Clinton Does Labor-to-Lobbyist Loop

Aug 7, 2007 2:30pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, under fire from her rivals for accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists, will head directly from a labor forum in Chicago to a fundraiser at a lobbyist’s home Tuesday evening.

Clinton, D-N.Y., plans to attend a dessert reception in Wilmette, Ill. — minimum contribution: $1,000 per person — at the home of Kevin Conlon, the founder and president of Conlon Public Strategies. Conlon is registered with the federal government to lobby for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to receive federal subsidies.

The event will be held shortly after an AFL-CIO Democratic presidential forum at Soldier Field in Chicago, where Clinton and the rest of the Democratic presidential hopefuls will answer questions from the organized labor community.

Aside from Conlon, another member of the 30-person "Illinois Host Committee" listed on the invitation for the fundraiser is also a federally registered lobbyist: Stacey Zolt-Hara of Res Publica Group.

According to Senate lobbying records, Zolt-Hara and her firm are registered to lobby the federal government on behalf of a Forest City Commercial Group — a real-estate giant — and the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, which "seeks appropriations funding for new Center for Regenerative Medicine, a stem cell research project." Zolt-Hara is a former high-ranking aide to Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

Since the weekend, Clinton has been coming under fire from Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., for continuing to accept campaign contributions from federally registered lobbyists.

"Why don’t we start today reforming the Democrat Party by all of us admitting no more from this day forward, not a dime from the Washington lobbyists," Edwards said Saturday at the YearlyKos forum, an annual gathering for liberal bloggers. "We do not do business with these insiders."

But at the forum, which was also held in Chicago, Clinton defended her decision to accept lobbyists’ money and said she had no plans to change her practice.

"A lot of those lobbyists, whether you like it or not, represent real Americans," Clinton said to a smattering of cheers and boos. "The idea that somehow a contribution is going to influence you, I just ask you to look at my record."

Clinton has raised more than $413,000 directly from registered lobbyists and their immediate family members — by far the most of any presidential candidate, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. She also has 10 federal lobbyists serving as "Hillraisers" — supporters who are committed to raising at least $100,000 apiece for her campaign.

The center’s figures show Obama having raised $60,000 from lobbyists’ families, and Edwards bringing in about $10,000. Both campaigns say they return all contributions they learn come directly from federally registered lobbyists, though Obama has faced scrutiny for accepting contributions from lobbyists registered to lobby the state of Illinois.

The Edwards and Obama campaigns have said they plan to use the labor forum in Chicago to continue to argue that Democratic candidates should reject money from lobbyists.

"We can’t change Washington without breaking the influence of the special interests," said Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman.

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