — are involved in lobbying for Washington consulting shops or private companies. They have raised more than $5 million so far for the campaign.
How can this be? As the Times points out, “As both a candidate and as president, Mr. Obama has vowed to curb what he calls the corrupting influence of lobbyists, barring them not only from contributing to his campaign but also from holding jobs in his administration.” How can he be taking millions from lobbyists? Happily, there’s a nice technicality that should satisfy anyone who was already loopy enough to think President Solyndra is anxious to cleanse Washington of corrupting influences:
Because the bundlers are not registered as lobbyists with the Senate, the Obama campaign has managed to avoid running afoul of its self-imposed ban on taking money from lobbyists.
But registered or not, the bundlers are in many ways indistinguishable from people who fit the technical definition of a lobbyist. They glide easily through the corridors of power in Washington, with a number of them hosting Mr. Obama at fund-raisers while also visiting the White House on policy matters and official business.
Aha! So these are undocumented lobbyists, doing the jobs that registered lobbyists won’t do.
It would be really embarrassing if some of these top Obama donors openly advertised the level of access they’ve purchased with the Obama Administration, wouldn’t it?
Alex Heckler, for instance, runs a Florida consulting firm he founded, LSN Partners, which boasts of its ability to “win results for our clients” at the national, state and local levels and to tap into “a strong national network of lobbying firms” through its contacts with “key decision makers.”
Mr. Heckler, a noted Democratic fund-raiser in Florida who raised money for the presidential bids of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, has already brought in at least $200,000 for the Obama campaign, records show. (The campaign uses only broad dollar ranges for the money raised by its bundlers, and it declined to provide more precise data.)
Likewise, Andy Spahn, owner of a government relations company in Los Angeles, tells visitors to his Web site about its “extensive relationships in Washington, D.C.,” and elsewhere in advocating for “high net-worth individuals,” corporations, nonprofit groups and others.
Wow. Hey, do the Occupy Wall Street kids know about this? Isn’t this exactly what they claim to be strongly opposed to? Of course, they haven’t raised even the mildest criticism of Barack Obama or the Democrat Party, even though they presumably already knew Obama was the top recipient of Wall Street donations. Instead, they sit quietly while Obama claims to be their soul mate.
Meanwhile, First Lady Michelle Obama will be hosting a big-bucks fundraiser in Houston next week… at the home of a former Enron executive. Politico has the details:
An upcoming Houston fundraiser featuring first lady Michelle Obama at the home of a former Enron executive who is part of a movement to convert public pensions to 401(k)-style plans is angering some local Democrats.
John Arnold, a Houston billionaire and former Enron trader, is hosting the Michelle Obama event with his wife, Laura Arnold, at their Houston home on Nov. 1.
Arnold, for the record, says he’s a libertarian, while his wife is a Democrat. If you want to reminisce about the Enron glory days with him and Michelle Obama, you’ll have to fork over $10,000 for a ticket to the event, or go for the “co-host level” gold with a $35,800 contribution to re-elect Barack Obama. I think the co-host perks include an autographed picture of former Enron adviser Paul Krugman.
Politico notes that Houston Democrats are not happy about the First Lady’s appearance, although they don’t seem as troubled by the Enron connection as by Arnold’s support for an initiative to convert public-sector pensions into 401(k) plans, by virtue of a Constitutional amendment. Whatever the merits of this idea, it doesn’t fit well with Democrat Party dogma and public union demands. On the other hand, Obama really needs those campaign donations.
The endless struggle to firewall Washington against lobbyists has always been about the tension between two ideas: the people must be able to lobby the government – it’s protected by the First Amendment – but high-rolling special interests have disproportionate influence, which they use to purchase the corrupt application of State power for their own benefit.
People have been coming at this problem backwards for a long time, and the “Occupy” crowd is no different. They’re essentially trying to fight corruption by regulating the purchase of government power. Some lobbying heavyweights are “evil” special interests whose influence in Washington is appalling; others are noble crusaders for virtuous causes.
The power to apply these labels becomes enormously valuable… and it belongs largely to media corporations who are broadly and deeply sympathetic to the Big Government cause. In this way, Big Government gains the power to regulate access to itself. If we could somehow devise a method of preventing all big corporations from lobbying Washington, without trashing the First Amendment, the end result would be radically empowering the big corporations that own TV networks and newspapers… and the others would still find ways of getting much-needed campaign cash, and business cards, into the hands of candidates.
Complaining that “special interests” have access to top politicians is pointless. They always will. There is only one sure way to battle corruption: attack it from the supply side. If Barack Obama’s power wasn’t worth billions of dollars, his fat cat donors wouldn’t be pumping millions into his campaign… and his followers wouldn’t be driven mad by the cognitive dissonance of swallowing “clean government” talk from modern history’s worst crony capitalist.
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