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Did the President Take Money from Lobbyists?

4:27 PM, Oct 28, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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There comes a point when a spokesman is spinning so hard one wonders if his wheels will come off. That happened today to White House press flack Jay Carney when he was questioned by Fox News reporter Ed Henry at the press briefing about President Obama’s connections to lobbyists.

“Despite a pledge not to take money from lobbyists, President Obama has relied on prominent supporters who are active in the lobbying industry to raise millions of dollars for his re-election bid,” the New York Times reported today. “At least 15 of Mr. Obama’s “bundlers” — supporters who contribute their own money to his campaign and solicit it from others — are involved in lobbying for Washington consulting shops or private companies. They have raised more than $5 million so far for the campaign.” 

Henry wanted to get Carney’s reaction to the Times story, especially considering the fact that “the Occupy Wall Street people are upset about is special interests having a lot of influence here in Washington and having their voices heard, and not individuals being heard.”

Carney responded: “I mean, first of all, you make it sound like they don't register as lobbyists and they're somehow violating the law. This president's record is unprecedented in terms of his rejection of money from PACs and lobbyists. I mean, what's interesting is that you're citing that story and not the story that demonstrated that lobbyists are lining up in record numbers to contribute to Republican campaigns, campaigns that openly and willingly accept money from lobbyists as well.”

The transcript continues:

HENRY:  We can get to those as well.  The president in 2008 made a pledge that he would not accept --

CARNEY:  Right, and he has -- he has kept that. 

HENRY: -- we can go through all the other candidates, but he made that pledge.

CARNEY:  And he has kept that pledge, and has been more transparent and held himself and his administration to higher standards than any administration in history.  And that's a record we're very proud of.

HENRY: Okay, so how, then, in the story -- a woman who runs Pfizer's lobbying shop -- you ask, well, they don't lobby -- she runs Pfizer's lobbying shop -- a drug company, billions of dollars of interests around the world, they lobby the White House, they lobby Congress.  She runs their lobbying shop, and yet she's raised $500,000 for the President's campaign.  Isn't that violating the spirit --

CARNEY:  The point is, this President has been the most transparent in terms of disclosure, the most ethical in terms of the money that he will accept and the money he won't accept.  There is no one who compares, thus far.  We hope that there will be.  And certainly none of the Republican candidates are even -- I mean, they don't even make an effort, right?  And the fact is this President's record is unparalleled in this regard.

HENRY: But he's also the President right now.  They're candidates -- we don't know who's going to get the nomination -- they should be held to a high standard as well.  But he's the President in office. 

CARNEY:  And he had the standard prior to when he ran for office, not just when he took office.

HENRY:  Okay.  And so the head of Comcast lobbying, David Cohen  -- runs Comcast's lobbying, raised a half a million dollars.  I understand he keeps saying disclosure and everything else, but how do you have somebody who is running a lobbying shop and they're raising a half a million dollars -- how does that square with the ban?

CARNEY:  Again, Ed, the President's standards are unequaled in this regard.  The practice has been unprecedented in this regard.  The transparency, the disclosure unequaled, again, by any other candidate.  We're very confident that his record on this is exemplary.

     Let me go -- yes, sir.

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