Inside-the-Beltway Primary

Posted July 20, 2007 at 6:06pm

Lobbyists love Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). And apparently they love Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), too. Despite the fact he has bashed the industry, McCain racked up more lobbyists’ contributions than any other Republican presidential contender, according to a recent compilation of lobbyists’ 2008 contributions to presidential campaigns. [IMGCAP(1)]

Clinton topped the heap of all contenders, having pried $413,140 out of contract lobbyists or employees of lobbying firms, while McCain came in second overall, collecting $261,975 from the K Street crowd through the second quarter ending in June.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who also happens to chair the important Senate Banking Committee, came in third with $174,050 in donations from lobbyists.

“I don’t think it’s accidental that the top three are sitting Senators,” said Douglas Weber, a researcher at the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. “Hillary Clinton and John McCain both have a long history in Washington, D.C.”

Weber said his group’s definition of lobbyist includes any federally registered lobbyist or any employee of a lobbying firm. In-house lobbyists are not counted, he added. The survey tracks only those lobbyists who are hired guns. But the group codes as lobbyists any lobbyists’ spouses who don’t have their own income-earning jobs.

Perhaps that explains how Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who pledged not to accept donations from any federally registered lobbyists, has received any donations on the center’s lobby list. Obama, the leading fundraiser overall, came in eighth with $60,567 from “lobbyists,” according to the group’s tally.

Lobbyists have helped former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R) coffers as well, giving him $160,830. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, another Republican, also got help from K Street, to the tune of $151,700.

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), brought in $90,050 and $67,400 respectively.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) managed to eke out $16,350 from lobbyists, while lobbyist himself Tommy Thompson took $11,000 from his K Street colleagues. Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), who, like Obama, pledged to take no lobbyists’ contributions, brought in $10,450 from people who work for lobbying firms or the non-incoming-earning spouses of lobbyists.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) couldn’t translate his Senate seat into much action for his long-shot White House bid. He brought in a mere $6,800.

“Interestingly, Brownback isn’t getting much from lobbyists, even though he’s a sitting Senator,” Weber said. “Lobbyists for obvious reasons are concerned with access to Congress, so their tendency is to send money to people where it’s going to be useful.”

Shifting Resources. Since Congress went Democratic this year, all eyes have been on the coffers of the National Federation of Independent Business, a group that developed a reputation as staunchly Republican, especially during the reign of then-CEO Jack Faris.

In the 2000 election cycle, NFIB’s political action committee gave just 3 percent of its $1 million to Democrats. It repeated that 3- percent-to-97-percent ratio in 2002. And in 2004 the group doled out a mere 2 percent of its total $754,916 to Democrats.

But in early 2006, NFIB brought on a new president, and obviously helped along by the fact that Democrats are running things, NFIB’s PAC is now tilting more toward Democrats.

According to Federal Election Commission and NFIB data, the group so far this election cycle has contributed 23 percent of $160,000 to Democrats and 77 percent to GOPers. That $160,000 doesn’t include the $18,000 NFIB contributed in debt retirement or for 2006 runoff elections; all of that went to Republicans. (In the 2006 cycle, NFIB gave 11 percent to Democrats.)

Mike Donohue, NFIB’s spokesman, said the increased donations to Democrats reflect the work of Todd Stottlemyer, the group’s new president and CEO.

“Our president has been working hard to meet with Members of the new majority of both the House and Senate, and that is reflected in our donations in the House,” he said. Donohue said NFIB has given more than 30 percent of all its House contributions to House Democrats — and nearly all of those donations were in June. So far, it has given just one Senate Democrat any money: a $1,000 check to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

Democratic aides on Capitol Hill said NFIB did little to woo members of their party this year when NFIB joined other business groups in running ads targeting Democratic Members as part of the business groups’ opposition to a union-backed bill that would make it easier for workers to unionize.

“We don’t view that as a partisan issue,” Donohue said. “It’s something our members feel very strongly about. We’ve actually been somewhat surprised by the vehemence of our members to the issue. As with all issues, we follow our members.”

Boogie On. On Wednesday night, the Recording Industry Association of America will follow the age-old tradition of offering prizes, food and entertainment to encourage people to get behind its cause.

In this case, the monolithic trade group representing the U.S. recording industry will continue its crusade against music piracy and industry short-changing with an evening of Chicago blues and Chicago-style pizza.

The event, part of a series called “Learn & Listen,” will feature a performance by Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials for an audience that will include Members of Congress and their aides.

Bruge Iglauer, the president of the independent label Alligator Records, which represents Lil’ Ed, also will be there to speak about legislation he hopes Congress will consider, one which would mandate that terrestrial radio stations give performance royalties to featured artists.

“Every country in the industrialized world has a performance royalty [from terrestrial radio stations] except ours,” Iglauer said. “The event is basically so that people in decision-making capacities will recognize the value of this royalty and why this legislation needs to be passed.”

On the Hill, lobby efforts already are under way. Tod Donhauser, a spokesperson for the musicFIRST Coalition, which RIAA is a part of along with 133 other musicians and industry trade groups, said that performers like Mary Wilson from The Supremes, Martha Reeves from Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and 18th Street Lounge DJ Rob Garvas have been “received quite favorably … in meetings with Members.”

In the meantime, said Iglauer, come out and enjoy some good music. “If you don’t crack a smile while you’re watching Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, you must be dead.”

K Street Moves. The Ferguson Group is adding Mark Limbaugh, formerly the assistant secretary for water and science at the Interior Department, to its roster effective today. Limbaugh will serve as a principal and will focus on natural resource and water issues.

• Jonathan Grella, formerly with the public relations firm Edelman, has become senior vice president for communications and strategy for the group Securing America’s Future Energy. Emma Dumain contributed to this report.

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