Saturday, February 23, 2008

Obama's Lobbyist Money

"Follow the money," Hal Holbrook said in the film, All the President's Men. That line was fictitious, of course; the real 'Deepthroat' never actually said it to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Nevertheless, this phrase has become ingrained in the American political psyche. And so we must force ourselves, regarding Barack Obama, to follow the money.

Many of his followers deny this, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. It's no secret that Barack Obama is one of the top recipients of corporate campaign contributions in this election -- in fact, he's number two in the U.S. Senate behind Hillary Clinton for payoff money from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries (which explains his successful gutting of health care reform while "serving" in the Illinois state senate).

But the blatant dishonesty and hypocrisy go a bit deeper than that. According to Corporate Crime Reporter, the senator has pulled a fast one.

Well, let’s take the law firm of Sidley & Austin. Sidley & Austin is a registered federal lobbyist. It cannot by law give money to federal candidates. But the lawyers who control the firm and profit from the firm’s lobbying activities can give to Obama. Some of those individual lawyers are registered lobbyists. Some are not. Guess who gives to Obama? Right. The ones who are not registered lobbyists. But they still control and profit from the lobbying activities of the firm. So, technically, Obama is not taking money from federal lobbyists. But only in the narrowest sense.

Sidley Austin, Skadden, Arps, Jenner & Block, Kirkland & Ellis, and Wilmerhale are all registered lobbyists. Lawyers at these registered lobbying firms have given Obama’s campaign $813,459 through February 1, 2008.

"Is it possible that Senator Obama does not know that corporate law firms are also frequently registered lobbyists?" asks Pam Martens, writing in the current print edition of Counterpunch. ("The Obama Money Cartel," by Pam Martens, Counterpunch). "Or is he making a distinction that because these funds are coming from the employees of these firms he's not really taking money directly from registered lobbyists? That thesis seems disingenuous when many of these individual donors own these law firms as equity partners or shareholders and share in the profits generated from lobbying."

I seriously doubt Obama is unaware that he's taking money from lobbying firms. A politician smart enough and slick enough to beat Hillary and Bill Clinton at their own game is smart enough to know where his campaign contributions are coming from. Let's take a look at how the bribe money (oops, I forget we're not supposed to actually call it that, even though that's exactly what it is) is broken down. From the link to

Top Contributors
Goldman Sachs $421,763
Ubs Ag $296,670
Lehman Brothers $250,630
National Amusements Inc $245,843
JP Morgan Chase & Co $243,848
Sidley Austin LLP $226,491
Citigroup Inc $221,578
Exelon Corp $221,517
Skadden, Arps Et Al $196,420
Jones Day $181,996
Harvard University $172,324
Citadel Investment Group $171,798
Time Warner $155,383
Morgan Stanley $155,196
Google Inc $152,802
University of California $143,029
Jenner & Block $136,565
Kirkland & Ellis $134,738
Wilmerhale Llp $119,245
Credit Suisse Group $118,250

What Obama has done is pull a sleight-of-hand trick. By avoiding direct contributions, he manages to appear as though he is keeping his promise not to accept money from federal lobbyists. But in actuality, he is still taking it from the lobbying firms. He gets away with it by claiming that he is taking individual contributions from those not registered as lobbyists. Technically true, but it's a cheat: the money is instead going through middle men, employees of lobbying firms who can operate under the proverbial radar.

My friends, we have been well and truly snookered. The corporate media has successfully shut out the real Democrats running for president, so we are now stuck with two corporate-owned candidates who will not do anything to significantly change the status quo. It is well known that Hillary Clinton is beholden to corporate interests. And her efforts to omit her ties from her "thirty-five years of experience" spiel have largely failed. Every time I do digging on Obama, who preaches about making a change from the usual business of Washington corruption, I find more and more evidence that he is just another fraud, lying to people so he can obtain political power. He's playing us all like a harp from hell.

It is now more imperative than ever that Progressives take the opportunity 2008 presents to expand our presence in Congress, and weaken the hold Big Business has on our legislature. It's not enough to just elect Democrats; we have to get the right ones elected. Otherwise the lessons from 2006 shall all have been for nothing.


LeftOfDayton at has posted his own take on this, helping to reveal that yes, Obama is just another DLC darling.

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