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Business Insider: Andrew Ross Sorkin Rips Into Tim Pawlenty For Taking New Wall Street Lobbying Gig

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

To boil it down to one sentence, Sorkin says that this appointment “is the clearest sign yet of the flexible ethic that makes the revolving door in Washington spin faster.”

Business Insider

In Dealbook this morning, Andrew Ross Sorkin assessed former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s new job as president of the Financial Services Roundtable, Wall Street’s K-Street lobby group.

Actually, “assessed” doesn’t really capture what Sorkin does in the piece. He goes over a laundry list of examples of when Pawlenty was passionately and unabashedly at odds with Wall Street. The issues range from last summer’s debate over raising the debt ceiling to the bank bailouts.

To boil it down to one sentence, Sorkin says that this appointment “is the clearest sign yet of the flexible ethic that makes the revolving door in Washington spin faster.”

But not so fast. Pawlenty has always championed one of Wall Street’s favorite causes — limiting financial regulation. That translated into significant donations to his presidential bid from individuals at Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo, according to Open Secrets.

And when Sorkin asked Steve Bartlett, the current president of the Financial Services Roundtable, about the Pawlenty pick, things got really frank.

From the NYT:

When I asked how he felt about Mr. Pawlenty’s comments about the bailouts, which seem at odds with his organization, he said: “Our views are totally consistent. I don’t find those views to be at odds….”

And what about Mr. Pawlenty’s views of defaulting on the debt ceiling?

“In Washington there is an old saying, ‘Where you stand depends on where you sit.’ “

Sadly, no truer words have ever been said about the influence of money on our nation’s capital.


Read the full column at Dealbook>

Sunlight Foundation: Almost 400 former House staffers registered to lobby in last two years

Friday, February 24th, 2012

The revolving door is alive and well in Washington. In less than three years, at least 377 House staffers employed in personal and committee offices have left Capitol Hill to become registered lobbyists, a Sunlight Foundation analysis of U.S. House disbursement data and federal lobbying records finds.

More than two in five former House staffers who registered as lobbyists went to one of Washington’s many lobbying firms. One in five went to lobby for a for-profit corporation, and another one in five went to lobby for a business or trade association. In other words, corporate America is capturing the lion’s share of former Hill staffers’ expertise. A large number also represent state and local governments and universities in their work for lobbying firms.

Sunlight Foundation

These lobbyists come from all rungs of the House hierarchy. The 377 staffers who left to lobby included 50 legislative assistants, 32 chiefs of staff, 26 legislative directors, and 22 staff assistants.

Many lobbyists came from committees as well. The Committee with the clearest path to K Street was the Financial Services Committee, where nine of 71 staffers (12.7%) went off to lobby within two years, followed closely by Judiciary (9.0%) and Oversight and Government Reform (8.7%).

Congress’s loss is the private sector’s gain. When House offices lose staffers who have built up experience and relationships in Congress, private interests gain both their policy knowhow and their political networks. Meanwhile, the House offices often find themselves relying on the expertise of their former staffers who are now in the employ of private interests.

Recently, we noted that the average House office had a retention rate of 64.2% over a two-year period. Although the majority of departing staff do not move to K Street, 377 staffers is still a significant number.

For a complete list of all the staffers who registered to lobby, what office they worked in, and where they went to lobby, click here.

WHERE STAFFERS GO ON K STREET

More than 80% of former Hill staffers who leave to lobby take jobs at Washington lobbying firms (41.5%), individual corporations (21.3%) and business and trade associations (19.1%).

By comparison, fewer than one in ten go to work for a non-profit advocacy group. Only a single former House staffer went to work for a labor union, though a few do represent unions as part of their work with Washington lobbying firms. Some (5.1%) went to work for occupational associations, such as the American Dental Association or the International Association of Fire Chiefs; another nine went to work for institutions, mostly universities.

It’s important to emphasize that this analysis is limited to registered lobbying. If former House staffers joined advocacy organizations but did not register as lobbyists, they will not show up in these tabulations.

Figure 1. Where staffers who become lobbyists go to lobby

graphic by Ali Felski

If we look at the employment destinations by position in the House, we can see some different career paths. While 56.2% of chiefs of staff who became lobbyists joined Washington lobbying firms, only 30.8% of legislative directors and 23.1% of legislative assistants who registered as lobbyists did so for a lobbying firms

Legislative directors who go downtown are about equally likely to wind up in a lobbying firm, a corporation, or a business or trade association. Legislative assistants are most likely to wind up in a business or trade association.

Non-profit advocacy, meanwhile, did not attract a single chief of staff, but it did attract two of the 26 legislative directors going to lobby and five of the 52 legislative assistants.

Generally, work in a lobbying firm offers individuals the opportunity to make the most money, though it also generally requires the most work. Some individuals prefer the stability or predictability of a corporation or a trade association, where one does not have to shift between multiple clients and does not have to hustle for new business.

 

Figure 2. Where staffers who become lobbyists go to lobby, by position

graphic by Ali Felski

 

REPRESENTATION BY SECTOR

What types of interests do these former staffers represent? In order to answer this question, we added up the number of lobbying contracts that mentioned these staffers.  State and local governments top the list, with 295 contracts, followed closely by pharmaceutical companies at 263, education (mostly universities) at 261, computers/internet at 226, and electric utilities at 192.

Table 1. Sectors former House staffers represent

Certainly, there are different ways to cut these numbers. Telephone utilities, for example spent $253 million on contracts that included these lobbyists, as compared to state and local governments, which spent $38 million, although there were many more contracts involving state and local governments.

A LOOK AT WHO GOES TO BECOME A LOBBYIST

Among the staffers who left, about two-thirds (243) previously worked in member personal offices. Of these individuals, 60.5% (147) came from Democratic offices, as compared to 39.5% (96) from Republicans. Much of this disparity, however, has to do with the fact that the Democrats lost 63 seats in the 2010 mid-term elections, putting hundreds of Democratic staffers out of work.

Among the 147 Democratic staffers who left to become lobbyists, 63 (43%) worked for members who were defeated or retired in 2010.Of member staffers-turned-lobbyists, 32% (77) came from offices where members were defeated or retired; the remaining 68% (166) worked for members who are still in office.

