"He's leading by example, refusing contributions from PACs and Washington lobbyists."
Barack Obama on Tuesday, August 21st, 2007 in a TV ad.
If it quacks like a lobbyist, it's a lobbyist
"I know that I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington," he says in the television spot. "But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change."
The announcer says, "He's leading by example, refusing contributions from PACs and Washington lobbyists who have too much power today."
But his anti-lobbyist policy includes one caveat and a few loopholes that weaken his claim to be funding his political campaign in a way that's truly different from his competitors.
He almost always qualifies his statement to note that he won't take money from federal lobbyists, a distinction that allows him to accept money from well-connected state lobbyists.
For example, South Florida lobbyist Russ Klenet and his wife will host a fundraising event in Broward County for Obama on August 25. Klenet represents state groups such as the Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers, but also companies such as Match.com and Election Systems & Software.
And Obama still accepts tens of thousands of dollars from people who work for Washington firms that do substantial lobbying. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is an Obama contributor who isn't a registered lobbyist, but works as a consultant for Alston & Bird, a lobbying firm in Washington.
The Center for Responsive Politics found that Obama accepted $55,019 from employees at lobbying firms, and much more from companies that are not classified as lobbying firms but have lobbying divisions.
So we give Obama's statement a Half-True on the Truth-O-Meter. While Obama can accurately say that he does not accept money from federally registered lobbyists, he still accepts thousands from people in the influence industry.
Published: Tuesday, August 21st, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
Sources:Interviews: Anthony Corrado, Colby College, Massie Ritsch, Center for Responsive Politics, Thomas Mann (via e-mail), Brookings Institution, Craig Holman, Public Citizen
Chicago Sun-Times Editorial, March 5, 2003
Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2007
Los Angeles Times, August 4, 2007
The Hill, Obama's K Street Project, March 28, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times Editorial, January 12, 2004
Washington Post Editorial, January 20, 2007
Washington Post, April 15, 2007
New York Times, July 30, 2007
St. Petersburg Times, Obama follow fine line, August 16, 2007
Associated Press, August 17, 2007 Obama says he swims in 'muddy waters' polluting Washington, pledges cleanup
Obama campaign Web site, Obama Says that as President, He'll Continue Life-Long Commitment to Ethics Reform
Campaign Finance Institute, Big, $1,000+ Donations Supply 79% of Presidential Candidates' Early Money
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