On the Money Trail: Lobbyists Are People Too, Reid Says

Obama pledged to ban lobbyists, but Senator says they're part of Washington.

Jan. 20, 2009— -- In his historic speech Tuesday morning, President Barack Obama said the era of "protecting narrow interests" is over - an echo of his campaign promise that lobbyists and special interests would lose their clout in his White House. But lobbyists still have defenders in Washington D.C., including one of Obama's most powerful allies, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada).

Reid invited top lobbyists to join him and his supporters for an inaugural brunch Monday where he told ABC News that he will still do plenty of business with them.

"And there's nothing wrong with that," said Reid. "And Obama will be meeting with them too." When asked to clarify his remarks, given Obama's promises to change that part of Capitol culture, Reid responded that lobbyists are part and parcel of the job.

"People should understand that lobbyists, per se, are someone's father, mother, son, daughter," said Reid. "They work for a living." The Democratic leader's sons and a son-in-law have worked as lobbyists.

While Obama has banned lobbyists and their money from his White House, he may find that he can't ban them from Washington or even his inauguration. Indeed, given the number of events in the past few days, there's no sign the city's 15,000 lobbyists will give up their power easily.

Watch live coverage of the Inauguration all day Tuesday beginning with "Good Morning America" at 7 a.m. ET and go to the Inauguration Guide for all of ABC News' coverage details.

Lobbyists funded an array of events including a party to honor the state of Montana that took place in a nightclub decorated with artificial snow and snowboard machine rides. Why hold a party for Montana? The state is also home to Democratic Senator Max Baucus who is now the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which writes the country's tax laws.

"One little tweak in the code or additional comma or dropped word can have a huge impact on the tax liabilities of companies worth billions of dollars," said Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Lobbyists Funded Extravagant Inaugural Parties

Lobbyists along with their corporate and union clients put up the money for some of the most extravagant inaugural parties, including the former vice-President Al Gore's Green Ball, the California Society's luncheon fashion show, and the Congressional Black Caucus cocktail party.

And as the Presidential motorcade made its way down Pennsylvania Avenue Tuesday, top lobbyists, lawyers, and corporate executives in many of the offices above were watching as hors d'oevres were passed and champagne was flowing.

"The lobbyists know that they were here before President Obama got elected and they certainly plan on being here after he's out of office," said Ellis.

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