Table 2. Partisanship and member status of staffers turned lobbyists

three members of Congress sent at least four staffer to the ranks of registered lobbyists since 2009: Michael A. Arcuri (D-NY, 5), Adam Putnam (R-FL, 4), and Laura Richardson (D-CA, 4). Arcuri and Putnam are no longer in Congress. Both Arcuri and Richardson were on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Putnam was on the Financial Services Committee.  Table 3 shows the members at least three staff  who became lobbyists.Almost 40% (177) of the House offices in 2009 had at least one staffer become a lobbyist by 2011, and 11% (49) sent at least two individuals to become lobbyists. 

Table 3. Members with highest rates of staff going to lobby

COMMITTEES

Some committees are more likely to generate future lobbyists than others. Perhaps not surprisingly, the House committee with the highest percentage of former staffers going to lobby was the Financial Services Committee, where nine of 71 staffers (12.7%) went off to lobby. The Financial Services Committee handled the Dodd-Frank bill, which will continue to generate major lobbying activity for years as financial regulatory agencies work their way through the approximately 400 rulemaking the bill calls for. The Judiciary (9.0%) and Oversight and Government Reform (8.7%) had the next highest rates. Appropriations sent the most individuals to lobby (11, out of 145 staffers)

Table 4. Rate of staffers becoming lobbyists, by committee/leadership offices

POSITIONS

Certain positions were more likely to lead to future work as a lobbyist than others. The 377staffers employed in the House in 2009 who left to lobby included 50 legislative assistants, 32 chiefs of staff, 26 legislative directors, and 22 staff assistants.Of the 25 most common staff titles, the titles most likely to lead to staffers becoming lobbyists within the 2-year period were “Counsel” (11.2% became lobbyists), “Legislative Director” (8.9% became lobbyists), and “Legislative Counsel” (8.8% became lobbyists). Eight percent of both the chiefs of staff and the deputy chiefs of staff employed in mid-2009 became lobbyists. Interestingly, as we noted in our recent analysis of House operating budget cuts, salaries for “Counsel” positions had suffered the most between 2009 and 2011, down 5.8%. There is probably some connection.

Table 5. Rate of staffers becoming lobbyists, by selected positions

CONCLUSIONS

The revolving door continues to spin. Since July 2009, almost 400 individuals employed as House staffers at the time have left to become registered lobbyists, primarily working for lobbying firms, corporations, and business associations.In many respects, Congress continues to operate as a farm team for future lobbyists. Staff build up contacts and policy and political expertise. Then they often go “downtown” and cash in, taking their expertise and networks with them.

Though a certain flow of personnel from Congress to K Street is inevitable, Congress ought to do more to hold onto experienced staff. Recently, we explored retention rates among House staff, and we found that offices that paid their staff more had slightly higher retention rates, though Hill salaries lag behind private sector comparisons.When staff leave to lobby, their former offices must find somebody new and usually less experienced. And offices who lack staff with policy expertise and political relationships often must rely more on outside lobbyists, who are only too happy to fill the gap.For a complete list of all 378 staffers, what office they worked in, and where they went to lobby, click here.

METHODOLOGY AND DATA

These results are based on a comparison of House disbursement data from the third quarter of 2009 with public lobbying records. One challenge in conducting this analysis is that we are matching on names, and sometimes individuals register as lobbyists under different name permutations than they were listed on the Hill. We do our best to correct for this, but there are limitations. We also note that because certain names are more common than others, there is always the possibility of false positive matches.

Additionally, since our data on staff come from the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives, we are dependent on what the House reports. We must in good faith disclose that the underlying data are messy. At best, the data are approximate, and higher levels of confidence in it can only come when the House of Representatives makes a better effort with respect to how it normalizes and releases the data to the public. To dig through the data yourself, visit our House Expenditure Reports Database.

Special thanks to Daniel Schuman and Alison Rowland for their help on this analysis.

UPDATE: Jennifer Taylor, a legislative assistant in Rep. Pingree’s office, shares a name with Jennifer Taylor, a lobbyist at Van Scoyoc & Associates, resulting in a false positive. The text of this post has been corrected to reflect this. As noted above, our analysis is limited by the quality of the data published by the House disbursement reports and the Senate Office of Public Records. We regret the error and encourage anyone with clarifying information to contact us.

The Hill: Lobbyists decertify after Obama ban

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

More than 20 members of federal advisory committees canceled their registrations as lobbyists after the Obama administration banned K Street from the panels in 2009, according to a review by The Hill.

The Hill

The Hill compared the membership rosters of 16 Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs) with lobbying disclosure records and found at least 22 of the panels’ more than 300 members canceled their lobbyist registrations after the White House policy was announced.

Overall, roughly 58 of those serving on the ITACs were registered to lobby at some point

Critics said the move by many to deregister shows the administration’s policy is flawed and encourages lobbyists to move into the shadows. 

Howard Marlowe, president of the American League of Lobbyists, called the number of formerly registered lobbyists serving on committees “shocking, [but] not surprising.”

“These are people who I presume are experts in their field who have something to contribute and want to contribute, and the only way they can do that is by deregistering,” said Marlowe, also president of lobby firm Marlowe & Co. “I presume that they haven’t all gone into the priesthood.”

The number of formerly registered lobbyists serving on federal advisory panels is likely much larger. The Hill’s review focused on only 16 panels, but there are approximately 1,000 advisory committees in the federal government, according to the General Services Administration.

Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), any individual who spends 20 percent of his or her time lobbying for a client is required to register with the Senate. He or she also needs to make contact with at least two covered government officials to meet the registration threshold.

President Obama’s attempt to limit lobbyist influence in his administration has largely focused on people who are registered, although that standard only covers some of the people who work in the influence industry.

Lobbyists angered by the ban who once served on ITACs are suing the Obama administration and asking a court to declare the prohibition “unconstitutional.” 

A White House spokesman said Obama has worked hard to slow the revolving door between the government and private sector. He cited an executive order from the president that prohibited lobbyist gifts, clamped down on the hiring of lobbyists by the administration and prevented appointees from lobbying the White House after working there.

“Our goal has been to reduce the influence of special interests in Washington — which we’ve done more than any administration in history,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz.

After the advisory committee ban was announced, Norm Eisen, then the White House ethics czar, said he would find it “disturbing” if lobbyists canceled their registrations to stay on the panels.

