Lobby ties con­tra­dict ‘out­sider’ la­bel on Sen. Bi­den

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JIM MCELHATTON

DEN­VER | Sen. Barack Obama is try­ing to por­tray him­self and his run­ning mate, Sen. Joseph R. Bi­den Jr., as the “out­sider” ticket of the year, but Mr. Bi­den’s 35-year ca­reer in the Se­nate may make that a dif­fi­cult sell. One need look no fur­ther than Mr. Bi­den’s re­la­tion­ship with his lob­by­ist son and his law firm to see why.

Mr. Bi­den’s cam­paign has hired lawyers from his son’s firm to do its le­gal work. His son’s firm lob­bied for the Uni­ver­sity of Delaware and, in turn, Mr. Bi­den cham­pi­oned fed­eral fund­ing for lu­cra­tive projects, known as earmarks, in con­gres­sional spending bills.

In ad­di­tion, Mr. Bi­den’s son, Hunter, once worked for MBNA, the gi­ant credit-card com­pany, whose em­ploy­ees are the elder Bi­den’s largest source of cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions and whose side Mr. Bi­den took in a con­tro­ver­sial bank­ruptcy-law fight.

All of which makes Mr. Bi­den a vet­eran of the types of in­sider fights that “out­siders” are sup­posed to es­chew. “He’s no stranger to how the sys­tem works,” said David Wil­liams, vice pres­i­dent of pol­icy for the Cit­i­zens Against Gov­ern­ment Waste.

Repub­li­cans are seiz­ing on the ties be­tween Mr. Bi­den and his son’s lob­by­ing firm, call­ing Mr. Bi­den “a model Wash­ing­ton in­sider with nu­mer­ous con­nec­tions to lob­by­ists and spe­cial in­ter­ests,” said Danny Diaz, spokesman for the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee.

But Mr. Obama’s cam­paign, which re­fuses do­na­tions from fed­eral lob­by­ists, down­played the crit­i­cism and said that the se­na­tor’s son has never lob­bied his fa­ther on be­half of any clients or em­ploy­ers.

“All the Repub­li­can spin un­der the sun can’t change the fact that Joe Bi­den has a 35-year record fight­ing for peo­ple when pow­er­ful in­ter­ests have stood in the way of the pub­lic in­ter­est, whether it’s drug com­pa­nies, oil com­pa­nies or in­sur­ance com­pa­nies,” Obama spokesman David Wade said.

Ac­cord­ing to Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion records, em­ploy­ees of Ol­daker, Bi­den & Be­lair LLP have done le­gal work for Mr. Bi­den’s po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns. This year alone, the lob­by­ing firm earned $140,000 in le­gal fees from Mr. Bi­den’s pres­i­den­tial bid.

Last year, the for­mer trea­surer for Unite Our States, Mr. Bi­den’s po­lit­i­cal fundrais­ing com­mit­tee, was Phu Huynh, a lawyer who works at Ol­daker, Bi­den & Be­lair. David McNitt, for­mer cus­to­dian of records for the Bi­den cam­paign fund, also works at the lob­by­ing firm as a leg­isla­tive as­sis­tant. The firm did not re­turn phone calls Aug. 25 for com­ment.

The Uni­ver­sity of Delaware over the years has paid more than $1 mil­lion in lob­by­ing fees to Ol­daker, Bi­den & Be­lair and the Na­tional Group, an af­fil­i­ate.

This year, Mr. Bi­den and fel­low Delaware Demo­crat Sen. Thomas R. Carper se­cured two earmarks worth more than $400,000 for the uni­ver­sity, ac­cord­ing to Cit­i­zens Against Gov­ern­ment Waste, a non­par­ti­san group that tracks earmarks and op­poses con­gres­sional spending that it con­sid­ers ex­ces­sive.

The uni­ver­sity has re­ceived more than $5 mil­lion in earmarks since 2004, the group said.

Uni­ver­sity spokesman Neil Thomas said R. Hunter Bi­den was part of the Ol­daker, Bi­den & Be­lair law firm that cre­ated the Na­tional Group, “but he did not di­rectly work with” the uni­ver­sity.

Mr. Thomas said the uni­ver­sity de­cided to drop its lob­by­ing con­tracts this spring and will no longer em­ploy a Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ing firm. The uni­ver­sity praised the elder Bi­den’s ef­forts on its be­half.

“As a Delaware se­na­tor, Se­na­tor Bi­den has al­ways been re­spon­sive to rep­re­sent­ing the Uni­ver­sity of Delaware’s in­ter­ests on fed­eral mat­ters,” Mr. Thomas said. “He and his staff have been sup­port­ive of a num­ber of uni­ver­sity fund­ing pri­or­i­ties, and that sup­port pre­dates the uni­ver­sity’s hir­ing of the Na­tional Group.”

Some em­ploy­ees of the lob­by­ing firm who have con­trib­uted to Mr. Bi­den’s cam­paigns won’t be al­lowed to do so now be­cause they’re fed­eral lob­by­ists, and Mr. Obama has banned lob­by­ist from con­tribut­ing to his cam­paign.

William Ol­daker, who gave $4,600 to Mr. Bi­den’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, has lob­bied for dozens of clients over the past decade, in­clud­ing pow­er­ful cor­po­ra­tions such as Delta Air Lines, Xerox Corp. and to­bacco gi­ant Phillip Mor­ris, Se­nate records show.

Some of Mr. Bi­den’s big­gest po­lit­i­cal sup­port has come from the fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try, in­clud­ing more than $200,000 from em­ploy­ees at MBNA Corp. in Delaware. The New York Times re­ported that Mr. Bi­den’s son also has worked as a con­sul­tant for MBNA from 2001 to 2005.

Mr. Bi­den also sup­ported a bank­ruptcy bill fa­vored largely by Repub­li­cans and MBNA, while Mr. Obama has crit­i­cized the leg­is­la­tion on the cam­paign trail.

Mr. Wade, the cam­paign spokesman, said Mr. Bi­den’s son never lob­bied his fa­ther on MBNA, ei­ther.

“I want to be crys­tal clear. Hunter Bi­den has never lob­bied Se­na­tor Bi­den’s of­fice or com­mit­tees, pe­riod,” Mr. Wade said. “He’s never worked on a client is­sue where other mem­bers of the firm have lob­bied the of­fice. Hunter has never lob­bied for MBNA. Se­na­tor Bi­den has been as strong a sup­porter of ethics re­form as the Se­nate has known, and his of­fice fol­lows all ethics laws right down to the let­ter.”

S.A. Miller con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Ties that bind? Demo­cratic vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Sen. Joe Bi­den

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.