WASHINGTON - September 6 - With more than a year left until the 2008 election, presidential candidates already have signed up two-thirds as many lobbyist-fundraisers as they did for the entire 2004 campaign season.
According to a study Public Citizen released today, candidates already have signed up 92 federal lobbyists, compared to the 136 lobbyists who raised money for 2004 candidates. And the candidates’ army of lobbyist-fundraisers will likely grow because 70 percent of the 2004 lobbyist-fundraisers are still on the sidelines.
In-house, or salaried, lobbyists particularly appear to be holding back until front-runners emerge. While dozens of in-house trade association and corporate lobbyists signed up as fundraisers – mostly for Bush – during the 2004 campaign, only four have signed up so far for the 2008 race, according to available information. Those who have signed up are mainly from lobbying firms.
To better track candidates’ fundraising efforts, Public Citizen has created a new feature on its Web site, www.WhiteHouseForSale.org, that indicates whether each of the 2008 mega-fundraisers, often referred to as bundlers, have registered as federal lobbyists at any time since 1998.
The subject of accepting lobbyists’ fundraising help has driven a wedge between those Democratic front-runners who accept their help and those who don’t. A recent Gallup poll found that fully three-quarters of adults of voting age consider contributions from lobbyists to be “unacceptable.”
“It is stunning with so many serial fundraisers holding back that the number of 2008 lobbyists is already approaching 2004 levels,” said Laura MacCleery, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “It’s just another sign that the unhealthy, symbiotic relationship that binds politicians and lobbyists continues in force.”
Republican John McCain and Democrat Hillary Clinton each have enlisted more than twice as many lobbyist-fundraisers as any candidate in their respective parties, according to information available. Clinton’s showing was not a surprise given that her two top competitors, Barack Obama and John Edwards, have policies of not accepting federal lobbyists’ help, although a handful of their bundlers registered as lobbyists in years past.
Getting details about efforts made by the lobbyist-fundraisers for Republican candidates is more difficult than obtaining the same data from Democratic candidates. Unlike Clinton and Obama, who provide some information about how much their fundraisers have raked in, Republican front-runners have thus far offered next to no such information.
Public Citizen’s study found that 10 of the bundler-lobbyists are former members of Congress, including Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, a McCain supporter; Rep. Bob Livingston of Louisiana, a Fred Thompson supporter; and Rep. and Gov. James J. Blanchard (D-Mich.), a Clinton supporter.