President Barack Obama’s new senior campaign adviser is a longtime Wall Street lobbyist, and has the potential to damage the president’s aspirations to appeal to the protesters currently “occupying” New York City’s Zuccotti Park.
Obama’s new adviser, Broderick Johnson, has an extensive history of lobbying for big banks and corporations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2007, he lobbied for JP Morgan Chase and in 2008 Johnson lobbied for Bank of America and Fannie Mae. From 2008 through 2010, he lobbied for Comcast and in 2011 he lobbied for Microsoft.
Johnson is currently a partner at D.C.-based communications firm Collins Johnson Group, which boasts that it excels at “providing superior strategic planning and political consulting services to multinational corporations, government entities, political campaigns and parties, elected leaders, nonprofit organizations, issue groups, investors and entrepreneurs.”
Including open houses and social events, Johnson has visited the White House 17 times since 2009, according to White House visitor logs. One of those meetings was with Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.
In early 2009, Johnson was named partner at lobbying firm Bryan Cave LLP’s Washington, D.C. office. In that role, his responsibility was to “establish and lead the firm’s new Public Policy & Governmental Affairs Client Service Group.”
That means that during those White House visits, Johnson was a registered lobbyist.
Johnson also donated more than $150,000 of his own money Democratic candidates and causes since 2008. Public political donation records show Johnson has, since 2006, never donated to a conservative or a Republican.
Perhaps most troubling to those who normally would consider themselves Obama’s 2012 base, though, is how Johnson has lobbied on behalf of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Huffington Post previously reported that Johnson is a “former Bryan Cave LLP lobbyist registered on the Keystone XL account” and that Bryan Cave LLP earned approximately $1.08 million lobbying for TransCanada between 2009 and 2011.
Environmentalists are upset about the near-finalized pipeline proposal that would allow TransCanada to build a $7 billion, 1700-mile pipeline through the heart of the United States. If the State Department approves the proposals and the pipeline is built, it would transport crude oil from tar sands in Alberta, Canada to U.S. refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.
Liberal group Friends of the Earth, which adamantly opposes the Keystone XL pipeline, is furious with Obama’s decision to hire a former pro-pipeline lobbyist. The group is disgusted with what it considers Obama’s blatant support for crony capitalism.
“Apparently the hope and change idealism of the 2008 campaign has been replaced by cynical status quo insiderism for 2012,” Friends of the Earth spokesman Nick Berning told The Daily Caller. “It’s as though the Obama campaign were intentionally trying to alienate its base.”
The Obama re-election campaign appears to have tried to hide or downplay Johnson’s lobbying history, as the original campaign press release announcing his hire completely ignored it. Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse hasn’t returned TheDC’s request for comment on the issue, either.
Later, though, Politico reported that an anonymous Obama campaign official said Broderick “is no longer a lobbyist — he deregistered in April — and he will not discuss any matters related to his former firm’s clients with the campaign.”
The Republican National Committee, however, thinks this kind of behavior on the part of the Obama campaign is typical and to be expected from the president.
“This is just more of the same from the president that promised he would change Washington,” RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in an email to TheDC. “While President Obama publicly attacks lobbyists and Wall Street, he’s more than happy to use their influence and cash to fuel his campaign.”
Even though it’s hiring Wall Street lobbyists, Obama’s 2012 campaign plans to channel the Occupy Wall Street movement into an attack on Republicans, according to the Washington Post. Obama has announced public support for the protesters, too. In an October 6 news conference, Obama said that the protest movement “expresses the frustrations the American people feel, that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country.”
“And yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on the abusive practices that got us into this in the first place,” Obama added.
It’s unclear how, if at all, Obama can account for the inconsistencies between his campaign rhetoric and his actual political actions. Hiring Johnson represents another test for Obama, if he’ll actually address concerns about the former Wall Street lobbyist’s past.
Johnson’s wife, National Public Radio host Michele Norris, also announced she plans to recuse herself from hosting the taxpayer-subsidized radio network’s All Things Considered program through the 2012 election because of an apparent conflict of interest.