Warren Opposes Lobbyists' Donations, Despite Accepting $95,000 in 2012, 2018

Warren endorsed a Democratic Senate candidate who accepted over $15,000 from lobbyists in 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren/ Youtube Screenshot
September 17, 2019

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) on Monday released her anti-corruption plan, which includes a ban on lobbyists making contributions to political candidates, despite accepting at least $95,000 from lobbyists during the 2012 and 2018 election cycles.

Warren went into detail about her anti-corruption plan during a speech Monday at Washington Square Park in New York City.

"Lobbyists and a public official should be a matter of public record. No more lobbying on behalf of foreign governments," Warren said. "And no more campaign contributions or bundling by lobbyists. Contributing to a campaign at the same time that you are paid to influence those same elected officials is the very definition of bribery, and we're going to put a stop to it."

While Warren has publicly decried the influence of lobbyists during her presidential campaign, she previously accepted at least $95,000 from federally registered lobbyists during the last two Senate campaigns. One of the donations includes a $2,500 check from Gerald Cassidy, the founder of lobbying giant Cassidy & Associates. He previously agreed to a $25 million contract to lobby in 2010 for Mir Quasem Ali, a convicted Bangladesh war criminal, according to CNBC.

Federal Election Commission filings and lobbying disclosure reports show that Warren accepted the money during the 2012 and 2018 Senate election cycles. The sum from lobbyists represents just a tiny fraction of the money she raised during those Senate campaigns. A $10.4 million transfer from her Senate political committee helped fund the early stages of Warren’s presidential campaign.

Since then, Warren has focused on appealing to small dollar donors. She raised $19 million in the second quarter with an average donation of $28 and has refused contributions from lobbyists. Many other primary contenders have followed her lead in not taking money from lobbyists. In the buildup to her run for president, Warren was a vocal critic of lobbyists.


The next year, Warren’s campaign accepted a $2,500 check from Gerald Cassidy, the founder of lobbying giant Cassidy & Associates. In 2010, Cassidy and his team agreed to a $25 million contract to lobby for convicted Bangladesh war criminal Mir Quasem Ali. At the time, Ali was being investigated by an International Crimes Tribunal and was sentenced to death in 2014 for crimes against humanity.

When Warren ran for reelection in 2017, she received $1,000 from Henry Menn, a lobbyist who later founded his own firm, Government Counsel LLC. Disclosure reports show his clients include Medtronic, a medical device company, and Lupin Pharmaceuticals, a drug manufacturer whose holding company is based in India.

Warren's press secretary Saloni Sharma acknowledged the Massachusetts senator has received past contributions from federal lobbyists but attempted to downplay the donations by shifting the conversation to Warren's grassroots support.

"For nearly two years, Elizabeth’s campaign operation has screened and rejected federal lobbyist donations. For over a year, she has rallied candidates and Members of Congress to support her legislation to ban federal lobbyist donations," Sharma told CNBC. "Instead of cynically attacking a handful of old donations dwarfed by millions of grassroots contributions in order to deflect from their own practices, every candidate for President should step up, reject federal lobbyist contributions, and support Elizabeth’s comprehensive anti-corruption platform, which would end it permanently."

Robert Crowe, a Warren donor who lobbies for Nelson Mullins, told CNBC he was "not happy with the overall plan" and added, "I think the whole thing is silly." He cut two $2,500 checks in 2011 to support Warren's Senate campaign. She also received criticism from former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell (D.) last week in a Washington Post op-ed.

"Warren didn’t seem to have any trouble taking our money in 2018, but suddenly we were power brokers and influence peddlers in 2019," Rendell wrote last week. "The year before, we were wonderful. I co-chaired one of the events for the senator and received a glowing, handwritten thank-you letter from her for my hard work."

Rendell hosted an event for Warren in 2012 while he worked at Ballard Spahr, lobbying for KCI USA, a medical device manufacturing company. The fundraiser cost attendees $5,000 to gain entrance, according to CNBC.

In addition to accepting money from lobbyists, Warren endorsed Jaime Harrison, a former corporate lobbyist who is running for Senate to replace Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), back in May. Warren said Harrison "will fight hard for the people of South Carolina and take our country forward."