WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney opened up numerous lines of attacks in July on President Barack Obama for playing the inside Washington game by cutting deals on health care reform, giving government funds to campaign donors and meeting with lobbyists on various policies. While Romney has not yet laid out how he would play inside the Beltway politics, or whether he would play at all, campaign contribution records show that he is already deeply connected to Washington's permanent class of lobbyists, donors and influence seekers.
Seven-hundred forty-eight Washington lobbyists and dozens of corporate and lobbying firm PACs have already given $1.87 million to benefit Romney through his campaign or through the victory committee sending funds to the Republican National Committee and a host of state parties, according to records filed with the Secretary of the Senate. The majority of that -- $1.32 million -- was raised in the past six months and disclosed in the last few days of July. These lobbyists have also been central to his campaign's finance operation, raising $5.25 million from their friends, family and clients.
The Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee do not accept contributions from federally registered lobbyists.
The amount of money lobbyists in Washington are giving directly to Romney's campaign is already close to matching the amount raised by 2008 Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). These contributions and other connections suggest a future administration that would be well-connected to the influence machine in the nation's capital.
"These lobbyists make their careers because of their close ties to elected officials so they can secure favorable policies for their clients," says Adam Smith, the communications director of Public Campaign, a campaign finance watchdog. "There's no reason to think that a Romney administration backed by these lobbyist contributions would be anything but business as usual."
The Romney campaign did not return a request for comment on its contributions from lobbyists.
Lobbyists giving to Romney work for a host of industries, many of whom would benefit from policies the Republican presidential candidate touts.
The list includes financial services companies lobbying for a loosening of new rules in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, including Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and the industry trade group the American Bankers Association. It includes fossil fuel energy companies working to roll back Environmental Protection Agency regulations and open up more land for drilling, mining and fracking, like Koch Industries, Duke Energy, Chevron, Chesapeake Energy, BP, Exxon Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute. And it includes defense industry contractors like Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Halliburton and Boeing looking for a big boost in defense spending.
The lobbyists working for these companies get donor perks from the campaign depending on how much they give and how much they raise. The donor perks, as outlined in a Politico article, include invitations to important fundraisers, one-on-one meetings with the candidate, VIP access to the campaign and discussions with policy advisors.
Even if those perks are not enticing to lobbyists, many of whom are already well-connected within the party, their contributions will help provide access in the future. Former Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), the fundraiser who helped move the Democratic Party in a more business-friendly direction, explained in 1983 that campaign contributions are meant to gain access: "We sell ... the opportunity to be heard."
Some of Romney's informal policy advisers are themselves registered lobbyists. The campaign's top bundler, Barclays lobbyist Patrick Durkin, hosted a roundtable discussion on financial services policy at a Washington fundraiser heavily attended by the denizens of K Street, the corridor where lobbying firms have been historically located. Durkin has raised $1.11 million for Romney's campaign and donated $27,500 to Romney and his victory committee.
American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard, a $2,500 donor, is a close friend of Romney's and was called one of Romney's "most trusted advisers" in a Roll Call article. Gerard's API, the official trade association of the oil industry, has lobbied heavily against EPA regulations and pushed for more offshore oil drilling in recent years. Its chief goal, like that of much of the fossil fuel industry, is to prevent any measure from advancing in Washington that could restrict fossil fuel emissions to combat global climate change. Gerard has been floated as a possible chief of staff in a Romney White House.
Charlie Black, one of the original consultants-cum-lobbyists in Washington, provides informal advice to the Romney campaign. At the same time, he lobbies for companies like AT&T, General Electric, Google and trade groups like TechNet. These companies crave low corporate tax rates and allow for a tax repatriation holiday, contracts with the government and government appointees that oppose net neutrality policies. Black has donated $2,500 to the Romney campaign.
Other informal advisers include the lobbyists Wayne Berman and Vin Weber, both longtime hands at straddling the line between campaign advice and lobbying. Berman, who has given $7,000 to Romney's efforts, lobbies for more than a dozen companies including Chevron, Exelon, The Blackstone Group, Pfizer and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Weber, a lobbyist for eBay, Hyundai and for-profit college Capella Education, among others, has not yet contributed or raised money for the Romney campaign.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the names of former Rep. Tony Coelho and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.