Dem. senators spent weekend with bank, energy, tobacco lobbyists

Monday, February 1, 2010 - 4:31pm

Twelve Democratic Senators spent last weekend in Miami Beach raising money from top lobbyists for oil, drug, and other corporate interests that they often decry, according to a guest list for the event obtained by POLITICO(http://www.politico.com/static/PPM143_100201_dscc_miami.html).

The guest list for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's "winter retreat" at the Ritz Carlton South Beach Resort doesn't include the price tag for attendance, but the maximum contribution to the committee, typical for such events, is $30,000. There, to participate in "informal conversations" and other meetings Saturday, were senators including DSCC Chairman Robert Menendez; Michigan's Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow; Bob Casey of Pennsylvania; Claire McCaskill of Missouri; freshmen Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Begich of Alaska; and even left-leaning Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Across the table was a who's who of 108 senior Washington lobbyists, including the top lobbying officials for many of the industries Democrats regularly attack: Represented were the American Bankers Association, the tobaco company Altria, the oil company Marathon, several drug manufacturers, the defense contractor Lockheed, and most of the large independent lobbying firms: Ogilvy, BGR, Quinn Gillespie, Heather Podesta, and Tony Podesta.

The retreat's guest list is a marked contrast to Menendez's recent rhetoric, which has echoed the White House denunciation of "special interests" and "fat cats."

“In the upcoming elections, voters will face a choice between Republicans who are standing with Wall Street fat cats, bankers and insurance companies — or Democrats who are working hard to clean up the mess we inherited by putting the people’s interests ahead of the special interests," Menendez said in a press release last Wednesday.

The contrast between Menendez's words and how he spent his weekend is a mark of how, even in the age of Obama, who has barred contributions from lobbyists, Democrats — and particularly Congressional Democrats — are riding a new wave of corporate support, the natural fruit of their majority status.

The weekend's mellow schedule political included a Friday night dinner followed by a Saturday morning Political Breakfast Briefing, two Saturday evening "informal conversations with Senators, followed by a reception and dinner at DiLido Beach Club.

The Miami beach fundraiser guest list, to which a DSCC spokesman didn't immediately have a reaction, was a standard, corporate-heavy event that both parties have long used for high-dollar fundraising. Other guests included lobbyists for two Indian tribes, for McDonalds, for beer and wine sellers, Ford, and a small handful of advocacy groups, including the gay group Human Rights Campaign.

CORRECTION: The Edison Electric Institute supports climate change regulations; an earlier version of this item said, falsely, that the industry group opposes them.