President Barack Obama is using supporters tied to the lobbying industry to raise money, even though he has pledged as both a candidate and as president to steer clear of what he has called the corrupting influence of lobbyists, according to a report in The New York Times
The president has relied on at least 15 “bundlers” who contribute their own money and raise money from others to help raise more than $5 million for his re-election bid, the Times reported today. All are involved in lobbying for private companies or Washington-based law and consulting firms.
Although the bundlers are not registered as individual lobbyists with the Senate at the present time, they still fit “the technical definition of a lobbyist” because of their easy access to lawmakers and policymakers in Washington, according to the Times. Several of them also have been to the White House on official business concerning policy issues, while at the same time hosting fundraisers for the president, the newspaper noted.
Obama took steps early in his administration to curb the influence of lobbyists by barring them from positions in his administration and from contributing to his campaign, the Times reported. But ethics watchdogs said the fundraising arrangement with the bundlers raises questions about his commitment to keep his administration and campaign lobbyist-free.
“It’s a legitimate concern,” Craig Holman, a registered lobbyist for Public Citizen, a nonpartisan ethics group in Washington, told the Times. “The campaign has to draw the line somewhere, but the reality is that the president is still relying on wealthy special interests and embracing those people in his campaign.”
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