The Democratic lawmakers didn’t seem troubled by the DNC rule change at all:
At a posh event hosted by The Atlantic and paid for by the American Petroleum Institute oil lobby, Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, shrugged off concerns about the influence of special interest groups.
“I don’t know, you’ll have to ask the DNC on that,” he said in response to a question whether lifting the ban was the right move.
“Do you think that lobbyists have undue influence?” we followed up.
“I don’t know.”
“What about energy lobbyists? What about oil lobbyists?”
“What about ’em?”
“Do you think they have undue influence in the United States?”
“I think they’re just like teachers, like firemen, like everybody who contributes.”
“What about the Koch Brothers, who spent $400 million on an election?”
“You’ve gotta go talk to the Koch Brothers,” he replied, ending the conversation.
Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia offered a Willie Sutton justification for lifting the lobbying ban. “The lobbyists, that’s where the money is,” he said.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley made attacks on special interests a cornerstone of his short-lived Democratic presidential primary campaign — decrying Hillary Clinton’s “cozy relationship with Wall Street.” Just a few short months later, his concern about moneyed interests influencing the Democratic Party seem to have evaporated.
“I’m really kind of agnostic on it,” he said. “I really don’t care one way or another.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland ducked the question. “It’s above my paygrade,” he quipped.
Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver said he would never have banned lobbyists like Obama did in the first place. “I wouldn’t have done it,” he said. “It’s not a matter of wrong or right. It’s a matter of making sure we have the resources to put on a convention.”
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, the chair of the DNC’s Host Committee, has refused to disclose donors to that committee until 60 days after the convention.
In an interview with The Intercept, Rendell insisted there was nothing wrong with keeping the committee’s donors secret until just a few weeks before the election, and he downplayed the influence of big donors. “I never made one decision where I was influenced by a campaign contribution,” he said.
“So why are lobbyists giving money to the DNC now again,” we asked. “Are they doing it just because they have extra money to give?”
“They want access,” he acknowledged.
Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan avoided the question. “At this point I want to focus on the basic issues. I’m in favor of getting money more and more out of politics,” he said. When we followed up by asking whether lobbyists should be able to fundraise for the DNC, he walked away.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California stopped to talk to us, but after hearing the subject, briskly walked away as a fleet of staffers blocked off access to her.
A staffer for Rep. Adam Schiff of California asked the subject of our interview question. She then informed her boss, who told her, “I don’t want to talk about that.”