Democrat Dirty Laundry: Frontline Dems Attempt to Stay Afloat With Help From Lobbyists Behind Closed Doors

June 14, 2010

Frontline Dems Attempt to Stay Afloat With Help From Lobbyists Behind Closed Doors
Most Vulnerable Dems Team Up With Lobbyists in Secrecy to Help Strategize Job-killing, Big-government Agenda

SPIN CYCLE: Speaker Pelosi Vowed that Democrats Would Lead the “Most Honest, Most Open, and Most Ethical Congress in History”

“Our goal is to restore accountability, honesty and openness at all levels of government. To do so, we will create and enforce rules that demand the highest ethics from every public servant, sever unethical ties between lawmakers and lobbyists, and establish clear standards that prevent the trading of official business for gifts,” (Nancy Pelosi’s “A New Direction for America,” Page 21).

RINSE CYCLE: Instead of Listening to Constituents, Vulnerable Frontline Dems Meet With Lobbyists Behind Closed Doors to Strategize Job-killing, Budget-busting, Special Interest Agenda

Lobbyists may be persona non grata on the campaign trail, but that hasn’t stopped the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from tapping K Street’s brain trust to try to retain the majority.

Facing a tough political cycle, the DCCC is redoubling its efforts to enlist K Streeters to help its most vulnerable “Frontline” program Members with fundraising, messaging and campaign strategy.

The ask was formalized Wednesday evening at a dinner at Acqua Al 2, an Italian restaurant on Capitol Hill, organized by Jennifer Crider, political director for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and deputy executive director at the DCCC.

The effort is being driven by Pelosi loyalists, such as Democratic bundlers Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group, Ben Barnes of the Barnes Group, Steve Elmendorf of Elmendorf Strategies and Brian Wolff, a former DCCC executive director who is now a lobbyist at the Edison Electric Institute. That’s a notable development considering Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is the Caucus’ point man when it comes to fundraising from the downtown business community.

Julie Domenick of Multiple Strategies, Sean Richardson of Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart, Jimmy Ryan of Elmendorf Strategies, David Castagnetti of Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, Dean Aguillen of Ogilvy Government Relations, Katreice Banks of AT&T, and Vincent Roberti and Megan Johnson of Navigators Global were also among the lobbyists with deep pockets and campaign experience asked to work directly with one of the 16 incumbents listed on a DCCC handout.

Over dinner, DCCC Political Director Jennifer Pihlaja and Regional Candidate Services Director Lauren Dikis helped divvy up which lobbyists would work directly with the most vulnerable Members.

Reps. Harry Teague and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Steve Driehaus and Mary Jo Kilroy of Ohio, Debbie Halvorson of Illinois, Kathy Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania and Betsy Markey of Colorado were among the lawmakers the DCCC picked.

Campaign committees often ask K Street to open its checkbooks to help with Members’ re-election campaigns. In 2008, Hoyer met with several of the same K Streeters at Johnny’s Half Shell to cajole them into contributing to open-seat candidates and challengers on the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” list.

But the decision to formally assign lobbyists to lawmakers is unusual, according to several Democratic lobbyists.

“It was not just a fundraising ask,” according to a lobbyist in attendance. “It was also to help out with campaigns.”

“They said, ‘These people could use extra help, not only in terms of resources, but also advice in terms of setting up ground messaging,”’ the lobbyist added.

“They basically asked us to adopt a Member,” according to another lobbyist at the dinner, who declined to speak on the record. (Anna Palmer, “DCCC Seeking Savvy K Street Reinforcements,” Roll Call, 6/14/2010)

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