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Murray's Lobbying Criticism Comes Back to Bite

Murray's Lobbying Criticism Comes Back to Bite

By Erin McPike - August 30, 2010


Democrats found some success in the last two campaign cycles by pointing fingers at Republicans for their connections to lobbyists and are whipping out that rhetoric again in key races. Now that Democrats have the ultimate control in Washington, D.C., however, Republicans are working to dismantle that message piece by piece, and the latest example is in Washington State.

Sen. Patty Murray, the fourth-ranking Democrat in Senate leadership, recently aired a TV ad attacking Republican opponent Dino Rossi for taking campaign donations from corporate lobbyists at a Beltway fundraiser earlier this summer. The closing message in the spot is this: "Dino puts his lobbyist contributors ahead of our jobs, and that won't get us back to work."

It may not be a direct comparison, but Murray has her own connection to lobbyists: About a dozen former high-level staffers to Murray now serve in high-profile lobbying jobs. More than a quarter of Murray's campaign kitty this cycle has come from PACs.

Bruce Boram, a Washington State GOP consultant who has advised Washington Republican Rep. Dave Reichert, called Murray's tactic "staggering."

"She's been a senator since 1992," Boram said. "Anybody can tell you that she's plugged in with lobbyists. She's taken lots of PAC money over the years, so trying to turn that around on Rossi is the ultimate pot calling the kettle black."

In addition to Murray's leadership position, she is also a high-ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. Consequently, another veteran Washington GOP operative suggested that Murray's campaign must be feeling nervous about the candidate's prospects if they're already running an ad on special interests in August when "there are a number of lobbyists who make their living off of her." He added, "You're inviting scrutiny by running that ad."

According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Rick Desimone, a former chief of staff to Murray for eight years, is an executive vice president of McBee Strategic Consulting. "A Washington state native, Rick Desimone has served at the nexus of politics and government in Washington State for over 16 years," reads his bio.

McBee's clients include defense giants Boeing and BAE Systems, which enjoy heavy presences in the Evergreen State. And another recent McBee executive vice president was Casey Sixkiller, who contributed to Murray's campaign last year and whose client list included Boeing. Sixkiller served Murray as a policy adviser.

Michael Timmeny, a former Murray staffer, is a Washington representative for Cisco Systems; former Murray staff assistant Chad See, now with the firm K&L Gates, represents a range of clients from the City of Bothell, Washington, to Berkshire Hathaway.

Murray spokeswoman Julie Edwards shot down the lobbying criticism and said it's Rossi who "has taken position after position that's detrimental to the state and that happen to fall in line with corporate lobbyists."
Edwards repeated several times, "If you look at Patty Murray's record, she's taking the side of Washington State."
Most of the lobbyists formerly on Murray's payroll have local and municipal clients in Washington State, and a number have environmentally focused clients, as well.

Both McBee and Gordon Thomas Honeywell Government Affairs - another firm that employs several former Murray staffers - have substantial presences in the state and the Beltway. The latter firm employs Nate Potter and Dale Learn, who count some of Washington's cities in their client lists.

Murray's former legislative director, Ben Lee McMakin, represents the cities of Bellingham and Kent as part of his portfolio for Van Ness Feldman; another former member of the senior staff, Justin LeBlanc, counsels several cities and several area hospitals in his role at the Petrizzo Strategic Group.

As for larger influences, Murray also has a healthy level of campaign cash from two major corporations: Microsoft, which is headquartered in Redmond, Washington; and Boeing, which was headquartered in Seattle until 2001 but remains the state's largest employer with more than 73,000 residents.

Other than donations funneled through the Democratic fundraising site, ActBlue, Microsoft is Murray's top contributor for the cycle, accounting for nearly $91,000 of her war chest since 2005. Boeing is next with about $75,000 in the same time period. With her leadership PAC added into the mix, both corporations have given Murray more than $100,000 apiece this cycle.

When Murray's cycle-long donations are broken down by industry in the Center's database, lawyers and law firms came in first with about $524,000. "Lobbyists" came in second with $441,000.

Similar data is not yet available for Rossi, but as of July 28, six percent of his war chest came from PAC donations.

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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