“He exaggerates our power, but he increases demand for our services.”
That’s Democratic lobbyist and fundraiser Tony Podesta in a New York Times profile. At the risk of getting too talmudic or conspiracy-theorist, I think the statement is a lot richer than it seems at first glance.
Podesta says it in the context of Obama’s harsh words towards lobbyist, as if a company is thinking: If lobbyists are influencing Washington as much as the President says they are, then I need a lobbyist!
I’m sure this happens, but I’m not sure Obama minds the results so much. First, Obama doesn’t have to meet with — or allow his staff to meet with — any more lobbyists than he wants to. But what does it mean if more businesses are hiring Podesta, Steve Elmendorf, The Raben Group, Dick Gephardt, Linda Daschle, and the Glover Park Group? It means more businesses are lining up with Democrats. And those Democratic lobbyists are big Democratic fundraisers — we call them “bundlers” when they raise money for free.
Podesta is one of the top two lobbyist-bundlers in the country, according to FEC data compiled by the Center for Public Integrity. The other one in the top two is also a Democrat, Ben Barnes. I lay out more of the data here, but here’s one highlight:
Lobbyists and K Street PACs have bundled $2.48 million for the DCCC this cycle. Van Hollen’s Republican counterpart — the National Republican Campaign Committee, has pocketed only about $520,000 in lobbyist-bundled cash.
The data paint a clear picture: the more businesses come to K Street, the better off Democrats are. It’s not only fundraising, it’s also the influence the Dem lobbyists have on the businesses. If a business has a choice between (a) fighting against a regulation, or (b) working to tweak the rule and adapt to business practices accordingly, a Podesta, Elmendorf, or Daschle are much more likely to suggest (b).
In other words, K Street isn’t merely a tool for business to influence politicians — it’s also a tool for politicians to influence business, and raise money from business in the process. Remember Jack Abramoff.
Finally, Obama is good for K Street because he is dramatically increasing government control of the economy — which means everyone has to come to the table.