“I would hope that industry representatives would not seek to circumvent the rules in order to retain their preferred position on these bodies,” Eisen wrote in an Oct. 21, 2009, letter responding to ITAC leaders.  

Lobbyists who canceled their registrations and remained on ITACs gave different reasons for their decisions. Some said they changed how they went about their jobs to stay on the committees, while others said they were never lobbyists and had only registered out of caution. Many said their work on the advisory committees was too valuable for their companies to give up.

David Logsdon, executive director of TechAmerica’s Space Enterprise Council, said he altered his work to focus on public policy events and forums instead of meetings with congressional aides.

“The work on industry trade advisory committee at the Department of Commerce has allowed my clients’ positions on issues to be elevated to the key decisionmakers at the Department of Commerce that make the decisions on that industry of trade,” said Logsdon, who first registered in 2004.

Intel’s Greg Slater, who first registered to lobby in 2007, said the company moved general trade issues “that don’t require a lot of content expertise, such as expressing support for trade agreements,” to other internal and external lobbyists for the company so he could continue serving on a panel. Before that, he rarely spent 20 percent of his time lobbying, he added.

Barry Solarz, senior vice president of trade and economic policy at the American Iron and Steel Institute, was registered out of “an abundance of caution,” said Kevin Dempsey, the trade group’s senior vice president of policy and general counsel.

Having first registered in 1999, Solarz has served on an ITAC since 2003 — “an integral part of his job,” Dempsey said — so the trade group reviewed Solarz’s lobbying activities in the fall of 2009 and found that he had not “been engaged in any significant lobbying recently.”

The business association then restructured Solarz’s job to “ensure that he would not cross the line into lobbying going forward.”

“Having somebody [on the ITAC] who understands how steel products could be affected by proposed trade rules is very important for us to make sure that the new trade rules don’t negatively affect our industry,” Dempsey said.

Richard Holwill, vice president of public policy for Alticor, said he, too, registered to lobby out of caution. Since the ban has been announced, Holwill said, he keeps “a meticulous record” of whom he talks to and limits his contact with government officials to avoid hitting the registration threshold. 

“I lobby, but I lobby foreign government officials,” said Holwill, who serves on an ITAC. “These officials are not covered by the LDA, and the Obama administration does not object to this type of lobbying.”

Others said they were never lobbyists and had been registered in error. Though a member of an ITAC, Tom St. Maxens, president of St. Maxens & Co., was still registered to lobby last quarter for the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.

“That was my mistake,” said Bill Sells, vice president of government relations for the association. Sells said St. Maxens is a consultant on trade to the trade group and that he would amend lobbying filings going back to 2006 to correct the error.

“I put him down and went the extra mile. I over-disclosed,” Sells said. “He has never represented us before the federal government or a member of Congress. He advises me.”

Others said they registered under the LDA but never lobbied.

“I did register for some clients because I thought it was conceivable that I could reach the thresholds for them, but I never did,” said Sue Presti, president of Public Policy Resources and an ITAC member.

Presti, who had been registered to lobby sporadically since 2000, said she still has clients and is mindful of the ban.

“The nature of the work for my clients at the moment doesn’t require me to register,” Presti said. “I recognize in the future that things could change and I might have to.”

Tennessean: Legislators move from lobbied to lobbyists

Monday, February 6th, 2012

When members of Congress hear from groups hoping to get a law passed or a regulation changed, they often look across the table at men and women they once worked with.

Tennessean

More than 300 former House members or senators, including presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, have worked as lobbyists or in very similar roles, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Their ranks have included at least a dozen people who once represented Tennessee.

Critics say the phenomenon, while protected by the First Amendment guarantee of the right to petition the government, raises questions about how public policy is created in Washington, and what elected officials might be angling for while still in office. Critics worry about a “revolving door” between congressional offices — including staff members — and lobbying roles.

“It’s obviously the ultimate form of being wired,” said Viveca Novak, a spokeswoman for the nonpartisan, nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics and its impact on elections and policy. “The clients who can pay the most are going to get the most extreme form of chumminess.”

Lobbying has been in the spotlight during the Republican presidential primaries. Gingrich, a former speaker of the House, has been accused by rival Mitt Romney of lobbying for Freddie Mac, a government-sponsored mortgage guarantor that has drawn criticism for its role in the nation’s housing crisis. Romney called the former congressman’s actions “influence-peddling.”

Gingrich, a former history professor whose consulting firm was paid $1.6 million by Freddie Mac for advice that their contract described as “in the areas of strategic planning and public policy,” has said he served his client as a “historian” and never registered as a lobbyist.

Sometimes the lines are more clearly drawn. The Tennessean was able to identify 22 living former members of Congress from Tennessee. Of those, at least 10 have worked as lobbyists, and two who left Congress last year — Democrats Bart Gordon and John Tanner — are now in a position to do so in their jobs at Washington law and lobbying firms.

When Tanner joined Prime Policy Group as vice chairman last February, the firm’s CEO, Scott Pastrick, said in a news release: “John Tanner brings a deep understanding of the legislative process, the policy and political nuances that shape corporate policy on Capitol Hill. He is a consensus builder who is respected across the political aisle in Congress and throughout foreign capitals.”

Similarly, the administrative partner of K&L Gates LLP’s Washington office, David T. Case, said of hiring Gordon as a partner last March: “Adding Chairman Gordon to an already accomplished public policy and law team — which also includes former Congressman Jim Walsh and former Senator Slade Gorton among its roster — will allow us to provide our clients with unparalleled policy and political advice and assistance.”

Tanner and Gordon did not return phone calls seeking comment last week.

Along with the 12 former members from Tennessee who have clearly lobbied Congress or started working for lobbying firms, The Center for Responsive Politics also lists former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. among the 370 former congressmen or senators nationally who have worked both sides of the “revolving door.” But the House and Senate have no records of Ford registering as a lobbyist, and Ford has said that wasn’t his role at investment bank Merrill Lynch, where he was a vice chairman and senior policy adviser before moving to Morgan Stanley last year.

No apologies

Former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, who served four terms from Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District before losing a re-election bid in 2010, said he hasn’t done any lobbying. But he might at some point.

