- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2008

EXCLUSIVE:

DENVER | Sen. Barack Obama is trying to portray himself and his running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., as the “outsider” ticket of the year, but Mr. Biden’s 35-year career in the Senate may make that a difficult sell. One need look no further than Mr. Biden’s relationship with his lobbyist son and his law firm to see why.

Mr. Biden’s campaign has hired lawyers from his son’s firm to do its legal work. His son’s firm lobbied for the University of Delaware and, in turn, Mr. Biden championed federal funding for lucrative projects, known as earmarks, in congressional spending bills.

In addition, Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, once worked for MBNA, the giant credit-card company, whose employees are the elder Biden’s largest source of campaign contributions and whose side Mr. Biden took in a controversial bankruptcy-law fight.

All of which makes Mr. Biden a veteran of the types of insider fights that “outsiders” are supposed to eschew. “He’s no stranger to how the system works,” said David Williams, vice president of policy for the Citizens Against Government Waste.

Republicans are seizing on the ties between Mr. Biden and his son’s lobbying firm, calling Mr. Biden “a model Washington insider with numerous connections to lobbyists and special interests,” said Danny Diaz, spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

But Mr. Obama’s campaign, which refuses donations from federal lobbyists, downplayed the criticism and said that the senator’s son has never lobbied his father on behalf of any clients or employers.

“All the Republican spin under the sun can’t change the fact that Joe Biden has a 35-year record fighting for people when powerful interests have stood in the way of the public interest, whether it’s drug companies, oil companies or insurance companies,” Obama spokesman David Wade said.

According to Federal Election Commission records, employees of Oldaker, Biden & Belair LLP have done legal work for Mr. Biden’s political campaigns. This year alone, the lobbying firm earned $140,000 in legal fees from Mr. Biden’s presidential bid.

Last year, the former treasurer for Unite Our States, Mr. Biden’s political fundraising committee, was Phu Huynh, a lawyer who works at Oldaker, Biden & Belair. David McNitt, former custodian of records for the Biden campaign fund, also works at the lobbying firm as a legislative assistant. The firm did not return phone calls Monday for comment.

The University of Delaware over the years has paid more than $1 million in lobbying fees to Oldaker, Biden & Belair and the National Group, an affiliate.

This year, Mr. Biden and and fellow Delaware Democrat Sen. Thomas R. Carper secured two earmarks worth more than $400,000 for the university, according to Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonpartisan group that tracks earmarks and opposes congressional spending that it considers excessive.

The university has received more than $5 million in earmarks since 2004, the group said.

University spokesman Neil Thomas said R. Hunter Biden was part of the Oldaker, Biden & Belair law firm that created the National Group, “but he did not directly work with” the university.

Mr. Thomas said the university decided to drop its lobbying contracts this spring and will no longer employ a Washington lobbying firm. The university praised the elder Biden’s efforts on its behalf.

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