President Obama has long talked up his pledge not to accept campaign contributions from lobbyists as a sign that he's serious about ethics reform in Washington. But that hasn't stopped his 2012 campaign from recruiting individuals with strong ties to the lobbying industry to raise cash for his re-election effort.
The New York Times' Eric Lichtblau reports that the Obama campaign is working with at least 15 "bundlers" who are linked to the lobbying industry. This group of lobbying-affiliated fundraisers--who work either working for private consulting firms or corporations--have raised more than $5 million for the campaign.
Technically, the individuals aren't in violation of Obama's self-imposed lobbyist ban because they aren't officially registered as federal lobbyists with the Senate. But there are no illusions about what they actually do for a living.
Among the bundlers on the list, according to the Times: Sally Susman, who heads up lobbying for the drug manufacturer Pfizer, and David L. Cohen, who oversees lobbying for the telecommunications giant Comcast. Both have raised at least $500,000 apiece for Obama's re-election campaign.
Obama aides declined to comment on specific donors, but in a lengthy statement posted on the campaign's website, spokesman Ben LaBolt accused the Times of "missing the forest for the trees." The paper, he said, obscured Obama's "long history of advancing ethics and government reform and brushing right past his opponents' records with nothing but a shrug."
Yet LaBolt didn't respond directly to what could be the most damaging part of the piece: While Obama isn't technically taking cash from "federal lobbyists," his campaign has deeper ties to the lobbying industry than Obama and his aides have advertised.
Instead, LaBolt tried to use the story as an attack on Obama's GOP rivals, including Mitt Romney, who freely and openly raise cash from special interests in Washington.
"Rather than include that context, the Times let the perfect be the enemy of the good, punishing efforts to promote reform," LaBolt complained.
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