John McCain, who made his name attacking special interests, has more lobbyists working on his staff or as advisers than any of his competitors, Republican or Democrat.
A Huffington Post examination of the campaigns of the top three presidential candidates in each party shows that lobbyists are playing key roles in both Democratic and Republican bids --although they are far more prevalent on the GOP side. But, all the campaigns pale in comparison to McCain's, whose rhetoric stands in sharp contrast to his conduct.
"Too often the special interest lobbyists with the fattest wallets and best access carry the day when issues of public policy are being decided," McCain asserts on his web site, declaring that he "has fought the 'revolving door' by which lawmakers and other influential officials leave their posts and become lobbyists for the special interests they have aided."
In actual practice, at least two of McCain's top advisers fit precisely the class of former elected officials he criticizes so sharply. On March 7, 2007, McCain named ex-Texas Representative Tom Loeffler, who has one of the most lucrative and influential practices in the nation's capital, as his campaign co-chair. In the same month, McCain named former Washington Sen. Slade Gorton, now a heavyweight lobbyist, as his honorary chairman for Washington state.
Loeffler's client list includes PhRMA, the drug industry association; Southwest Airlines; Toyota; and Martin Marietta. Gorton represents, among others, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., Weyerhaeuser and Fidelity National Financial.
In addition, David Crane, now the campaign's senior policy advisor, was a senior executive at The Washington Group, a firm with 2006 billings of $10.4 million and 52 clients, including Delta Airlines, the Association of American Railroads, and the governments of Panama and Bangladesh. And Charlie Black, who is now a campaign spokesman appearing on McCain's behalf on radio, television, and as a "spin-doctor" after debates, is chairman of BKSH & Associates, with lobbying billings of $7.6 million in 2006, representing J.P. Morgan, Occidental and General Motors.
All told, there are 11 current or former lobbyists working for or advising McCain, at least double the number in any other campaign. Among the current and former lobbyists working for McCain are: Campaign CEO Rick Davis, a partner at Davis Manafort, where his clients have included SBC Communications and Verizon; and former Davis Manafort associate, National eCampaign Director Christian Ferry. At the end of 2006, Mike Dennehy, who founded The Dennehy Group, a New Hampshire lobbying firm, was appointed McCain's national political director. He gave up that post in May to become a senior campaign advisor
McCain's deputy communications director Danny Diaz did not reply to questions about the campaign's policies governing the activities of lobbyists.
McCain is not the only Republican to depend substantially on the help of lobbyists. In January, 2007, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney picked Vin Weber, a member of Congress from Minnesota until 1992, to be his policy chairman. "As I continue building a national organization, he [Weber] will be an important voice in advancing my agenda to move the country forward," Romney said.
Considered one of Washington's "super lobbyists," Weber counts among his clients such drug industry powerhouses as PhRMA and Pfizer; accounting firms Ernst & Young, KPMG and Deloitte Touche, along with such companies as Microsoft and Ebay.
Senior Romney adviser Ron Kaufman is a managing partner at the lobbying firm Dutko Worldwide. Romney also hired lobbyist Tony Feather, whose close ties to the Bush administration have given his clients exceptional access to power, as a top political consultant.
Rudy Giuliani is less reliant on big league lobbyists. The chair of his Justice Advisory Committee, Theodore Olson, was a registered lobbyist last year for Hoffmann-LaRouche. Senior communications advisor Michael McKeon is a partner at Mercury Public Affairs a federal and state lobbying firm which "specializes in high-value public affairs at the intersection of business, government, politics, and media." But Giuliani himself is a partner in the firm Bracewell & Giuliani, and in the most recent filing period, the second half of 2006, the firm represented 90 clients before the federal government. Bracewell & Giuliani, which is headquartered in Texas, specializes in advancing the interests of energy companies, along with such businesses as CSX Transportation and the Power Tool Institute. Bracewell & Giuliani's managing partner, Patrick Oxford, is the chairman of the Giuliani campaign. Although the firm and many of its lawyers are registered lobbyists, neither Giuliani nor
Oxford are personally registered.
On the other side of the aisle, Democratic campaigns have fewer ties with lobbyists.
Of the leading Democratic candidates, Barack Obama is the least entangled with K Street. His campaign has no lobbyists on the payroll or serving as key advisers.
Obama is followed by John Edwards. Nick Baldick, a senior Edwards adviser, is not a registered lobbyist, but he is the founder of Hilltop Public Solutions. Hilltop "manages its national network of state affiliates to build support for our clients' public policy goals," boasting of victories for "the nation's largest financial services firm, one of the nation's largest airlines, a major fast food retailer, the world's largest healthcare provider, and numerous additional industry leaders."
The Edwards campaign political director, David Medina, was a lobbyist for the AFL-CIO from 1998 to 2003.
While falling short of McCain's ties to lobbying networks, Hillary Clinton has made the most use, among Democrats, of the special interest community.
Chief Clinton consigliere Harold Ickes represents the International Dairy Food Association, Equitas, and TransCanada Pipelines. Finance Director Jonathan Mantz came to the campaign from the PodestaMatoon lobbying firm where his clients included Sigma Tau Pharmaceuticals, General Dynamics, and United Airlines.
Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn, is president and CEO of Burson-Marsteller, a public relations behemoth in the nation's capital. Although Penn is not a registered lobbyist, his company is part of the WWP Group conglomerate, a "family of companies" including such heavy hitting lobbying firms as BKSH (Alcoa, Kaiser Aluminum, AT&T) and Quinn & Gillespie (Bristol Myers Squibb, Qualcomm, and Microsoft).
The growing role of lobbyists reflects a major change in their status in campaigns. Once consigned to conducting their work in secret, lobbyists now thrive on publicity, routinely appearing on television as political commentators. Even running for office is no longer out of the question: a stint as a lobbyist did not prevent Jim Talent from winning a seat from Missouri in the U.S. Senate nor did one of the most powerful lobbying careers in history hamper Haley Barbour's successful 2003 bid to become governor of Mississippi.