“I think that’s OK,” Davis said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of demand for people who have built relationships in Congress, not that they’re expected to be purchased or bought. Congress is a huge monster of an entity. I never realized how large it was until I was elected. I never realized how the machinery moves and works.”

Another former congressman, Bob Clement, represented Nashville and the rest of the 5th Congressional District from 1988 to 2003. After losing a campaign to become Nashville’s mayor in 2007, he formed Bob Clement and Associates, using his experience from 15 years on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to work for clients in the rail industry.

Clement said he makes no apologies for his line of work.

“You make contacts,” he said while riding a train from Washington to New York on Friday. “And over the years I’ve stayed in touch with a lot of members, Democrat and Republican alike, not just in Tennessee but all over the country.

“I consider it an honorable profession. I’m fighting for a cause when it comes to transportation and rebuilding America.”

NPR: Gingrich Fights Against The Lobbyist Label

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to fend off accusations that he should wear the scarlet “L” — for “lobbyist.” This week, he released two of his consulting contracts and said they didn’t call for any lobbying

NPR

Like many other former lawmakers, Gingrich was advocating for paying clients, while not officially registering as a lobbyist.

The two contracts disclosed this week came from Gingrich’s work for Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant. Between 1999 and 2007, Freddie Mac paid his firm $1.6 million.

The contracts say he was advising and discussing, not lobbying — at least not in the legal sense of the word.

“There is no place in the contract that provides for lobbying. I have never done any lobbying,” Gingrich said at a debate Monday night.

Gingrich deliberately avoided registering as a lobbyist, which would make public his clients and their payments to him.

There is no place in the contract that provides for lobbying. I have never done any lobbying.

– Newt Gingrich

“In fact, we brought in an expert on lobbying law and trained all of our staff. And that expert is prepared to testify that he was brought in to say, ‘Here is the bright line,’ ” Gingrich said.

That expert is Thomas Susman, now the head lobbyist for the American Bar Association. He says his work for Gingrich is no secret.

“He said that I could go public with my representation back when I first worked for him,” Susman says.

But Susman’s version doesn’t quite match Gingrich’s. He’s sure he gave Gingrich some advice about the federal lobbying law, but not enough that he remembers doing so.

“I’m sure I would have, because that was what my expertise and involvement had been,” he says.

Besides, that really wasn’t Gingrich’s focus.

“He was involved with a number of clients of his group at the state level, with state legislators and state officials. And that was where he was most concerned,” Susman says.

Promoting Part D

Gingrich is also defending his advocacy of the Medicare drug benefit known as Part D.

On Thursday, rival Mitt Romney’s campaign brought out former New Hampshire Republican Rep. Jeb Bradley, who told reporters about a meeting with Gingrich before the congressional vote on Part D in 2003.

“I’ll tell you, that day that I met with Newt, he was lobbying,” Bradley said.

Gingrich says he promoted Part D as a citizen, not a paid lobbyist. He cited the need for better diabetes treatment as an example at Monday night’s debate.

“I publicly favored Medicare Part D for a practical reason. And that reason is simple: The U.S. government was not prepared to give people anything — insulin, for example — but they would pay for kidney dialysis,” he said.

But while Gingrich long supported the drug benefit, it’s also true that Novo Nordisk, a company that specializes in diabetes treatment, was a $200,000-a-year member of his Center for Health Transformation.

Lobbyist Loathing

This stance of “do no lobbying” has defined Gingrich’s post-Congress career.

If he wants to be the first president who’s a registered lobbyist, we’d love it.

– Howard Marlowe, president of the American League of Lobbyists

The assertion shows up on the website of the Center for Health Transformation and in one of the Freddie Mac contracts.

But lobbyists rarely use the L word in their contracts. Susman remembers the so-called engagement letters used by his old law firm.

“We’d use such terms as advocacy, including advice and counsel, including organizing. But probably not use the word lobbying in it,” he says.

Susman is active in a push to make the lobbying industry more transparent.

So is political scientist James Thurber, who heads up an institute on lobbying at American University. Thurber says there should be disclosure by so-called senior advisers — the former lawmakers, like Gingrich, who don’t formally register as lobbyists.

“They don’t have to be called lobbyists, but let’s find out who they are,” Thurber says.

And even some lobbyists want more transparency for their industry. An association called the American League of Lobbyists is working on a reform proposal.

The league’s president, Howard Marlowe, says he wishes Gingrich wouldn’t run away from the profession.

“If he wants to be the first president who’s a registered lobbyist, we’d love it,” Marlowe says.

But for now, Gingrich and other politicians seem pretty sure that a registered lobbyist is about the last candidate voters would want.

NY Times: Lobbyist Helps a Project He Financed in Congress

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

With nearly 400 former members of Congress hired as lobbyists or corporate “consultants” in the last decade, it has become commonplace for ex-members to work for groups or industries that they had helped get financing while in office.

New York Times

Soon after he retired last year as one of the leading liberals in Congress, former Representative William D. Delahunt of Massachusetts started his own lobbying firm with an office on the 16th floor of a Boston skyscraper. One of his first clients was a small coastal town that has agreed to pay him $15,000 a month for help in developing a wind energy project.

Amid the revolving door of congressmen-turned-lobbyists, there is nothing particularly remarkable about Mr. Delahunt’s transition, except for one thing. While in Congress, he personally earmarked $1.7 million for the same energy project.

So today, his firm, the Delahunt Group, stands to collect $90,000 or more for six months of work from the town of Hull, on Massachusetts Bay, with 80 percent of it coming from the pot of money he created through a pair of Energy Department grants in his final term in office, records and interviews show.

Experts in federal earmarking — a practice of financing pet projects that has been forsaken by many members of Congress as a toxic symbol of political abuse — said they could not recall a case in which a former lawmaker stood to benefit so directly from an earmark he had authorized. Mr. Delahunt’s firm is seeking a review of the arrangement from the Energy Department.

Mr. Delahunt’s work for the town raises legal and ethical questions, mainly because of federal restrictions on the use of federal funds for lobbying, several legal experts said.

Beyond the town of Hull, Mr. Delahunt’s clients include at least three others who received millions of dollars in federal aid with his direct assistance while he was in Congress, records show.

Mr. Delahunt declined repeated requests for an interview last week. In a statement released through his office on Friday, he also declined to respond to specific questions about his work, but said: “I want to be clear — I have no federal lobbying relationship with any past or current client. I have not lobbied anyone in Washington since leaving Congress.

