By CHRIS FRATES, Politico
Tom Daschle has earned millions of dollars telling the nationâ€™s biggest companies how to get what they want from official Washington.
Heâ€™s not a lawyer, but he works for a law firm â€” one thatâ€™s regularly cited as one of the highest-grossing lobbying shops in town. One of Daschleâ€™s most trusted aides is a lobbyist, well known on the Hill as the former Senate Democratic leaderâ€™s emissary.
In short, Daschle, working with his firmâ€™s lobbyists, uses his decades of congressional experience to tell clients how to favorably influence policy.
But Daschle insists, â€œI do not lobby.â€
â€œI provide my clients with analysis, not access. I offer them strategic advice on public policy matters, including analysis of the substance, procedure and politics associated with different policy initiatives, whether they be legislative, regulatory or otherwise,â€ Daschle wrote in an e-mail to POLITICO.
Daschle, a senior policy adviser at DLA Piper, is part of a new and seemingly growing class of individuals who take an active role in Washingtonâ€™s advocacy trade â€” but donâ€™t register as lobbyists.
Itâ€™s not just a matter of skipping some paperwork. By not registering, these individuals donâ€™t have to disclose specific clients they advise, issues theyâ€™re working on or how much their firms make from their advice â€” routine information disclosed by registered lobbyists under laws designed to shine a light on who is seeking to influence policy and why.
â€œYou donâ€™t know what theyâ€™re doing, and they have an incredible amount of power and access that no average American would ever have and that no average American can find out about either. Itâ€™s a double whammy,â€ said Dave Levinthal of the Center for Responsive Politics, a political money watchdog.
But now, one group is standing up to say, â€œEnoughâ€ â€” lobbyists.
The American League of Lobbyists has teamed with the Sunlight Foundation in hopes of changing the law to require more of Washingtonâ€™s influence class to register.
â€œI donâ€™t care if you call it a rainmaker or a strategic adviser, if youâ€™re talking to a lawmaker about any issue or anything youâ€™re lobbying,â€ said Dave Wenhold, president of the league, which represents 1,100 lobbyists.
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