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At a news conference at a Staples store in Columbia, S.C., Mitt Romney got into an argument with an Associated Press reporter over his ties to lobbyists.
"I don't have lobbyists running my campaign," said Romney.
AP reporter Glen Johnson challenged the statement and noted that one of Romney's top advisers is Ron Kaufman, a prominent Washington lobbyist.
But Romney insisted that neither Kaufman nor any other lobbyists were "running" his campaign because they were not paid for their work.
"Ron is a wonderful friend and adviser. He's not paid. He's an adviser, like many others. But I do not have lobbyists running my campaign," Romney said. He added that Kaufman did not attend the campaign's regular strategy sessions.
Johnson kept challenging Romney, noting that Kaufman had traveled on the campaign plane and then he got Romney to acknowledge that Kaufman had provided advice during strategy sessions for debates.
To examine the truth of Romney's statement, let's first address his point that you must be a paid staffer to be "running" the campaign.
Because of the dynamic nature of a political race and the uneven flow of money, campaigns routinely rely on volunteers to play key roles. So it's common for unpaid professionals to be involved in tasks such as helping with strategy, organizing volunteers and acting as a spokesman. Indeed, lobbyists Barbara Comstock and Al Cardenas have acted as media spokesmen for Romney, carrying out the same task as campaign aides who happened to receive paychecks.
So we don't accept the idea that you must be on the payroll to be involved in "running" the campaign.
And there's no question that some key people in the Romney campaign are well-connected lobbyists:
• Kaufman, a senior adviser to Romney, is chairman of Dutko Worldwide, which has lobbied for American Pacific Corp., American Trans Air, Amgen, AT&T; – and that's just some of the As.
• Ben Ginsberg, the campaign's national counsel, is a partner in the firm Patton Boggs, a large lobbying firm that has represented Kaiser Aluminum, Lucent Technologies, the Venetian Casino Resort and many others. His bio on the firm's Web site boasts that "Mr. Ginsberg represents a variety of clients on Capitol Hill on a wide range of issues including appropriations, trade, broadcasting and health care."
• Cardenas is chairman of the Romney Hispanic Steering Committee, a finance co-chairman for the campaign and a frequent spokesman for Romney. He is a partner in Tew Cardenas, a lobbying firm with offices in Washington, Miami and Tallahassee. Records show he has lobbied for Progress Energy, Bell South, the Florida Association of Realtors and the Recreational Fishing Alliance, among others. His Web site boasts that "He has been named as one of Washington, D.C.'s top lobbyists by The Hill newspaper."
• Comstock, an adviser and frequent spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, is a founding partner of Comstock Corallo, which has lobbied for the Hearst Corp. and the National Association of Broadcasters.
• Vin Weber, the Romney campaign's policy chairman, is considered one of Washington's premier lobbyists. He is chief executive of Clark & Weinstock, which has represented Microsoft, Pfizer, Texas Instruments, General Electric and many others.
During the standoff in the Staples, Romney said, "I don't have lobbyists at my elbows that are arguing for one industry or another industry."
They may not be at his elbows, but his campaign sure looks ankle-deep in them. And so we find his claim to be False.
Democracy in Action/George Washington University, Romney campaign key people
Dutko Worldwide, Ron Kaufman bio
Patton Boggs, Ben Ginsberg bio
Tew Cardenas, Al Cardenas bio
Center for Responsive Politics, Lobbying Spending Database
U.S. Senate, Lobbying Database
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