That kind of interaction is priceless. It also distinguishes major lobbyist donors from those K Streeters who mingle with politicians and attend fundraisers on someone else’s dime, delivering a check from a PAC.
“The public thinks lobbyists are scum and skew the system by giving a ton of money,” Krumholz said. “The truth, of course, is that most lobbyists don’t give huge sums of their own money. For those who do, it goes beyond a specific client or strategy. They are movers and shakers.”
Nearly all of the top-giving lobbyists are consultants with multiple clients, according to federal records. The exceptions are Nicholas Calio, who heads the trade association Airlines for America, and Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Calio said that when he joined the airline lobby, it “did not have a PAC to speak of” and has only a small one now.
Zirkin said she supports lawmakers who defend civil and human rights. “I’m in a very fortunate position that I can do this,” added Zirkin, whose husband was a financier.
Most top donors give to traditional campaign and party committees and say they avoid super PACs that aren’t subject to fundraising limits and spend independently of campaigns.
“I’m a party guy. I contribute to campaigns,” said Republican Wayne Berman of Ogilvy Government Relations. “I’m glad super PACs are there, so it’s not a moral judgment.”
David Franasiak, a GOP lobbyist with Williams & Jensen, added: “That’s for people who are multi, multi-millionaires. I’m just not in that league.”
But longtime top Democratic donor Larry O’Brien, who runs the OB-C Group, said super PACs are becoming a bigger part of the mix.
“They’re outside the legal boundaries of McCain-Feingold, so it’s literally unlimited, which is kind of frightening,” he said.
Instead of being given a pass by professional fundraisers, O’Brien said giving the maximum allowed year after year only makes him a bigger target, especially now with the super PACs’ unlimited appetite.
“I admit to feeling put upon,” he said. “I work for a living. I’m not George Soros or the Koch brothers. ... This is just endless.”