“Further, while in Congress, I had no conversations with anybody regarding any future consulting contract,” he said, “and I am extremely proud of our work and the assistance we were able to bring to many communities throughout our district.” Federal law prohibits former congressmen from lobbying some ex-colleagues for one year after leaving office.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, for instance, paid the Delahunt Group at least $40,000 to lobby for approval of a casino. Mr. Delahunt had secured Congressional earmarks for the tribe totaling $400,000 in 2008 and 2009 for a substance abuse program and other projects, the records show.

The city of Quincy, Mass., meanwhile, brought on Mr. Delahunt last year to help deal with federal officials on a downtown redevelopment program. In 2008, Mr. Delahunt secured nearly $2.4 million in earmarks for the city on a separate tidal restoration project.

And a fishermen’s group on the elbow of Cape Cod hired Mr. Delahunt to navigate regulatory issues; he had helped the group get a low-interest, $500,000 federal loan in 2010, records show. The group, which thanked Mr. Delahunt, then a congressman, for his help getting the loan, used the money to renovate a historic coastal home as its headquarters.

Questions include whether Mr. Delahunt knew that he might go work for the town at the time he requested the earmarks; whether federal funds were being used to “lobby” Congress in violation of federal restrictions; which federal officials Mr. Delahunt’s firm contacted as part of its work; and whether those contacts fell within the one-year “cooling off” period.

Barney Keller, communications director for the Club for Growth, an influential conservative group in Washington that tracks earmarks, said: “I cannot recall such an obvious example of a member of Congress allocating money that went directly into his own pocket. It speaks to why members of Congress shouldn’t be using earmarks.”

Mr. Delahunt, a former district attorney who was known in Congress for embracing liberal causes, also became known over his time in Washington for bringing home federal money. He was particularly active in 2009, ranking in the top fifth of all House members, with more than $46 million in earmarks, including the Hull and Mashpee tribe grants, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group in Washington.

On retiring in early 2011, he told home-state reporters that he was hesitant to go the typical route of lobbying. But within a few months he did just that, starting the Delahunt Group, where he serves as chairman. He brought in three top congressional aides to help lead it and set up four offices in Massachusetts and Washington, and joined with a national law firm and another lobbying shop as well.

“This is nowhere as stressful as being a congressman,” he told The Cape Cod Times last June as he showed off the firm’s new office on the cape.

But he rejected any suggestion that he was cashing in on his time in Congress. “To say that former members wouldn’t use the skill set they developed, particularly if they are passionate about the interests of their clients, I really think is wrong-headed,” he told the newspaper.

 

Matt Taibbi: Revolving Door: From Top Futures Regulator to Top Futures Lobbyist

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

While America focused on New Hampshire, a classic example of revolving-door politics took place in Washington, going almost completely unnoticed.

It’s a move that ranks up there with the hire of Louisiana congressman Billy Tauzin to head the pharmaceutical lobbying conglomerate PhRMA — at a salary of over $2 million a year — immediately after Tauzin helped ram through the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, a huge handout to the pharmaceutical industry

Rolling Stone

In this case, the hire involves Walter Lukken, who toward the end of the Bush years was the acting head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. As the chief regulator of the commodities markets, it was Lukken’s job to spot and combat speculative abuses and manipulations that might have led to artificial price hikes and other disruptions.

In 2008, the last full year of his tenure, Lukken presided over some of the worst chaos in the commodities markets in recent history, with major disruptions in the markets for food products like wheat, cotton, soybeans, and rice, and energy commodities like oil.

Most notoriously, 2008 saw a historic spike in the price of oil futures, an enormously destructive speculative bubble that peaked in July of that year at the lunatic high price of $146 per barrel (Goldman, Sachs at the height of the mania was telling investors oil might go to $200 a barrel).

It was Lukken’s job to spot the speculative abuses leading to disruptions like that bubble, but he didn’t do it. Instead, he repeatedly insisted that there was nothing untoward going on, most notoriously through testimony before the House and the Senate at the height of the oil boom.

In testimony that summer, Lukken continually insisted that the price surge was due to normal supply-and-demand forces, ignoring the far more obvious explanation of a massive inflow of cash from commodity index speculators.

Despite data showing that the amount of commodity index speculation had grown from $13 billion in 2003 to more than $260 billion as of March 2008 — in other words, the amount of money betting on a rise in commodity prices had risen by a factor of twenty during that time — Lukken on May 7, 2008 told the Senate that a more likely explanation for the surge could be found in the growth of industrial demand from places like China, and also, get this, in changes in the weather:

These are extraordinary times for our markets with commodity futures prices at unprecedented levels. In the last three months, the agricultural staples of wheat, corn, soybeans, rice and oats have hit all-time highs. We have also witnessed record prices in crude oil, gasoline and other related energy products. Broadly speaking, the falling dollar, strong demand from the emerging world economies, global political unrest, detrimental weather and ethanol mandates have driven up commodity futures prices across-the-board.

On top of these trends, the emergence of the sub-prime crisis last summer led investors to increasingly seek portfolio exposure in commodity futures. As the federal regulator of these products, the CFTC is closely monitoring these growing markets to ensure they are working properly for farmers, investors, and consumers. To date, CFTC staff analysis indicates that the current higher futures prices generally are not a result of manipulative forces.

By insisting that the spike was “not a result of manipulative forces,” Lukken helped Wall Street in its efforts to avoid reforms that might have prevented such abuses, like the closing of a series of loopholes and exemptions that allowed a handful of major speculators to play a lopsided role in the setting of commodity prices.

So what was Lukken’s reward for helping the financial services industry avoid such reforms? Well, Lukken has just been named to head the Futures Industry Association, or FIA, the chief lobbying arm of futures investors.

This follows the Tauzin pattern of revolving-door hires: a government official carries water for a powerful industry, then moves on to take the cushy job with the industry’s lobbying arm once he leaves office.

Among people who follow these markets for a living, the Lukken hire had an embarrassingly over-the-top quality, like a CEO who goes the appearances-be-damned route and puts his 23 year-old secretary/mistress on the board of directors.

