K Street Files: Bass-Fishing Lobbyist Caught Idea for Website

Posted July 20, 2010 at 6:06pm

A team of downtown veterans is launching a new political website today that will allow voters to study up on House and Senate candidates and make donations to their campaigns — or to their opponents’ coffers.

Started by one-time Freddie Mac lobbyist Rob Zimmer and Democratic hand Paul Equale, Votesane.com will go live today, providing voters with biographical data, news updates, voting records and other information about candidates. And like many partisan websites, users can earmark electronic contributions to candidates using the portal’s political action committee, similar to transactions made on ActBlue.com.

Fundraiser Julie Wadler also co-founded the company.

“Votesane PAC will help more Americans participate in our democratic process by creating a more efficient marketplace. Not only can users see — in an unbiased format — what their elected officials are saying and how they vote, they can also make a difference instantly by donating to an incumbent or a challenger,” Zimmer said in a statement. “We saw an opportunity to use technology to give more Americans a voice in government.”

In an interview, Zimmer said the idea for the project occurred to him while he was unsuccessfully fishing for bass last year.

While countless political websites allow potential contributors to give to candidates online, Zimmer said he could not find a nonpartisan portal that allowed users to compare policy issues and make a contribution all in one visit.

“With all of the innovation going on with campaigns … I thought, ‘Why isn’t there the permanent infrastructure in place?'” Zimmer said. “Why not have a permanent storefront? You can come in and browse, and it’s always going to be there. It’s going to be nonpartisan. We’re going to be as inclusive as possible.”

Zimmer and his partners have also brought on a team of consultants and lobbyists to advise the new operation: Democratic consultant Karen Finney and lobbyists Howard Glaser, John Feehery, Jeff MacKinnon and Jimmy Williams.

“They know the issues. The advisory board, for a lack of a better term, is a bunch of political junkies who agree that there should be a more efficient way for them to be involved in the Democratic process,” Zimmer said. “The biggest challenge in constructing the advisory board is that we need people from all walks of life, who might not otherwise be in the same room together, to agree on a common goal and mission and execute.”

The group will literally be in the same room together tonight for a Votesane.com launch party at the Liaison hotel on Capitol Hill.

This Bud’s for Democrats

New fundraising reports show that Anheuser-Busch continues to spend mightily on Democratic candidates, who have tapped the beermaker’s political action committee.

Anheuser-Busch’s apparent change of heart coincides with its acquisition by the Belgian-based InBev, which bought the brewery two years ago, and with Democrats winning control of the White House and Congress. Until the 2008 cycle, the maker of Budweiser gave the vast majority of its political contributions to Republicans going back 12 years, peaking at
68 percent in 1998, according to CQ MoneyLine.

So far this cycle, the company’s PAC has given $319,000 in political contributions to Democrats, or about 58 percent of its overall giving. Last cycle, the company gave $853,223 to Democrats, roughly
56 percent of the company’s PAC gifts, according to CQ MoneyLine.

“Anheuser-Busch has a long tradition of active and responsible corporate citizenship, including bipartisan support of the political process,” Vice President of Government Affairs Michael Roche said in a statement. “AB-PAC contributions this year reflect only a portion of the overall amount we intend to contribute to candidates this election cycle, and it would be misleading to draw any conclusions from the candidates supported to date.”

Ogilvy Expands

Ogilvy Government Relations is growing its financial services and energy practice by bringing on De’Ana Dow. Dow joins the firm from CME Group. She formerly headed the New York Mercantile Exchange’s government relations operation.

A Democrat, Dow is close to the Congressional Black Caucus and has also worked for Republican Commissioners at the Commodities Future Trading Commission, according to Ogilvy Government Relations’ Drew Maloney. She joins Justin Daly, former Securities and Exchange Commission counsel, in the firm’s expanding practice.

“We believe as much as you can see in the bill that it’s really only just begun and that the implementation of the legislation will largely be shaped through comments and letters from the Hill as we progress,” Maloney said of the financial services regulatory reform bill.

Anna Palmer contributed to this report.

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