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K Street Files: Bundles of Influence

Lobbying power couple Tony and Heather Podesta were busy scooping up lots of cash for Democratic Party committees last month, according to the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission on K Street bundlers.

Tony Podesta, head of the Podesta Group, raised $118,000 in bundled contributions for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and $50,000 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Heather Podesta, who heads her own lobbying shop, Heather Podesta + Partners, raised $25,000 for the DCCC in February. The couple also reported a combined total of bundled contributions worth $114,000 to the Senate committee in January.

The other lobbyist bundlers for the Democrats last month were Brian Wolff, who reported $25,000 for the DCCC, and former House Democratic Leader and Gephardt Group President Dick Gephardt, who reported raising $25,000 for the Congressional committee.

Wolff, who now works for the Edison Electric Institute, was executive director of the DCCC and previously headed Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) political operation. In January, Wolff raised a whopping $205,000 for the DCCC.

“Raising money is my night job,” Wolff said. “This is protecting an investment for me in not just the speakership but a Democratic majority that can move an agenda.”

Also reporting bundled contributions for the DCCC in January were Jack Quinn of Quinn, Gillespie & Associates, who raised $20,000, and Kenneth Gear of Leading Builders of America, who raised $40,000.

The lobbyists who raise money for Republicans will not be known until next month, since the GOP committees only file campaign finance reports on a quarterly basis.

Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center, said those lobbyists who disclose their bundled contributions “don’t mind being seen as big players who attract clientele who play the Washington money game at the highest level.”

McGehee said the disclosure law is written in such a way that many lobbyists who bundle contributions are able to avoid reporting their activity. She said the FEC reports capture “just the tip of iceberg.”

Profit-Sharing. Not everybody downtown is crying over House Democrats’ decision to nix earmarks for private, for-profit companies. In fact, public entities, including the University of the District of Columbia, are hoping the ban could improve their chances of scoring federal funding for earmark requests.

“It can only be helpful for us,” UDC Director of Government Relations Aimee Occhetti said. “These are earmarks you can do.”

UDC put in seven requests for funding, including one earmark for $275,000 that would help fund an urban teacher residency program. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) put in six of those requests, according to Occhetti. (UDC isn’t bothering with any GOP patrons, since House Republicans instituted a one-year moratorium on all earmark requests.)

Occhetti has also been working to get $5 million in federal funds to help overhaul the dilapidated former Backus Middle School building at 5171 South Dakota Ave. NE, which will serve as UDC’s new community college.

“The building is in dire need of fixing up,” Occhetti said.

UDC has Roetzel & Andress and the Campbell Group on retainer.

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