Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Obama Campaign Enlists Lobbyists (*Shell connections)

March 1, 2008; Page A4

Sen. Barack Obama’s refusal to accept donations from federal lobbyists is a centerpiece of his White House bid, but lobbyists still advise the Democratic front-runner and volunteer on his campaign, underlining the enduring connection between special interests and politicians.

The Illinois senator’s record Internet fund-raising from small donors has made him less reliant on contributions from corporate executives and has given him room to craft a strong campaign message against money in politics. “It is important for us to crack down on how these special interests are able to influence Congress,” Sen. Obama said in a debate on Tuesday, explaining his rationale for refusing money from federal lobbyists and political action committees.

Stumping in Ohio last weekend, he also criticized presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain for putting lobbyists “in charge of his campaign,” the Associated Press reported. McCain campaign manager Rick Davis and top adviser Charlie Black are registered lobbyists.

That doesn’t mean Sen. Obama has shunned lobbyists altogether. Business lobbyists often are the most knowledgeable people on policy issues, and since many got their start on Capitol Hill or at federal regulatory agencies, they often have strong grasps of both politics and policy — expertise that presidential campaigns, including Sen. Obama’s, need.

Daniel Shapiro, who advises Sen. Obama on foreign policy issues, is registered to lobby on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute and other corporate clients. Broderick Johnson, a friend and informal political adviser, heads up the lobbying arm in Washington of the Bryan Cave LLP law firm, where he represents Verizon and Shell Oil, among other clients.

Mr. Johnson sees no conflict in Sen. Obama seeking lobbyists’ advice while declining their donations. “Sen. Obama’s overriding objective is to break the link between lobbyists, their money and their petitioning of the government,” Mr. Johnson said. “It doesn’t matter to him if you’re contributing through your personal efforts.”

Mr. Shapiro didn’t return phone calls seeking comment. A campaign spokesman confirmed that he remains an unpaid adviser on Middle East issues.

Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York says her rival for the Democratic nomination is being naive about any president’s ability to rein in corporate interests in Washington. On the stump, she often cites her failed 1993 attempt to reform the health care system, which stumbled in part because of opposition from insurance companies. “You are not going to wave a magic wand and have the special interests disappear,” Sen. Clinton said while campaigning last month in Rhode Island, which holds its primary on Tuesday.

Sen. Obama has pledged that if he wins the White House, he won’t allow executive branch officials who quit government to later take jobs lobbying his administration. “This notion that you can go into government and then, when you leave, get a big salary bump” because of insider contacts “creates some troubling incentives that the campaign is trying to interrupt,” said Jason Grumet, an outside adviser to Sen. Obama on energy and environmental issues.

There is no full list of lobbyists advising Sen. Obama, and a campaign spokesman declined to release the campaign’s list of outside advisers. Some advisers have asked to remain anonymous, citing professional or personal reasons, said Tommy Vietor, an Obama spokesman, who acknowledged that federally registered lobbyists may be among them.

While banning lobbyist donations “isn’t a perfect solution or symbol,” Mr. Vietor said, “it does reflect Obama’s record of trying to change the way that Washington does business.”

Many of the outside advisers have become known through the campaign’s news releases or their participation in public campaign events. They include Judith Gold, a Chicago lawyer who advises the campaign on women’s issues, and is registered to lobby at the state level in Illinois for a number of corporations, including a casino operator. Ms. Gold, who donated $1,250 to the Obama presidential campaign, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.

Lobbyists for the media industry were among more than 150 people who signed up last year to advise Obama on technology and telecommunications issues, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported in October. The group included lobbyists for the National Association of Broadcasters, Sony and Time Warner. Mr. Vietor, the campaign spokesman, didn’t respond to an email request for comment on the report.

•  His Position: Sen. Obama has refused to accept donations from federal lobbyists.

•  Outside Advisers: Lobbyists give him their advice and volunteer on the Obama campaign.

•  Enduring Connection: Business lobbyists often are knowledgeable about complex policy issues and can provide needed expertise to candidates.

Write to Mary Jacoby at [email protected]

This website and sisters,,,, and, are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia segment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comment Rules

  • Please show respect to the opinions of others no matter how seemingly far-fetched.
  • Abusive, foul language, and/or divisive comments may be deleted without notice.
  • Each blog member is allowed limited comments, as displayed above the comment box.
  • Comments must be limited to the number of words displayed above the comment box.
  • Please limit one comment after any comment posted per post.