- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 23, 2008

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama has made a pledge not to accept money from lobbyists, but his running mate - Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. - has collected over $200,000 from registered lobbyists in this year alone, according to a search of Senate lobbying records.

Mr. Biden’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign and his still-pending race to be re-elected to the U.S. Senate in Delaware, according to the records, collected another $86,000 from lobbyists this year. The senator’s political action committee, Unite Our States, also received $120,500 from lobbyists this year, the records show.

“Obama has been outspoken about contributions from lobbyists, vowing not to accept any contributions from them. Biden doesn’t seem to have quite the same view,” the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a Washington-based political watchdog group, said Saturday.

The lobbying industry has given Mr. Biden at least $344,400 since 1997, according to the group’s calculation, making lobbyists his 10th largest contributing industry. Lawyers and law firms are his No. 1 donors.

Mr. Obama has banned any donations from lobbyists during his campaign. The Democratic National Committee took up the ban as well when the Illinois lawmaker became the presumptive nominee.

“I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists - and won,” Mr. Obama said in a November speech in Iowa. “They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president.”

But Seth Wimer, executive director of the Delaware Republican Party, described the selection of Mr. Biden as a “contradiction with what Obama’s been talking about all along.

“Obama has been using the line about change in Washington and changing the people in Washington,” he said. The Biden selection “highlights Obama’s lack of experience by picking Joe Biden with a 30-plus-year history in Washington.”

The campaign of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain also noted Mr. Biden’s lobby ties and their incongruity with Mr. Obama’s stance.

“Barack Obama decries Washington insiders and detests lobbyists, but Joe Biden is the model Washington insider,” McCain spokesman Ben Porritt said.

The Obama campaign did not return a request for comment Saturday.

CRP said that less than 1 percent of Mr. Biden’s campaign cash came from political action committees, which is nearly in line with Mr. Obama’s decision not to accept any PAC money in an effort to limit the influence of special-interest money in politics.

According to federal election records, Mr. Biden raised $11.3 million for his 2008 presidential campaign, far short of the $20 million he originally said he would need to compete in the early primary states.

The Delaware senator, who also ran for president in 1988, dropped out of the 2008 race in early January after winning less than 1 percent in the Iowa caucuses and lagging far behind the fundraising totals of Mr. Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat.

In addition to lawyers and law firms, the industries that have given the most to Mr. Biden during his career include real estate firms and executives at $1.3 million and retirees, who have contributed $1 million.

The CRP said Mr. Biden is among the top 10 collectors of money from lawyers and law firms since the 1990 election cycle. The watchdog group also ranks him among the top 20 in contributions from the real estate industry in the same period.

His largest contributor since 1990, the group said, has been credit card giant MBNA Corp., which, despite being acquired by Bank of America a few years ago, remains atop the list of Mr. Biden’s major contributors at more than $214,000. MBNA officials also have made significant direct contributions to Mr. Biden.

As an industry, the CRP said finance and credit companies have contributed nearly $300,000 to Mr. Biden in his career, making them his 12th most generous industry.

Mr. Obama has vowed to target credit card companies as president, setting up a five-star rating system so consumers know the risk involved with various credit cards and establishing a consumer bill of rights to guard against unfair practices.