Playing the Field

Many on K St. Give to Several Candidates

Posted July 17, 2007 at 6:24pm

Lobbyist Jeff Peck couldn’t choose between presidential hopeful Sens. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), his one-time boss, and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), a longtime contact.

“I love ’em both,” said Peck, a partner at Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart.

So he’s given each Senator’s campaign $4,600, the maximum allowed for the election cycle.

Among the recently reported campaign donations from the the second quarter of an already record-breaking presidential campaign season, it’s clear that Peck is not alone in helping more than one White House prospect.

Former Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.), now a lobbyist with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, wrote checks to the coffers of both Dodd and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

That’s in addition to $4,600 that he already gave to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) back in March, according to data filed with the Federal Election Commission.

On the other side of the aisle, Jeffrey MacKinnon, of Ryan, Phillips, Utrecht & MacKinnon, donated money to the coffers of three GOP candidates: Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Sam Brownback (Kan.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Neither Fazio nor MacKinnon returned phone calls seeking comment.

But the public campaign records reveal that Washington, D.C., lobbyists such as Peck, Fazio and MacKinnon — who frequently are among the top personal givers on K Street — are not shy about spreading their generosity among the field of primary competitors. For both professional and personal reasons, some of the city’s most prominent, and partisan, lobbyists have given to multiple White House candidates within their parties.

Ed Rogers, a partner at Barbour Griffith & Rogers, has given $2,300 donations each to the campaigns of McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, according to FEC records. He said he also has given to Romney. While he does plan to endorse a Republican candidate before the New Hampshire primary, he said he is happy to spread money to any of the party’s candidates while he is still neutral.

“If anybody in the firm is with another candidate and they’re trying to meet a fundraising goal, I’ll contribute,” he said. “If any candidate goes to Alabama and my mother wants to go to the event, I’ll contribute.”

The reasons can be as simple as Rogers’ or more complicated, and some lobbyists walk a fine line to maintain current contacts with sitting Members who are running for president.

Massie Ritsch, communications director for the campaign watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics, said he believes lobbyists spread their generosity to multiple candidates for myriad reasons, both business and personal.

“The people running for president have been around a long time, and many of them have served in Congress, and so they’re well known in town and have a lot of friends in town,” Ritsch said. “It’s going to be hard for lobbyists to say no when they come asking for money.”

Some lobbyists, he said, just want to make sure their party’s candidates are all flush with cash, hoping to help the party build momentum.

“Then there are other professional choices being made,” Ritsch said.

Dodd, for one, has gotten a lot of fundraising attention because of his Banking Committee gavel. “Lobbyists want access to them right now,” he said.

Duberstein Group lobbyist Steve Champlin has given $2,000 to Dodd and to Clinton. He gave $2,000 to the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), but FEC records show those funds were returned on June 13. Obama has pledged not to accept donations from federally registered lobbyists.

Lobbyist Tony Podesta, founder of the Podesta Group, has spread his donations among the primary field as well, helping Clinton, Dodd and Richardson, according to FEC data.

One Democratic lobbyist who has donated to Biden, Dodd and Clinton said he respects all three and has known them over the years while representing clients.

“For some people, it’s a business decision,” this lobbyist said. “In Washington, in the lobbying community, a lot of it is about personal relationships. The Senators who are running, everybody knows them. A lot of it is about friendship.”