Delegates Know: Lobbyists Here to Stay
Bashing lobbyists on the presidential campaign trail has been integral to both Sen. Barack Obamas (D-Ill.) and Sen. John McCains (R-Ariz.) political playbooks.
And while many lobbyists have questioned the genuineness of that message both candidates still rely on them for policy advice among delegates in Denver, at least, the anti-lobbyist rhetoric resonates.
There has been a culture of dishonesty, cronyism to a huge degree, poor judgment and the expectation of self interest instead of whats best for the people of the United States, said Katherine Satrom, a delegate from North Dakota.
Despite the heady rhetoric, however, many delegates on the campaign trail dont expect lobbyists to go by the wayside; more importantly is the belief that their proper role is as information gatherers, not influence peddlers.
For Matt Connealy, executive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party, the real issue is the money that lobbyists bring into the system. Connealy, who ran for Congress in 2004 in Nebraska but was defeated by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), said the mood today is much different than four years ago.
Obama will change the way we would work with Washington, Connealy said. The K Street types are good information gatherers but wont be the turnkey for influence.
Connealys not alone.
Frances Huntley-Cooper, a delegate and former mayor of Fitchburg, Wis., said that for her, Obamas policy against taking corporate political action committee money is emblematic of how he has run his campaign.
He didnt really focus on the PAC money, Huntley-Cooper said. He leads the money race not by getting the big bucks but by getting real folks money, getting $5 weekly people who have never contributed before, she said. He has pulled people in to feel a part of the process.
Some of the delegates, though, took a more nuanced view of the influence industry and sometimes for obvious reasons.
Washington state delegate Naki Stevens is a lobbyist in Olympia for the environmental group People for Puget Sound.
There are plenty of D.C. lobbyists working for good causes, she said. I hate to see everybody tarred with the same brush.
Theres a difference, she noted, between people who go into lobbying to make a fortune and those who are trying to make a difference.
But, she added, the well-heeled corporate interests still wield far too much power in the system. I do think lobbying in D.C. has gotten out of hand, Stevens said.
Another delegate, stay-at-home mom September McCrady of North Carolina, said that like political action committee, lobbying has become a dirty word on the campaign trail.
There are good ones and bad ones, the first-time delegate said of influence peddlers.
Lobbyists serve a necessary and useful purpose, she added, because in many cases they represent the interests of people who wouldnt otherwise have time to meet with Members of Congress and other officials.
Everybody cant live right in the capital, McCrady said.
But, she added, Obamas message of reforming corporate interests voice in politics is on point. The corporate involvement needs to be reformed, she said.