Clinton, Top Dems Take Contributions From Lobbyists at Firms Hired by Koch Industries

Dems have lambasted Koch influence, money in politics

Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and Hillary Clinton / AP
Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and Hillary Clinton / AP
February 9, 2016

Top Democratic politicians and committees have taken tens of thousands in contributions from individuals who work at firms that lobby on behalf of Koch Industries, despite railing against Koch’s influence for years, according to campaign finance filings.

Charles and David Koch, the billionaire libertarian philanthropists and heavyweight political donors, have been at the center of the Democrats’ "dark money" campaign finance battle in recent years. Democrats have charged that Republican politicians who receive funds from the Koch network are "beholden" to their political agenda.

However, individuals who work at firms that actually do represent Koch interests have also poured money into the coffers of Democrats, many of whom have long been openly critical of the expansive Koch network, such as Hillary Clinton and Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.).

Clinton, who received $3,500 from Koch Industries in 2008, as recently as Feb. 3 chastised the Koch brothers during a Democratic town hall, claiming they "want to rig the economy so they continue to get richer and richer" and that Republican politicians do their "bidding." Clinton has collected more than $4 million in bundled lobbyist contributions since launching her campaign.

Capitol Counsel, a lobbying firm based in Washington, D.C., was hired in 2014 to lobby for Koch Industries, and was paid $290,000 for its services. The firm was paid another $320,000 in 2015 for its lobbying activities.

David Jones and Richard Sullivan, who together have bundled more than $700,000 for Clinton’s campaign, are two of the top lobbyist bundlers for Clinton this election cycle. Both are partners at Capitol Counsel. Jones and Sullivan did not respond to a previous request for comment on their bundling activities.

Individuals at Capitol Counsel also gave a total of $39,650 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2014. The committee targeted Koch Industries and the Koch brothers in nationwide attack ads against Republican politicians while simultaneously fundraising off the efforts.

The committee, despite its campaign lambasting the influence of Koch-affiliated money, also took $30,000 in direct contributions from the Koch PAC in 2008 and yet another $30,000 in 2010.

The committee called Koch Industries in 2011 asking for a donation from the group. The executive director of the committee at the time, Guy Cecil, chalked up the outreach as a "staff error." Koch Industries responded by saying that this was not the only time the committee’s finance staff has asked for a "substantial contribution" from the group.

Sen. Harry Reid, perhaps the most outspoken Senate Democrat against Koch money in politics, collected contributions totaling $12,600 from employees at Capitol Counsel in 2014.

Reid has called the Koch brothers "modern-day robber barons" on the Senate floor, among other colorful terms. The Nevada senator also has devoted a section of his Senate website to "facts" about the Koch brothers, saying they want to abolish Social Security, eliminate minimum wage laws, and "dismantle" Medicare, among other claims.

Reid has nevertheless accepted large sums of money from Koch-employed lobbyists.

The Palmetto Group collected more than $1.5 million in lobbyist cash from Koch Industries between 2009 and 2014.

Palmetto employees also donated more than $450,000 to Democrats as the firm lobbied for Koch interests. One lobbyist from the group, who worked directly on Koch issues between 2010 and 2014, gave more than $100,000 to Democrats during that time.

Employees at the firm donated $10,500 to Reid in 2010, the most any candidate received that year from Palmetto. Another $2,000 was donated to Reid in 2012.

During the 2012 and 2014 elections, individuals at the Palmetto Group donated $17,250 to the committee.

The Clinton campaign, Reid’s office, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee did not return requests for comment.