Kelly Ayotte is one of five New Hampshire Republicans competing for their political party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Judd Gregg. Ayotte likes to adopt the pose of an advocate for honest government, bemoaning that, “Unfortunately, in Washington, backroom deals have become the norm and legislators trading favors for votes has become common place.”
The reality of Ayotte’s campaign, however, appears to swerve dramatically away from this anti-corruption rhetoric. What do you think that Kelly Ayotte herself will be doing today at 6:00 PM? Her campaign web site hasn’t released the information to New Hampshire voters, but this evening, Ayotte will be attending what is euphemistically referred to as a “reception” to serve her senate campaign. What will be received at this reception? Money – and lots of it.
In order to attend this event, and have the privilege of meeting with Kelly Ayotte, representatives for political action committees have been told they will have to pay at least $1,000. If they wish to be given a higher status of access, they can pay $2,000 for that. Other individuals will be allowed the privilege of being in the same room with Ayotte, perhaps speaking to a representative of the campaign, for $500.
Where will the money-for-access exchange take place? That’s not certain. Initial communications about the event don’t indicate the location. It’s a typical backroom meeting of the sort that Ayotte claims to be against. Will backroom deals be made in that backroom meeting? That’s hard to say for those of us who don’t have enough money to pay the high fee for attendance, but certainly Ayotte is not a U.S. senator yet. Perhaps there will only be backroom suggestions, listened to with special appreciation earned through generous donations.
Consider, however, the sort of people who are making this fundraiser possible for Ayotte, serving as “hosts” of the event:
Cino used to a Deputy Secretary at the Department of Transportation, but she is now working as a lobbyist for Pfizer, the largest pharmaceuticals corporation in the world.
Formerly the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Principi is now the chief in-house lobbyist for Pfizer, the corporation’s Vice President of Government Affairs.
Elise Pickering is a lobbyist as well. Formerly the Chief of Staff for Congressman John Shadegg, Pickering now works for the lobbying firm Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti. Pickering’s clients include the American Petroleum Institute, Medicare Cost Contractors Alliance, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the National Venture Capital Association, and Wal-Mart.
Lampkin once worked as the General Counsel for Congressman John Boehner, but is currently employed as a lobbyist for Quinn, Gillespie & Associates. Among Lampkin’s many clients are the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, Cayman Finance, Cayman Islands Financial Services Association, corporate accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (involved in the Enron accounting fraud scandal), the US Telecom Association, and credit card giant Visa.
Schlapp was White House Deputy Director of Political Affairs for George W. Bush. Now, however, Schlapp is a federally registered lobbyist and Executive Director of Federal Affairs at Koch Industries.
Wolff was a congressional liaison for the White House and Deputy Staff Director for the Senate Republican Policy Committee before she became a lobbyist, sitting as a partner at the lobbying firm Hogan & Hartson. Wolff has a long list of clients, including Intrepid Mining, Occidental Petroleum, Graceway Pharmaceuticals, and Maples and Calder, a financial firm that works in the Cayman Islands.
Hirschmann used to work as Chief of Staff for Tom DeLay, before DeLay lost his position in Congress due to his involvement in corrupt relationships with lobbyists. It’s fitting, then, that Hirschmann is now a lobbyist herself, at the firm Williams & Jensen. Her clients include pharmaceuticals giant Abbott Laboratories, Pfizer, Sunoco, Visa, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals America.
Mattoon once was Deputy Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, but he left that work to found lobbying firm PodestaMattoon, along with veteran political insider Tony Podesta, who has been working backroom deals in Washington D.C. since the 1960s. Among the clients of Mattoon’s lobbying services are tobacco corporation Altria, Rolls-Royce, Clear Channel Communications, and pharmaceuticals giant Amgen.
Card used to be Chief of Staff for Congressman John Sweeney, then went to work in the Executive Office of the President. Now, Card holds the position of “Managing Principal” as a lobbyist with Dutko Worldwide. He represents clients such as the Greater New York Hospital Association and the Grocery Manufacturers Associations.
Kelly Ayotte won’t just be meeting these lobbyists, of course. Others will be in attendance at her cash reception tonight… and at her luxury luncheon tomorrow.
At noon tomorrow, Ayotte will walk up the steps of the townhouse you see here, at 421 New Jersey Avenue SE, in Washington D.C., and attend a lunch meeting being held to bring money to her campaign. That lunch will cost $1,000 for representatives of political action committees, and $500 for individuals.
Why the two prices? Aren’t they all receiving the same lunch? Yes, but perhaps they’ll be receiving different levels of service from Kelly Ayotte.
It’s not known whether the lunch will be served in the front room or the backroom of that townhouse, but with her involvement in events like these, where great deals of money are passing between Washington D.C. insiders, Kelly Ayotte’s credibility as a candidate who would seriously confront “backroom deals” is gravely damaged.