Mike Masters is head of the Masters Capital Management hedge fund and also chairman of Better Markets, a new non-profit advocacy group that promotes the public interest in the labyrinthine vagaries of the financial markets, and especially the commodities markets. He describes the hiring of Lukken as an extreme example of revolving-door politics.

“It’s not the revolving door. It’s the express elevator,” he says.

Masters remembers Lukken because the two men both testified before the Senate in that summer of 2008; he recalls watching the CFTC chief, aghast, when the latter continued to insist that there was nothing abnormal going on in the commodities world, despite a historic series of disruptions.

“And it wasn’t just oil,” Masters says. “There was the debacle in the wheat markets, with cotton, with soybeans and corn, there were riots in the Phillipines over the rice markets. And Lukken was saying everything’s okay. It was crazy.”

It was a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil approach to government oversight, which had far-reaching consequences in that crisis year. The CFTC, remember, also has purview over derivatives, meaning the failure to prevent the disastrous swap positions accumulated by the likes of AIG also falls, in part anyway, at the CFTC’s doorstep.

A Dow Jones news story contained a hilarious summary of Lukken’s blase administrative style, in which he was described as having downplayed the whole being-a-stickler-for-rules aspect of regulation:

When Lukken headed the CFTC, he backed a more flexible, “principles-based” approach to regulation, different from what was seen as the prescriptive and “rule-based” methods employed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which polices stock markets.

Obviously this kind of thing has been going on forever in Washington, but some revolving-door hires feel worse and more shameless than others, and this is one of those.  But really it’s the same old story: regulators keep falling down on the job, and keep getting rewarded for it by Wall Street, and nothing gets done about it.

Washington Examiner: Obama promotes lobbyist within White House

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

“I am running to tell the lobbyists in Washington that their days of setting the agenda are over. They have not funded my campaign. They won’t work in my White House.”

That was candidate Obama. President Obama this week promoted former registered lobbyist Cecilia Muñoz to be director of the Domestic Policy Council.

Washington Examiner

She had been director of intergovernmental affairs at the White House. At the DPC, Muñoz replaces former registered K Street lobbyist Melody Barnes, who is “considering offers in the private sector,” but may or may not be returning to K Street.

Liberals say Muñoz doesn’t count as one of the bad lobbyists was rails against. “That’s weak sauce,” MSNBC host Chris Hayes tweeted at me yesterday. “She was a lobbyist for immigrant rights.”

Obama took this same line after falsely claiming in the State of the Union address, “we’ve excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs.” He had, in fact, hired 50 such lobbyists. When confronted on this, Obama said, “For example, a doctor who ran Tobacco-Free Kids technically is a registered lobbyist, on the other hand, has more expertise than anybody in figuring out how kids don’t get hooked on cigarettes. So there have been a couple of instances like that. …”

It’s not a totally unreasonable line: Obama was identifying corporate lobbyists, not non-profit issue lobbyists, as the bad guys, so an anti-smoking lobbyists or a “immigrant rights,” lobbyist is a different thing, even if he or she is registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

But if Obama makes that defense, he’s having it both ways, because he regularly counts as non-lobbyists people who really are corporate lobbyists, but they simply didn’t register as lobbyist. For instance, Google’s VP for global public policy and government affairs Andrew McLaughlin served in the White House working directly on policy affecting Google, but he hadn’t been registered as a Google lobbyist.

On Obama’s “ban” on lobbyist contributions, he walks the same line: accepting gifts from and employing as bundlers heads of lobbying firms and VPs of government affairs, but they’re not registered, so it’s fine.

According to Obama’s account, you don’t count as a lobbyist if you’re not registered, but even if you’re not registered, you might not count either. Maybe “lobbyist” just meant people with whom Obama disagrees.

Bloomberg: Gingrich ‘Loophole’ Offers Lobbyist Access for Consultant Cash

Friday, December 30th, 2011

“I call it the Gingrich loophole,” said Howard Marlowe, president of the American League of Lobbyists in Alexandria, Virginia. “It’s not lobbying under the law, he’s right about that. It is lobbying in reality.”

Bloomberg

Testifying before Senate committees in 2003 and 2006, Newt Gingrich commanded attention as a former House speaker. He used the opportunities to share his vision of the future of health care — and to mention a few clients.

Both times he singled out HealthTrio LLC, an electronic health-care record company and an early member of Gingrich’s Center for Health Transformation. As a member, the Denver-based company would have paid as much as $200,000 a year to the for- profit center.

HealthTrio was one of dozens of companies that benefited from its relationship with Gingrich, who had access to lawmakers and opportunities to advance their interests that go well beyond those of a standard Washington lobbyist. Gingrich insists he never lobbied, and he never registered as a lobbyist.

“I call it the Gingrich loophole,” said Howard Marlowe, president of the American League of Lobbyists in Alexandria, Virginia. “It’s not lobbying under the law, he’s right about that. It is lobbying in reality.”

Lobbyists must register their work with Congress if they have a paying client, make at least two contacts on behalf of the client and spend at least 20 percent of their time working for that client during a three-month period. Gingrich’s work often dovetailed with the work lobbyists do, even though he probably didn’t hit the 20 percent threshold, Marlowe said.

Providing Information

While lobbyists sometimes work behind closed doors to make deals and help draft legislation, much of their time is spent simply providing information to lawmakers and clients or trying to raise a client’s profile before agencies and congressional offices that can affect their interests. Often that means getting a meeting with a legislative director or chief of staff for a senator or representative.

Top lobbyists can more easily access lawmakers themselves, and Gingrich had a natural open door. The expectation that Republicans would respond to his support helped spur the government-backed home mortgage company Freddie Mac to hire Gingrich for a second contract in 2006, according to people familiar with the discussions. All told, McLean, Virginia-based Freddie Mac paid the Gingrich Group at least $1.6 million for “strategic advice.”

“You don’t need to be within the technical definition of being a lobbyist to still be influence-peddling with senior Republicans in Washington,” Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann said during a debate with Gingrich and other presidential hopefuls on Dec. 15.

Affecting Legislation

In 2003, Gingrich gathered about two dozen Republican House members who opposed a $395 billion Medicare prescription drug benefit to pitch them on why they should support it, former Representative C.L. “Butch” Otter, who said he was in the room, said in an e-mail.

Otter, who supports Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential primaries and is now governor of Idaho, said it was “obvious” to him and others in the room that they were being lobbied. The meeting occured as Gingrich was building the Center for Health Transformation, which was seeking financing from drugmakers.

