At the request of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Representative Martin Heinrich has been adopted by a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm. He has been taken under the wing of the Raben Group, headed by Robert Raben, former aide to Rep. Barney Frank (D. Mass.) and an assistant attorney general during the Clinton Administration. Raben runs what the The Washington Examiner describes as “perhaps the leading K Street advocate of liberal causes.” Its clients include the scandal-ridden ACORN, The Center for Reproductive Rights, and People for the American Way.
But the Raben Group also represents large corporate interests, especially in the financial sector. Raben’s former boss, Barney Frank, not coincidentally, chairs the House Financial Services Committee. Raben clients include General Electric, which has a huge financial services arm and was No. 2 in lobbying over the past year and No. 1 over the past decade, according to The Washington Examiner. The Raben Group also represents Prudential, MasterCard, UBS, Time Warner Cable, the Property Insurers Casualty Association, Microsoft, Amgen, WellMed, and real estate firms. Its past clients include Pfizer, Aetna, Home Depot, NBC, Sony, and Viacom.
The arrangement promoted by Pelosi has been described by lobbyists on the receiving end of the request as “unusual.” “They basically asked us to adopt a Member [of the U.S. House of Representatives],” one lobbyist told The Hill. Michael Coleman of The Albuquerque Journal’s Washington bureau has observed that Pelosi has engaged in the same sort of legal, but highly questionable conduct for which she and other Democrats once criticized former GOP House Whip Tom DeLay of Texas. He ran “The K Street Project,” which made explicit demands to lobbyists to contribute money to GOP campaigns.
Michael Coleman: “K Street Connection Legal, ‘But Dumb’”
But what Pelosi has done goes further than DeLay’s efforts to put the arm on lobbyists. She is plugging lobbyists directly into the re-election campaigns of sitting Congressmen, who are simultaneously being lobbied by the very same lobbyists working with their campaigns. Despite the serious ethical concerns this raises, as Coleman reported, Heinrich has accepted his adoption by one of K Street’s prominent lobbyists.
Raben’s Clients, Heinrich’s Power and Positions In Sync
Robert Raben likes to burnish his firm’s image as a project that serves the needs of non-profits and progressive causes. His stable of clients bursts with the leading advocacy groups for abortion and homosexual causes. His firm has played a prominent role in the effort to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule governing homosexuals in the military. Heinrich serves on the House Armed Services Committee and voted to repeal that rule. He is also very closely aligned with abortion rights advocacy groups. He has helped raise money for NARAL Pro-Choice New Mexico and his wife has been a member of that group’s the Board of Directors. He hired the group’s former executive director onto his staff. NARAL has endorsed Heinrich’s re-election.
The Raben Group’s published client list is here.
The Open Secrets report on Raben’s largest 2009 lobbying clients is here.
The Open Secrets report on Raben’s largest 2010 lobbying clients so far is here.
The Hill did a short video profile on Robert Raben in which he touts his firm’s activist work, but doesn’t mention his large corporate clients.
Raben’s business has exploded since the election of Barack Obama. He has been adding more corporate clients to represent their interests during the health care and financial regulation debates, though most of the firm’s work continues to come from advocacy groups. His ties with Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, have not hurt his business as he has added clients in the financial services sector. Raben has bundled political contributions for Frank’s re-election committee. The Raben Group has taken over the entire sixth floor of the building owned by The Human Rights Campaign, a Raben client, to accommodate his growing staff. Its business was up 50% in 2009 over the previous year’s revenues, according to The Hill.
Heinrich’s Non-Response To Ethical Concerns
Following our first report on Heinrich being adopted by a Washington lobbyist, we e-mailed a series of questions to him about the ethical implications of this unusual arrangement. After all, we wondered, isn’t this the sort of conduct Heinrich was going to change once he got to Washington, D.C.? Wasn’t he going to be better than the Congressmen tainted by DeLay’s K Street Project? He did portray himself as a reformer, a breath of fresh air, someone who would stand up to the culture of corruption inside the Beltway. He said he was going to be different.
So we asked him:
1. Which lobbying firms are working with your re-election campaigns? Which lobbying firm has selected you at the request of Speaker Pelosi?
2. Who are the individuals from these lobbying firms and what are they doing for your re-election campaigns? Are any working in your campaign offices?
3. Are these firms lobbying you or members of your staff on any issues or proposed legislation? Explain what that consists of.
4. Are you going to refuse all contact with the lobbying firm(s) who have adopted your campaign at the request of House Speaker Pelosi? Are you cutting off all contact with the other lobbying firms who are participating at her request in providing direct assistance to other Democrats seeking re-election?
5. How are you going to address the potential for abuse and the appearance of unethical conduct by having members of lobbying firms that lobby you and other members of Congress working directly on your re-election campaign?
We have received only this response from Heinrich’s campaign:
Thank you so very much for writing. I appreciate the time you have
taken. I will be in touch soon.
If your email was of an “official” nature, meaning that it is a
constituent letter or inquiry having to do with my congressional
office, I would encourage you to use the email address
WriteMartin@mail.house.gov in the future. That email address reaches
my staff much quicker then does the firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you can imagine, I am trying to save as much of my hardworking
donors’ money as possible and thus do not have a robust campaign staff
at the present time. On top of which, the rules that govern the House
of Representatives forbid my official staff (rightfully so) from
accessing information from my campaign.
I appreciate your understanding and I look forward to seeing you soon.