Lobbyists, Law Firms and the
Obama Money Cartel
Corporate Crime Reporter 21feb2008
[More on Obama]
This year, Barak Obama has repeated over and over again – I don't take federal lobbyists' money.
Is that a true statement?
Well, let’s take the law firm of Sidley & Austin.
Sidley & Austin is a registered federal lobbyist.
It cannot by law give money to federal candidates.
But the lawyers who control the firm and profit from the firm’s lobbying activities can give to Obama.
Some of those individual lawyers are registered lobbyists.
Some are not.
Guess who gives to Obama?
The ones who are not registered lobbyists.
But they still control and profit from the lobbying activities of the firm.
So, technically, Obama is not taking money from federal lobbyists.
But only in the narrowest sense.
Sidley Austin, Skadden, Arps, Jenner & Block, Kirkland & Ellis, and Wilmerhale are all registered lobbyists.
Lawyers at these registered lobbying firms have given Obama’s campaign $813,459 through February 1, 2008.
“Is it possible that Senator Obama does not know that corporate law firms are also frequently registered lobbyists?” asks Pam Martens, writing in the current print edition of Counterpunch. (“The Obama Money Cartel,” by Pam Martens, Counterpunch). “Or is he making a distinction that because these funds are coming from the employees of these firms he's not really taking money directly from registered lobbyists? That thesis seems disingenuous when many of these individual donors own these law firms as equity partners or shareholders and share in the profits generated from lobbying.”
In the article, Martens, who worked on Wall Street for 21 years, also lays into Obama for taking big bucks from executives at big Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs, UBS, and Lehman Brothers.
Martens said that Obama voted in February 2005 to approve federal legislation – the so-called Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 – that would restrict class actions.
This even after the Attorney General of Illinois, Lisa Madigan – and other state Attorneys General – urged him not to vote for the legislation – because it might limit their ability to bring class actions in state courts.
“Senator Obama graduated Harvard Law magna cum laude and was the first black President of the Harvard Law Review,” Martens said. “Given those credentials, one assumes that he understood the ramifications to the poor and middle class in this country by gutting one of the few weapons left to seek justice against giant corporations and their legions of giant law firms. The class action vehicle confers upon each citizen one of the most powerful rights in our society – the ability to function as a private attorney general and seek redress for wrongs inflicted on ourselves as well as for those similarly injured that might not otherwise have a voice.”
“So how should we react when we learn that the top contributors to the Obama campaign are the very Wall Street firms whose shady mortgage lenders buried the elderly and the poor and minority under predatory loans?” Martens asks. “How should we react when we learn that these very same firms, arm in arm with their corporate lawyers and registered lobbyists, have weakened our ability to fight back with the class action vehicle?”
BARACK OBAMA (D) Top Contributors
Goldman Sachs $421,763 Ubs Ag $296,670 Lehman Brothers $250,630 National Amusements Inc $245,843 JP Morgan Chase & Co $243,848 Sidley Austin LLP $226,491 Citigroup Inc $221,578 Exelon Corp $221,517 Skadden, Arps Et Al $196,420 Jones Day $181,996 Harvard University $172,324 Citadel Investment Group $171,798 Time Warner $155,383 Morgan Stanley $155,196 Google Inc $152,802 University of California $143,029 Jenner & Block $136,565 Kirkland & Ellis $134,738 Wilmerhale Llp $119,245 Credit Suisse Group $118,250
HOW TO READ THIS CHART: This chart lists the top donors to this candidate in the 2008 election cycle. The organizations themselves did not donate , rather the money came from the organization's PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.
Because of contribution limits, organizations that bundle together many individual contributions are often among the top donors to presidential candidates. These contributions can come from the organization's members or employees (and their families). The organization may support one candidate, or hedge its bets by supporting multiple candidates. Groups with national networks of donors - like EMILY's List and Club for Growth - make for particularly big bundlers.