Politics

Kaine Provides Clinton Ticket With More Lobbying, Fundraising Ties

Virginia senator has deep ties to Democratic insiders and K Street

Sen. Tim Kaine has an extensive network of former aides in private practice. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Hillary Clinton's selection of Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate may gall some progressives. But Kaine brings to the campaign deep connections with Democratic insiders and fundraising on K Street.  

Kaine’s network of former aides and contacts say the ex-Virginia Democratic governor and one-time chairman of the Democratic National Committee is a policy wonk who studies issues, speaks without notes in English or Spanish, seeks out competing viewpoints and comes across as genuine on the fundraising circuit.  

“He can speak with great authority on a wide range of policy matters,” said Preston Bryant, a senior vice president at McGuireWoods Consulting, who served as Kaine’s secretary of natural resources in Richmond. “As governor, he got way into the weeds on most every policy or budget matter that crossed his desk.”  

Other former Kaine aides with private-sector practices include Lawrence Roberts, a partner in the Tysons Corner, Virginia, office of the lobby and law firm Venable. Roberts served as campaign chairman of Kaine’s 2005 gubernatorial and 2012 senatorial bids. He was also chief of staff at the DNC while Kaine was chairman there. And he served as counselor to him while he was governor.  

An Inner Toughness Roberts says Kaine's nice exterior belies an inner toughness. “People may underestimate his competitiveness and the fire in his belly,” Roberts said. “In an age when the political process is full of people expressing loud and confrontational points of view, he is understated but very pointed in his words.”  

[ Kaine Said Obama Needed Congressional Approval to Fight ISIS ]  

Other former Kaine aides include Lynda Tran of 270 Strategies, who was a Kaine communications director in state government, and Mo Elleithee, now executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service. Alfonso Lopez, who was head of congressional and legislative affairs for then-Gov. Kaine and previously lobbied at the firm Alcalde & Fay, is now a Virginia delegate from Arlington and with the government contracting firm Capitol Bridge LLC.  

Democratic lobbyist and donor David Castagnetti said Kaine’s national security background — he represents a defense-heavy state that includes the Pentagon and serves on both the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees — boosts the ticket. “He’s certainly qualified to be president,” Castagnetti said.  

McGuireWoods is one of Kaine’s top sources of political money, according to an analysis of federal election records by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics .  

The political committee of J Street, a liberal, pro-Israel advocacy group that supported the multinational nuclear deal with Iran — which Kaine also backed — is also a top source of funds, as were the University of Virginia and the lobbying and law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Lawyers and law firms were Kaine's biggest source of funds by industry, the center found.  

“On a personal level, I have a very high regard for the guy,” said former Rep. Vic Fazio, D-Calif., a lobbyist with Akin Gump and who hosted a fundraiser for Kaine at Fazio’s Arlington home.  

“He came early, left late and met everyone there,” Fazio recalled. “He met all my neighbors. He looks you in the eye, he’s connecting.”  

Kaine remembers that Fazio sits on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association, “and every time I run into him we talk about something to do with the national parks,” Fazio said.  

Kaine, the lobbyist added, isn’t associated with any specific faction or interest group downtown. His Senate chief of staff, Mike Henry, once worked for the labor federation AFL-CIO.  

[ Virginia's Democratic Governor Would Appoint Kaine Replacement ]

Bucking Labor

   

To the chagrin of progressives, Kaine bucked most in the labor movement last year in his vote for passage of Trade Promotion Authority, granting the president authority to negotiate trade deals and giving signed deals an expedited path on Capitol Hill. Some liberal groups, such as Democracy for America, said Kaine’s support for the trade measure as well as the senator’s reported push for a banking regulation rollback “could be potentially disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump this fall.”  

But Kaine allies say he’s misunderstood among some liberals.  

“He is much more progressive than many think — or give him credit for,” said Bryant, a hiking buddy of Kaine. “He is a career civil rights lawyer who concentrated on fair housing. He is a defender of women’s reproductive rights. He came out forcefully against a Virginia constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.”  

Kaine also has a lifelong devotion to racial reconciliation and matters of social justice, stemming from his Catholic faith, Bryant added.  

As governor during the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech, Kaine has pushed for gun-control measures.  

“He’s very pragmatic, and I think his door is open. He listens,” Fazio said. “But he is not perceived as a friend of K Street. And if he doesn’t agree with you, he’ll let you know.”  

Lopez, who ran the congressional and federal liaison office for then-Gov. Kaine, said his one-time boss’s optimism is infectious and will serve the Democratic ticket well in November.  

“Sometimes it feels like the world’s lost its way, and the country would benefit greatly from someone like Tim Kaine,” Lopez said. “In 20-plus years of working in politics and policy at the local, state and federal level, Tim Kaine is one of the best public servants and best individuals I’ve ever met.”  

Lopez, who ran the congressional and federal liaison office for then-Gov. Kaine, said his one-time boss’s optimism is infectious and will serve the Democratic ticket well in November.  

“Sometimes it feels like the world’s lost its way, and the country would benefit greatly from someone like Tim Kaine,” Lopez said. “In 20-plus years of working in politics and policy at the local, state and federal level, Tim Kaine is one of the best public servants and best individuals I’ve ever met.”

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