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Chamber of Commerce Deploys Former Government Officials to Lobby On Financial Regulation

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Billed as the biggest opponent of financial regulatory reform, the US Chamber of Commerce is deploying former government officials to lobby the House Committee on Financial Services as the mark-up on legislation begins today. Fifty-five percent of lobbyists registered to lobby for the Chamber of financial regulation are former government officials, including the former chief of staff to a key committee member.

According to second quarter lobbying disclosure reports, the Chamber currently employs, directly or through outside lobbying firms, thirty-four lobbyists registered to lobby on financial regulation. Nineteen of those thirty-four are former government officials. Lobbyists with prior work in government are well-suited to quickly get results as they have established relationships with important actors on Capitol Hill and in the Executive Branch.

John Michael Gonzalez is one of the nineteen former government officials hired to lobby with the Chamber of Commerce. Up until this year, Gonzalez was the chief of staff to Financial Services Committee member Melissa Bean. Bean is currently pushing to remove a provision from the Consumer Financial Protection Act that would allow states to craft stronger consumer protections. The move is backed by national banks and trade groups like the Chamber of Commerce. Bean has received over 40% of her 2009 campaign contributions from the finance, insurance and real estate sector.

Gonzalez works for the lobbying firm Peck, Madigan, Jone, & Stewart Inc. His company bio specifically hightlights his relationship with the Chamber when working for Bean, "Mr. Gonzalez successfully planned and executed a winning re-election strategy, raising $4.3 million and earning the most support of any incumbent from the US Chamber of Commerce."

Ethics law preclude Gonzalez from lobbying Bean's office, but do not keep him from lobbying the Financial Services Committee. This could include key committee members who may support Bean's preemption policy. CongressDaily reports that Rep. Dennis Moore is in discussions with Rep. Mel Watt about a compromise. Both Moore and Watt have received over 45% of their 2009 campaign contributions from the finance, insurance and real estate sector.

There is little doubt that lobbyist pressure is being put on members to support Bean's preemption policy given the preponderance of lobbyists in attendance at the committee mark-up. Gonzalez' long-time Hill connections, especially through Bean's office to the Financial Services Committee, will give the Chamber a boost in its lobbying effort.

Bean is being opposed by Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jon Corzine and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Madigan has gone so far as to tell Bean to, "put the interests of our consumers before those of the banks that led us in part to this financial crisis."

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Chamber of Commerce has spent over $26 million so far this year on lobbying expenses. This total, if spending remains the same across quarters, will exceed their spending for 2008 and become the largest amount ever spent on lobbying by the Chamber.