- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine was asked during a television interview last fall how President Obama has changed Washington.

“Let me start with the DNC,” said the former Virginia governor. “We don’t take PAC and lobbyist money.”

But Mr. Kaine does. On Tuesday, he spent more than an hour at Cornerstone Government Affairs LLC at a Capitol Hill campaign fundraiser. The lobbying firm represents some of the country’s biggest corporations, including Wal-Mart, Johnson & Johnson, General Dynamics and Boeing.

Saying he was running late for an event, Mr. Kaine declined to discuss the fundraiser as he walked into Cornerstone on Tuesday evening. He referred inquiries to his campaign spokeswoman.

As DNC chairman, Mr. Kaine often noted that the party doesn’t take money from federal lobbyists. Mr. Obama insisted on the ban in 2008.

“We turn away checks from PACs. We turn away checks from federal lobbyists. That’s new for the DNC … because the Obama campaign did it and we want to be able to look our donors in the face and say, ‘Yeah, you’re an individual. There’s room for you at the table,’” he told MSNBC.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Kaine confirmed that he would accept contributions from lobbyists and political action committees during his run for the Senate. The campaign also pointed out that before Mr. Kaine became DNC chairman, he accepted contributions from PACs and lobbying sources during his 2005 campaign for Virginia governor.

“As a candidate, Gov. Kaine has always welcomed lawful donations from anyone who shares his vision for progress for Virginia and the nation,” Kaine spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine wrote in an email Wednesday. “No donors get special treatment and none are second class citizens.

“Though we expect to be out-raised and outspent by the other side in this race, just as we were in the 2005 race, we’ve put in place a plan that will provide our campaign with the necessary resources to mobilize our grassroots network of supporters and take our message of fiscal responsibility, job creation and balance and civility across the Commonwealth,” she wrote. “We feel good about our progress toward that goal so far.”

The nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, which obtained an invitation to the fundraiser, noted that its hosts included some prominent Democratic lobbyists, including Paul Dinino, who was finance director at the DNC under President Clinton; Jeff Forbes, a former staff director at the Senate Finance Committee; and Eddie Ayoob, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

Over the past year, the firm has represented dozens of clients seeking to influence Congress and federal agencies from companies such as Microsoft and Pfizer to lesser-known organizations such as the National Limousine Association and the National Wild Turkey Federation, according to Senate lobbying disclosure reports.

Former Sen. George Allen, who has announced that he would be trying to recapture the seat he lost to Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat, in 2006, hasn’t sworn off lobbying or PAC money. Since being voted out of office, he has been running a consulting firm that hired as its federal lobbyist a former aide to Mr. Allen.

But Mr. Kaine’s decision to accept donations from lobbyists and political action committees puts him at odds with Mr. Obama, who ordered the DNC to bar such contributions when he became the Democratic nominee in 2008.

Even as Mr. Obama named Mr. Kaine DNC chairman in 2009, the president called for “shedding our ingrained habits of taking money from federal lobbyists and special interests.” It’s a policy Mr. Kaine discussed in numerous media appearances.<t-5>

“Look, the Democratic National Committee, all of our dollars come from individuals,” Mr. Kaine said during an interview with MSNBC in October. “We don’t raise money from corporations, PACs or federal lobbyists, and we’re raising more money than we’ve ever raised in our history for a midterm election.”

Mr. Kaine expressed a more nuanced position when asked about Mr. Obama’s prohibition of lobbying contributions during a 2008 interview with Charlie Rose.

“I work with lobbyists and folks and PACs all the time in Virginia,” Mr. Kaine said. “They’re not bad. But I think there’s a sense sometimes in Washington that they kind of have a veto power over policy initiatives.”