The Washington D.C. super-lobbyist who has raised the most cash for Hillary Clinton this election cycle says that lobbyists aren’t paid enough and also complained about the Obama administration’s ban on members of the trade in his administration.
Heather Podesta’s comments came during an interview hosted on Facebook with Vox editor-in-chief Ezra Klein.
During one part of the interview, which was flagged by The Intercept, a viewer asked Podesta why lobbyists are paid so much.
“I think we’re not paid enough,” Podesta replied as she and Klein laughed together.
The Vox editor appeared sympathetic to Podesta and the lobbying business, calling her a “member of…the most maligned industry on the campaign trail today.”
The Intercept noted that Podesta’s eponymously named boutique firm raked in $7.5 million last year.
Considered one of the best in the business, Podesta told Klein that President Obama’s ban on lobbyists has hurt his administration.
“I think Obama hurt himself by taking such an arms-length posture with the Washington community,” Podesta told Klein. “By attacking Washington in that way, there was a bit of a brain drain and a lost opportunity.”
Following up on a promise he made as a candidate in 2008, Obama implemented policies which prohibited lobbyists from holding certain positions at federal agencies. Lobbyists were also not allowed to hob-knob with top administration officials or Obama himself.
The Democratic National Committee followed Obama’s lead at the time but has reversed course this election cycle. The change has been a boon to Hillary Clinton, who is a favorite recipient of lobbyist-raised campaign cash.
Podesta has led the way in that regard. She has raised $348,581 so far this election cycle for Clinton, with whom she campaigned earlier this year. Podesta’s lobbyist ex-husband, Tony Podesta, has also raised $130,900.
“I think we all like having a boogeyman to point to,” Podesta said of lobbyists’ public portrayal. “The characterizations are caricatures of what actually exists.”
Podesta’s client roster includes Herbalife, the dietary supplements company which is at the center of a Federal Trade Commission probe. The agency is looking into whether the company operates as a pyramid scheme. The company pays Podesta $60,000 per quarter to inform members of Congress about its products.
She also represents Marathon Oil, a company whose 20 percent ownership in the Athabasca oil sands development in Alberta, Canada makes it a major target of climate change activists.
Think Progress, the online journal associated with the Center for American Progress, which was founded by Podesta’s ex-brother-in-law John Podesta, has been heavily critical of the Athabasca project, claiming that it contributes to climate change and has destroyed the environment in Alberta.
Marathon pays Podesta $40,000 every three months to “monitor energy legislation and regulations affecting the domestic oil and gas industry.”
The Intercept posted a picture of Podesta posing for a picture with Neera Tanden, the current president of the Center for American Progress. A staunch Hillary Clinton supporter herself, Tanden has railed against fossil fuel companies.
In their interview, Klein asked Podesta about complaints from members of Congress about lobbyists’ influence.
“I just find it preposterous,” she said, adding that it’s “not the lobbying class that keeps people from taking hard votes, it’s the member themselves.”