The Blog

David Axelrod, Lobbyist

7:54 PM, May 25, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Obama's been hitting McCain over and over about his ties to lobbyists, so obviously we're all shocked to learn that Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, has some seedy lobbying of his own to account for:

When Illinois utility Commonwealth Edison wanted state lawmakers to back a hefty rate hike two years ago, it took a creative lobbying approach, concocting a new outfit that seemed devoted to the public interest: Consumers Organized for Reliable Electricity, or CORE. CORE ran TV ads warning of a "California-style energy crisis" if the rate increase wasn't approved-but without disclosing the commercials were funded by Commonwealth Edison. The ad campaign provoked a brief uproar when its ties to the utility, which is owned by Exelon Corp., became known. "It's corporate money trying to hoodwink the public," the state's Democratic Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said. What got scant notice then-but may soon get more scrutiny-is that CORE was the brainchild of ASK Public Strategies, a consulting firm whose senior partner is David Axelrod, now chief strategist for Barack Obama.

Trying to "hoodwink the public" on behalf of an energy company? It gets better:

ASK last year proposed a similar "political campaign style approach" to help Illinois hospitals block a state proposal that would have forced them to provide more medical care to the indigent. One part of its plan: create a "grassroots" group of medical experts "capable of contacting policymakers to advocate for our position," according to a copy of the proposal.

Creating front groups to "advocate" (another word for lobbying, I think) against providing health care to the poor, nothing unseemly about that. Axelrod's defense: "I'm not going to public officials with bundles of money on behalf of a corporate client." Yes, it's a whole new kind of politics.