DENVER — ProgressNow Colorado founder and CEO Michael Huttner today in the Capitol presented a list of high-powered Washington, D.C., lobbyists who have donated to U.S. Senate candidate Jane Norton since she launched her campaign last month. Combing through Norton’s latest finance disclosure forms, Huttner’s progressive activist organization found 11 top national lobbyists among her donors, many of them the source of ethics scandals and the targets of investigation.
Huttner also handed out a copy of the invitation for a Washington, D.C., Norton campaign fundraiser hosted by the candidate’s sister Judy Black and her husband Charlie Black.
The Blacks are part of the capital’s K Street lobbying elite. Judy Black’s clients include companies in the health care, oil and gas and banking industries. Charlie Black worked for tobacco, oil, and drug companies for decades, moving back and forth between leadership positions at lobbying firms and Republican political campaigns and organizations. Judy Black was national co-chair of the 2008 fundraising group “Women for McCain.” Charlie left the firm BKSH & Associates the same year to work as senior adviser for the McCain campaign.
“The fundraiser was hosted at The Monocle,” said Huttner, referring to the swank Capitol Hill restaurant known as a favorite site of lobbyist-lawmaker power lunches. “This is the place,” said Huttner. “It’s within steps of the Senate office buildings.”
Norton, he said, will not be working for the people of Colorado.
“She is the dream candidate of corporate lobbyists in Washington, D.C. They have undue interest in her campaign.”
Huttner renewed calls for Norton to sign a pledge to “fight the undue influences of special interests in Washington” and “reject any trips, gifts, campaign donations or economic benefits” that might come directly from or through her lobbyist relatives. The organization first asked Norton to sign the pledge when she announced her candidacy.
This latest round of lobbyist donors revealed to be on the Norton list include Alex Castellanos, a CNN contributor who was recently exposed as an anti-reform shill, paid by the Republican Party and the insurance industry to mouth analysis and opinions in line with industry wishes.
Castellanos appears to have donated $2,400 to the Norton campaign on the night of the Monocle fundraiser.
Rick Davis, another top McCain 2008 campaign adviser, gave the Norton campaign $2,000 the day after the fundraiser. He was a lobbyist for telecommunications companies COMSAT and SBC Communication as well as McCain’s campaign manager in 2000. He was called out by the Center for Public Integrity at the time, for a conflict of interest when it was discovered that McCain, as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, was helping decide the legality of mergers on the part of COMSAT and SBC.
“Lobbyists are part of all campaigns,” said Huttner. He conceded, in part, that association with lobbyists alone is not evidence of wrongdoing. Lobbyists come from all walks of life. There are organic farming and public education lobbies just as there are energy and health care lobbies. Huttner made the point repeatedly that the problem here corporate interests seeking to find lawmakers who will put corporate interests above constituent interests.
Asked if ProgressNow had evidence that Norton’s long ties to lobbyists had influenced her work in government and politics in the past, Huttner said he thought her work as a health care advocate for Coloradans under Gov. Bill Owens was suspect. But he had no specifics.
But look at this list of names, he said, pointing to the paper on his podium.
“These are lobbyists seeking to kill any health reform. I have no faith Norton will do anything but what her brother-in-law and sister want.”
The press conference was meant to address the public policy ethics of the specific lobbyists and interests tied through campaign contributions and family to the Norton campaign.
The ProgressNow Norton pledge:
I, Jane Norton, pledge to the People of Colorado, that I am committed to fighting the undue influence of special interests in Washington, DC.
Accordingly, I pledge that I will reject any trips, gifts, campaign donations or economic benefits that are provided to me through my relatives who are lobbyists by the companies that hire them to influence public policy.