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Lobbyists’ Plea to ’04 Hopefuls: Describe Us ‘Accurately’

Distressed that lobbyists have become rhetorical punching bags on the campaign trail, the American League of Lobbyists sent a letter to all of the presidential candidates Tuesday urging them to “accurately” describe their profession’s contribution to the public policy process.

ALL President Deanna Gelak said several recent statements by candidates prompted the group’s board of directors to issue the letters. Although they were sent to the entire Democratic field as well as President Bush, Gelak specifically cited comments by Sens. John Edwards (D-N.C.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.).

Edwards has frequently mentioned lobbyists on the campaign trail and suggested that “we ought to cut them off at the knees.” Kerry has vowed to “free our government from the grip of the lobbyists,” who he says “trip over themselves to fund the Bush-Cheney campaign.”

On that point, ALL’s letter emphasizes that the group is nonpartisan and doesn’t support political candidates.

“Lobbying is an essential part of the American political process protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and one of the major ways that politicians are held accountable to the people,” the letter reads. “Lobbyists represent all points of view on the major issues that confront the country and the Congress.”

In addition to Kerry and Edwards, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) has railed against “Washington insiders,” and he and Edwards have both criticized Kerry for taking more money from lobbyists than any other Democratic candidate.

Edwards has a policy of not taking campaign contributions from lobbyists and wants to outlaw such donations to Members of Congress and presidential candidates.

Dean’s new campaign manager, Roy Neel, was a lobbyist until he began teaching college a few years ago. Edwards’ top aide, Nick Baldick, was a registered lobbyist as late as 2002, although Edward’s campaign maintains that he did no lobbying work and his firm erroneously registered him.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark also lobbied during the three years between his resignation from the Army and the start of his presidential candidacy.

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