Gingrich has also bragged of killing legislation, often a goal of lobbyists. During a Dec. 10 Republican presidential debate, he said he “helped defeat” a proposal to lower carbon emissions known as “cap and trade” through a nonprofit advocacy group he founded called American Solutions.

’Influence Peddling’

“Gingrich’s boasting reveals, truly, what he was doing: He was working for and against specific legislation. That’s lobbying,” said Craig Holman, who pushes for tougher lobbying and campaign finance laws as a lobbyist for Washington-based Public Citizen. “When it comes to promoting or attacking or defeating legislation, that is influence peddling.”

Energy companies are among the top donors to American Solutions. The group took in more than $1.3 million from two of them, Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU) and Devon Energy Corp. (DVN), during the last two election cycles, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money in Washington.

Devon Energy’s spending on lobbying jumped to $2.5 million in 2009 as the House took up the cap-and-trade legislation; the Oklahoma City-based company spent another $1.4 million in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The majority of the company’s lobbying was done by in-house company lobbyists; it also paid Research-able Inc. and Jackson Lewis LLP in 2009. Patton Boggs LLP registered Devon as a client, saying it earned less than $5,000 a quarter.

Energy Tax’ Opposed

Gingrich called the legislation “a giant energy tax” during an April 12, 2010 Fox News appearance, delivering the same argument made on the network by Devon Energy President John Richels a month later.

Peabody Energy, based in St. Louis, spent almost $2 million on lobbying in 2009 with 12 firms registering as lobbyists, according to center data. They included former Representative Dick Gephardt’s Gephardt Group and Dickstein Shapiro LLP. The company spent a similar $1.9 million in 2010.

In an April 14, 2010 appearance at a House energy committee hearing, Gregory Boyce, Peabody’s chief executive officer, said the cap-and-trade program “will result in punishing cost to economies and family budgets.”

Gingrich also said he “fought against Obamacare every step of the way” as his health center “actively campaigned against it.” The center’s members included insurers, who campaigned against the legislation, and drugmakers, who supported it.

Center’s Efforts

The center dispatched a dozen press releases critical of President Barack Obama’s health-care plan in 2009 and 2010, according to an archive on its website. In a March 5, 2010, release, Gingrich lauded a congressman for staying in office “to help defeat a proposal that would ruin the American health care system and increase the national debt.”

While Gingrich was critical of Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus package in 2009, he supported the inclusion of money for health information technology. And Gingrich and his team over the years took every opportunity to push for more investments, often bringing up HealthTrio.

In 2004, Gingrich and one of the center’s executives, Laura Linn, wrote a paper calling for the creation of electronic health records that extolled HealthTrio’s model. Center executives met with a former top U.K. health official along with HealthTrio and International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) executives, according to the report.

Gingrich Writings

Gingrich wrote of HealthTrio’s work in 2007 in the Journal of the American Enterprise Institute. And in 2010, Gingrich co- wrote a commentary in the American Journal of Managed Care with Malik Hasan, chairman and chief executive officer of HealthTrio, saying the stimulus package provided a road map to greater use of electronic records.

Dave Syposs, a HealthTrio spokesman, didn’t return calls or e-mails seeking comment. HealthTrio in the last two years has also hired the Ross Group LLC and the Federal Group Inc. to lobby on a pilot program for personal health records.

Edward Barbini, an IBM spokesman, declined to comment. The Armonk, New York-based computer services provider was also a member of the center.

The center signs nondisclosure agreements and can’t talk about “the things we provide our members,” said Susan Meyers, a spokeswoman for the center.

Marlowe estimates that a few thousand people in Washington are billing themselves as consultants and really should be registered as lobbyists. And Gingrich is far from alone among former elected officials walking that fine line.

Image Problem

“Lobbying has an image of wining and dining and back-room deal-making,” Holman said. “It’s not a very positive image, and it’s one that those who have their sights on public office try to avoid.”

Former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle drew fire in 2009 when Obama nominated him as his Health and Human Services secretary after Daschle served as an adviser to health-care companies. Daschle isn’t registered as a lobbyist.

Other ex-lawmakers have embraced the lobbying designation, including former Louisiana Representative Robert Livingston, a Republican who supports Gingrich’s presidential bid. The principle of “freedom of speech” in the First Amendment applies to former politicians, too, Livingston said.

“If I want to make a living advocating, I shouldn’t not be able to do it just because of my background,” Livingston said in an interview. “And to say that Newt can’t advise? That’s totally contrary to our Constitution.

Attack Fodder

Gingrich’s work after leaving office in 1999 has been the focus of attacks ads that may be taking a toll on his standing in the polls. He’s slipped from the top spot in CNN’s Iowa poll to fourth place in the latest survey, as former Massachusetts GovernorRomney and others have run ads against Gingrich.

Texas Governor Rick Perry posted a spot last week that says Gingrich hails from “K Street, the lobbyist hangout in Washington.” The ad continues, “Newt got rich, made millions off of Freddie Mac. (FMCC)” Texas Representative Ron Paul targeted Gingrich with a video called “Selling Access.”

Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman earlier this month said Gingrich would be the nation’s “lobbyist-in-chief” if elected. And Romney has called on Gingrich to return the money he received from Freddie Mac.

Gingrich on Dec. 19 said he received only about $35,000 a year from the Freddie contracts, “less than I was making per speech.” According to three people familiar with Gingrich’s contract with Freddie Mac, the former speaker’s consulting firm was paid between $25,000 and $30,000 a month for his services.

In an interview with Bloomberg News last month, Gingrich said that he wasn’t selling access. “We didn’t use the connections,” he said. “I explicitly do no lobbying.”

Romney ridiculed that, when asked about Gingrich’s work.

“I’m going to let the lawyers decide what is and what isn’t lobbying,” Romney said in South Carolina. “But when it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, typically it’s a duck.”

 

Politico: Super PACs: The bad cops of 2012

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

The bad cops of 2012 are here.

Super PACs with ties to Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum launched a negative advertising blitz this month in Iowa that has let the candidates – with ties to the groups – stay above the fray while the outsiders do the dirty work.

