Top fundraisers for the presidential campaigns of Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain lobby on behalf of foreign governments and sometimes helped their clients gain access to the senators, according to a Center for Investigative Reporting and ABCNews.com review of records.
Campaign finance experts and political scholars say the connection between foreign lobbying and presidential campaign fundraising deserves scrutiny because of concerns as to whether the lobbyist will have undue influence if his candidate reaches the Oval Office.
The review found that six Clinton "Hillraisers," designated donors who have raised at least $100,000 for the senator's presidential campaign, are registered with the Justice Department to lobby for foreign governments.
Two of Clinton's top moneymen, John Merrigan and Matthew "Mac" Bernstein, are part of a lobbying team hired by the rulers of Dubai to defend against a U.S.-based lawsuit alleging that the rulers had enslaved young boys to race camels. The lobbyists' firm, DLA Piper, arranged a meeting with Clinton and three other senators last year on behalf of Dubai, according to filings. Dubai paid the firm $3.7 million for a year's work.
Merrigan and Bernstein also signed, on behalf of the firm, a $100,000-per-month contract with the Turkish government last March to prevent "the introduction, debate and passage of legislation and other U.S. government action that harms Turkey's interests or image." The lobbying effort opposed a resolution, co-sponsored by Clinton, that would call the World War I era massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a genocide.
The firm scored dozens of meetings with members of Congress and their staffs over the course of six months, including an August conference with Clinton's Senate staff regarding "U.S.-Turkey relations," according to filings. Two months later, Clinton acknowledged to the Boston Globe editorial board that she had concerns about the resolution, saying "the adamant expression of real dismay and outrage by this Turkish government has to be factored into this."
Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer said, in a written response to the CIR and ABCNews.com findings, that Clinton "has been a longstanding supporter of the Armenian Genocide Resolution" and has "made clear that she supports adoption of this legislation." Singer also said the campaign was unable to confirm the DLA Piper meetings.
Merrigan and Bernstein have reportedly pledged to raise at least $250,000 for Clinton's presidential campaign. Merrigan, who is also registered to lobby for Ethiopia and the Mexican Senate, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars more for the Democratic party. DLA Piper employees represent the largest bloc of contributors to Clinton's presidential campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington non-profit group that tracks political money and influence.
Neither Merrigan nor Bernstein responded to repeated calls or e-mails requesting comment.