Monday, July 14, 2008

Ushering In That New Brand Of Politics

The smoke and mirrors of Obama's new brand of politics - one that he claims will see his party divest themselves of lobbyists and special interests (even as he himself is the most reliable vote Dem. special interests have had in the Senate) - is off to a very slow start, apparently. There was as much chance of this lasting beyond November as there was of Nancy Pelosi following through on her promise to clean up earmarks and pass an effective energy policy. But one would expect it to last at least until November. That is not the case. The NYT is reporting that Democrats have turned to lobbyists to make up the huge shortfalls in funding for the Democratic National Convention.

This from the NYT

In terms of lobbyists, few are more connected — both west of the Mississippi and in the corridors of power in Washington — than Steve Farber, a Denver lawyer whose political contacts have thrust him into a central fund-raising role for the Democratic National Convention.

Mr. Farber’s vast contact list could prove crucial in raising the millions of dollars needed by the Denver host committee to showcase Senator Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in August in Denver. But Mr. Farber’s activities are a public display of how corporate connections fuel politics — exactly the type of special influence that Mr. Obama had pledged to expunge from politics when he said he would not accept donations from lobbyists.

For two years now, Mr. Farber has parlayed his love for Denver and his ability to call on a network of lobbying clients to help him with the daunting task of raising the $40 million, or more, that Democrats need to run their convention. As the host committee’s chief fund-raiser, he is on the phone 10, 20 times a day, twisting arms and cajoling potential donors — a task made more difficult by the fact that Denver has few hometown companies with enough resources to help foot the bills.

Yet, as Mr. Farber hops on planes, hosts breakfasts and pulls out the stops, he at least can draw on the resources of his law firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, one of the fastest-growing lobbying shops in Washington and one of the most powerful firms in the West, thanks to some recent strategic mergers that have only fattened his roster of blue-chip corporate clients.

“Steve Farber is involved with a lot of high-level candidates and ones who have won,” said Floyd Ciruli, head of Ciruli Associates, a Denver political consulting firm. “He’s famous for hiring ex-politicians, their children and ex-judges. He’s very good at making connections with people who have access to politicians.”

Mr. Farber is a golfing buddy of former President Bill Clinton, and has raised money for the Clinton Presidential Library. In return, Mr. Clinton came to nearby Aurora, Colo., to speak to businessmen at the request of Mr. Farber. Members of Mr. Farber’s firm have donated around $1.1 million to candidates, parties and political action committees since 2005, with the majority going to Democrats. And Mr. Farber chaired former Gov. Roy Romer’s winning campaigns in Colorado.

But his efforts to raise money for the Denver convention have been marred by missed deadlines as Mr. Farber has struggled to get corporations and wealthy individuals to open their wallets in a shaky economy. And Mr. Obama last week added to the challenge, with his campaign saying the candidate would give his acceptance speech outside the convention hall, distancing himself from party insiders, donors and corporate leaders who typically dominate convention week.

. . . Mr. Farber is now going through his client list — and also approaching nonclients — in his search for cash. Conventions are one of the last remaining ways for corporations to put big money into politics, since they are banned from giving directly to candidates and parties.

Even more, corporations can give unlimited amounts of money to host committees, in contrast to individuals who are restricted in the size of their political donations. Corporations can also take a tax deduction on their donations to the host committee, but individuals are barred from deducting political contributions.

“Farber has a dual role,” said Steve Weissman, a policy analyst at the Campaign Finance Institute who has studied convention finances. “He is a businessman and a community activist, and yet he is connected to a law firm that is one of the biggest in Washington. When any of Steve Farber’s clients have a problem, federal elected officials will feel obligated to listen to him if he approaches them later on federal policy interests.”

. . . Most recently, Mr. Farber’s firm joined forces, through mergers, with the leading law firm in Las Vegas representing gambling companies and the leading firm in Los Angeles representing water interests.

“I have my list of companies, not only my client list, but companies throughout Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region,” Mr. Farber said in a telephone interview. “We’ve got offices in Las Vegas and California, so I have clients that we can contact, and I have friends of clients that I intend to contact. And if they have given to the convention already, I try to get them to double their contribution.”

. . . “What I am now selling is Senator Obama and the excitement he has created in his candidacy,” he added.

Read the entire article.

1 comment:

vinny said...

wonderful closing statement. "What I am selling now is Senator Obama." Politician for hire is the Obama campaign moto, and he has never waffled in this regard. How can anyone worth knowing make it through this kind of election process?