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Scandalized DOE loan program has Romney connection

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The federal energy loan program that has created headaches for President Barack Obama has a Mitt Romney connection.

Cathy Tripodi of FaegreBD Consulting lobbies on behalf of Abound Solar, a company that was awarded a $400 million loan guarantee through the same Department of Energy program that aided Solyndra, the now-bankrupt California company that included an Obama bundler as an investor.

Tripodi is a bundler for Romney. She raised $27,000 for the presumptive Republican nominee in April, according to documents filed by his campaign with the Federal Election Commission Sunday.

After receiving a federal loan guarantee, Solyndra ultimately went bankrupt, sticking taxpayers with a $535 million bill and providing fodder for Republican attacks against the president and his green energy initiatives.

Many pundits and politicos began uttering Abound's name in the same sentence as Solyndra this spring, after Abound announced plans to lay off 280 workers from a Colorado plant and delay the opening of a factory in Indiana. Earlier this month, the Government Reform Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives brought in Abound's president to testify.

Abound paid $150,000 to FaegreBD Consulting to lobby Congress and the Department of Energy from November through March, records show.

Tripodi is one of 25 lobbyists who have raised more than $3 million for Romney's campaign.

Tripodi did not respond to requests for comment, and Steve Abely, Abound Solar's chief financial officer, said her fundraising activities "have nothing to do with consulting she does for Abound and are therefore none of the company's business."

Thanks to ethics rules passed in 2007 in the wake of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, all campaigns must regularly reveal the names of lobbyists who fundraise -- or "bundle" -- money on their behalf.

Federal law limits how much money individuals can contribute to politicians, but bundlers often gain additional influence by asking their friends, relatives and business associates to write checks, which may be delivered in one "bundle" to a campaign.

Unlike Obama, Romney has not publically revealed the names of all of his campaign bundlers -- disclosures that were by made by previous Republican presidential candidates, including George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

In April, Tripodi was joined by two other first-time lobbyist-bundlers: Chris Bravacos, whose sole client so far this year is the prescription drug trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), and Kraft Foods' Abigail Blunt.

Bravacos raised $30,300 for Romney in April, while Blunt collected $28,700.

Notably, Blunt is the wife of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who has been one of Romney's biggest boosters on Capitol Hill. According to Reuters, the senator was hand-picked to recruit other members of Congress to endorse Romney this spring, while Romney was still locked in a primary battle with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

According to campaign documents Romney's bundlers will be granted perks such as special access to debates and the Republican National Convention, weekly campaign briefings and attendance at finance team retreats.

Bundlers who raise at least $500,000 achieve the "Stripes" level, and people who raise at least $200,000 are awarded the "Stars" level. The names of all Stars and Stripes-level fundraisers will also be published in a commemorative book.

One of Romney's lobbyist-bundlers appears to have reached the Stripes level: Patrick J. Durkin, Sr., of banking giant Barclays, who has raised more than $927,000 for Romney, records show.

Meanwhile two of his other lobbyist-bundlers look to have reached the Stars level.

One is Wayne Berman, of Ogilvy Government Relations, who has raised nearly $425,000 for Romney. His clients include PhRMA, drug-maker Pfizer, Chevron, Visa, US Airways and the American Petroleum Institute.

The other is T. Martin Fiorentino, Jr., of the Fiorentino Group, who has lobbied on a variety of transportation, infrastructure, health care, telecommunications and appropriations issues over his career. He has raised more than $325,000 for Romney.

Records further show that Austin Barbour -- the nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who is a lobbyist at the Clearwater Group -- is almost to the Stars level, having raised $210,700 for Romney.

Obama, meanwhile, does not accept contributions from registered lobbyists, nor are lobbyists allowed to bundle money on behalf of his campaign.

His campaign has released a list of 532 bundlers who have collectively raised more than $106 million for Obama and his joint fundraising committees.

Continue this story and read more investigations at iWatch News

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