Despite a pledge not to take money from lobbyists, President Obama has relied on prominent supporters who are active in the lobbying industry to raise millions of dollars for his re-election bid.
At least 15 of Obama’s “bundlers” — supporters who contribute their own money to his campaign and solicit it from others — are involved in lobbying for Washington consulting shops or private companies. They have raised more than $5 million so far for the campaign.
Because the bundlers are not registered as lobbyists with the Senate, the Obama campaign has managed to avoid running afoul of its self-imposed ban on taking money from lobbyists.
On the scale of the most universally hated professions, lobbyists fall somewhere in the area of lawyers and used car dealers. But as the above New York Times piece illustrates, it’s incredibly difficult to raise campaign money – in fact, to do a lot of things in Washington – without getting near a lobbyist.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lobbying is a natural and healthy part of the democratic system. And lobbyists bring a lot to the table: they’re extremely knowledgeable about their issues, they have tons of contacts in their specific fields. And they’re definitely enthusiastic about raising money for politicians.
The problems come up when the money isn’t being given transparently. While Obama’s publicly telling supporters he doesn’t take contributions from lobbyists, he’s obviously taking it from people who do the exact same thing but just aren’t registered. Unlike the Republican candidates, Obama has released a list of his campaign bundlers, which is the only reason outlets like the Times are able to go back and debunk his claims. He should be commended for being open about his bundlers, but it would be nice to hear a little more honesty from him on the subject of lobbyist contributions.