The blitz is a blatant example of a game cropping up across the country, where candidates like Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, and even Barack Obama, have gotten to stay classy, while ads bashed their likely opponents. And observers predict this will be the norm in 2012 – where official campaigns get to stay high-brow, while deep-pocketed outsiders go negative.

Politico

“You won’t see many puppies, rainbows and unicorns in super PAC ads,” said Brian Walsh, president of a GOP super PAC focused on congressional races. “You don’t win a fight with a hug and smile. You start throwing punches and don’t stop swinging.”

In recent days, a super PAC with ties to Romney spent $2.5 million on a barrage of attack ads painting Newt Gingrich with a palette of dingy colors: as hypocritical, weak on key conservative issues like abortion and tainted by Washington politics.

Gingrich was livid, his outrage boiling over while campaigning Tuesday in Iowa.

“We’ve got to understand these are [Romney’s] people, running his ads, doing his dirty work while he pretends to be above it. He can demand that every ad be positive,” Gingrich said. “I think these guys hire consultants who just sit around, get drunk and write really stupid ads.”

For his part, Romney has distanced himself from the super PAC world, even saying on MSNBC on Tuesday that the groups should be eliminated. But he dodged a question about whether he would give in to Gingrich’s demand to call for Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting him, to stop running the attack ads.

“I’m not allowed to communicate with the super PAC in any way, shape or form,” Romney said.

A series of recent federal court decisions allowed super PACs to raise and spend unlimited sums of money in support or opposition to political candidates — so long as they don’t directly coordinate with the candidates or their committees. This arms candidates with deniability many prize.

Super PACs for an array of candidates have cropped up and already gone negative in their advertisements.

In an ad this week, a pro-Rick Santorum super PAC, Red, White & Blue Fund, flashes images of Barack Obama, Gingrich, Romney, Rick Perry, Ron Paul and Michele Bachman before asking, “who’s the true conservative you can really trust?”

It’s happening at the congressional level, too, with super PAC Rethink PAC this autumn spending $156,000 on advertisements against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), blasting him as a pawn of Wall Street and acting against the interest of working people. Those ads could give a boost to Warren, his Democratic opponent for the Senate seat and the architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

And a liberal super PAC ran ads in New Hampshire and Iowa to remind voters about some of Romney’s more progressive views and the fact that he speaks French, Slate reported earlier this month. An ad from American LP featured Romney welcoming viewers to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in French.

Romney has recently drawn fire from the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action, which has made more than $306,000 worth of independent expenditures bashing the former Massachusetts governor.

The flipside of the negative ads is they leave candidates more room to run positive ads on their own behalf.

“In many ways, it provides candidates with the opportunity to create the contrast and to tell their own story and gives them a little bit more flexibility to do so, particularly earlier in the campaign,” Walsh said.

Outside groups have long run negative advertisements. But the proliferation of super PACs with close ties to candidates is unlike anything ever seen in presidential politics.

“We’re just seeing it at a whole other magnitude, and you also have groups here that may be in this fight because of a particular candidate, rather than a particular issue,” said Ken Goldstein, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Media analysts and super PAC leaders say the committees will be running more negative advertisements than ever before, thanks to the new campaign finance landscape.

“I’m certain campaign managers and political strategists will be looking at the content of advertising that is currently in place while they’re making their strategic decisions,” Walsh said. “And if there is one entity already carrying a negative message, that’s going to affect their decision-making process.”

If 2012 election cycle has proven anything, anti-coordination safeguards are barely relevant.

Take the Atlas Project, a Democratic consulting firm, which recently created a website through which independent organizations may post campaign intelligence and campaigns may view it — all while skirting regulations barring coordination between such entities. The practice, organizers say, is legal.

Rick Perry’s presidential campaign, meanwhile, appeared to use footage from commercials produced by the pro-Perry super PAC Make Us Great Again, drawing complaints from campaign finance organizations but nonetheless occurring.

In another test of anti-coordination rules, many super PACs themselves are run by candidates’ former staffers and associates.

Make Us Great Again is run by former Perry hand Mike Toomey. Pro-Barack Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action – it’s slammed Romney this autumn through independent expenditures while Obama himself has hovered leagues above such fray — is run by former White House aides Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney.

Former Gingrich aide Becky Burkett is president of the pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future, and on Wednesday former Gingrich press secretary Rick Tyler joined as its senior adviser.

Restore Our Future is led by former Romney campaign advisers Carl Forti and Charles Spies.

And in the case of Our Destiny PAC, a super PAC that supports Republican presidential long-shot Jon Huntsman, Huntman’s father has provided much of the funding for it.

The pro-Perry Make Us Great Again super PAC and pro-Huntsman Our Destiny PAC have primarily produced ads that laud their candidates of choice instead of tearing down opponents.

Both Perry and Huntsman are lagging in polls, and super PAC attack ads would likely do little to help their increasingly imperiled campaigns. But both super PACs have shown they have significant resources – Make Us Great Again has spent nearly $2.5 million this autumn, Our Destiny PAC nearly $1.9 million – meaning they possess plenty of firepower if they choose to get nasty.

Concern persists among some Republicans that super PACs will have an eroding effect on candidates, with their negativity turning off voters and messages doing more harm than good.

For one Republican presidential candidate, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, the situation is beyond unseemly.

“Super PACs threaten our freedom. They allow a few special interests to dominate in some of these early states, and we don’t even really know who’s behind them,” said Roemer, whose quixotic campaign will only accept donations of up to $100 and has no independent political committee supporting it. “They’re having a powerful, powerful effect. And we don’t even know how powerful they’ll get.”

And while super PACs must almost immediately report independent expenditures they make, they may wait weeks, even months, to report who’s funding their efforts.

But some notable partisans say they’ll prove to be a most useful tool once fully turned against Democrats.

Paul Lindsay says the National Republican Congressional Committee, for one, “welcomes the assistance of any organization that supports our goal of expanding the majority — what we’re focused on is what we can focus on.”

In that regard, are independent political organizations helping Republicans more than they’re hurting them?

“Yes,” Lindsay said.

Like it or not, independent groups are “going to be around for a while in this form, and they’re elevating their game,” said Rick Wiley, the Republican National Committee’s political director.

“They’re getting to the point where they know what they’re doing, and a lot of times, they’ll provide air cover for us,” Wiley said. “It’s very welcome. It’s great, in fact.”