Obama's Lobbyist Ties Come with Lots of Caveats

In a broad daylight, today's front page story in The New York Times makes it clear President Obama is sliding by on a technicality every time he says he doesn't take money from lobbyists.

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In a broad daylight, today's front page story in The New York Times makes it clear President Obama is sliding by on a technicality every time he says he doesn't take money from lobbyists. In truth, some 15 high-powered Obama bundlers connected to lobbying firm have raised more than $5 million for his campaign. The trick is, according to the Times, under Washington's "byzantine" transparency rules, none of these bundlers have had to officially register as lobbyists. Caught! Does Obama deserve the front page scrutiny? Absolutely: he's touted his immunity to lobbying ad nauseam since 2008—a talking point worthy of inspection. But the gotcha comes with lots of caveats.

Obama's "lobbyists" are really just part of the Democratic political machine Politico's Ben Smith takes a closer look at who the Times lists as lobbyists. "Of course figures like David Cohen, Ed Rendell's former chief of staff, now at Comcast, and Andy Spahn, a Hollywood Democratic fixer, are bundling for Obama," he writes. "It's what they do. And while influence is part of the picture, this shouldn't be mistaken for regular lobbying; it's simply a feature of the Democratic money establishment, one that supported Hillary Clinton in 2008 and has now for the most part united, without a second thought, around the Democratic president."

Obama deserves partial credit Obama's pledge to ban lobbyists from the White House, though not wholly honored, has come to considerable cost to his administration. White House reporter Keith Koffler puts a number figure on it. "I give Obama credit for at least partially keeping to his pledge, certainly at a cost of millions to his reelection effort," he writes, while noting the president deserved to be called out. "You really can’t be half pregnant on this ... If it’s so important not to take money from lobbyists, why look for loopholes in your own rules?"

At some point, you need to be Machiavellian The liberal Prairie Weather blog chalks the ties up to political necessity. "He relies on voters to understand that he's in those filthy stables now, not offering dreams of hope and change from a campaign podium but working for more time to get the task done.  Some supporters will get that; others won't. He's probably counting on our own grasp on reality -- and that this issue won't be at the top of the list of most voters' considerations when they're actually in the voting booth."

He's really just being Clintonian  While not letting Obama off the hook, conservative Ed Morrissey at Hot Air admires the work-around technicality the administration uses, which hearkens back to the Clinton-era. "When I say technical, I’m not kidding around. Lichtblau highlights a couple of Obama bundlers who didn’t just lobby in the past, but who currently run lobbying shops for big corporations. David L. Cohen runs the lobbying shop at Comcast, for instance, one of the betes noires of the Net Neutrality crowd, who bundles for Obama at the $500,000 level.  Sally Susman has the same job at Pfizer, which Obama should know — since she has personally lobbied at the White House.  Twice!  Four other bundlers have registered as lobbyists in the past, and more work for well-known lobbying firms like Greenberg Traurig."

Everybody's doing it We'd be remiss to not include the Obama campaign's official response, which lashes out against The Times for not being harder on Obama's GOP opponents. "The only policy that Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and the Republican candidates running for President have when it comes to DC lobbyists is that they want to raise as much money from them as they can."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.