Monday, 22 December 2008

Buying political influence: getting in on the ground floor?

US ABC News has highlighted an interesting aspect of American political life - how Obama is finessing political donors' expectations of influence.

He's banned lobbyists from the transition team and stopped companies from giving money to the effort – some of the boldest limitations on money in a presidential transition

But big donors -- particularly bundlers -- still play a key role in his transition efforts. And good government groups say the real test for whether President-elect Barack Obama will change the culture of lobbying depends on whether he can address the broader question of special interests funding campaign donations.

"They are important for sending a signal but let's not confuse the low hanging fruit with the real hard fruit," said Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center..........

Despite the ban on lobbyists, not all big money people have been banned from the effort. Bundlers, many of whom raised hundreds of thousands for Obama, are still allowed to play a role.

Public Citizen has identified at least five members of the transition team so far who raised upwards of $50,000 for the Obama campaign, including Valerie Jarrett, a transition co-chair; Susan Rice, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute; Julius Genachowski, managing director of Rock Creek Ventures; Donald Gips, a vice president of Level 3 Communications; and Michael Froman, a Citigroup managing director.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Inaugural Committee lists those privately contributing to his inauguration splurge; including shareholders/employees of a numbers of companies such as Agvar Chemicals, Innova Aviation Consulting LLC, Kpmg LLP, Verizon Telecommunications, Google Inc, Cheyenne Exploration Inc, Tyco International.

It looks as though companies might get to pay and play after all.

Full list of Obama bundlers at White House For Sale

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