Tidbits for Iowans


DLA Piper, the most generous backer of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, lobbies for defense giant Lockheed Martin on environmental issues (perchlorate, and this bill in particular), for First Kuwaiti

General Trading & Contracting Co. (which has been accused of paying kickbacks to a Kellogg Brown & Root manager), and a private citizen who, DLA Piper reports, has paid it $200,000 to, among other things, “urge the Secretary of State to designate the Quds Force, a unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, as a foreign terrorist organization.”

Blank Rome, the top giver to John McCain’s campaign, lobbies for the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority, an Alaska governmental body charged with building one of the two bridges to nowhere. The firm’s government relations arm says of earmarks that, “Our professionals have assisted clients in securing billions of dollars in federal funds. Our clients include universities, states, municipalities, Native American tribes and groups, trade associations, nonprofit organizations, corporations, transportation and infrastructure interests, and other entities.”

Goldman Sachs, which has been lobbying on everything from subprime mortgages and taxes to immigration and foreign trade, is currently the most generous donor to both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. (They’re also number two for Clinton, number five John Edwards, Chris Dodd and McCain, and number 16 for Rudy Giuliani.

Over the weekend, I was listened to several Iowa events on CSpan radio. I kept wishing one of the Iowans would ask, say, John Edwards how his administration would react were it approached by lobbyists for his most generous contributor, Fortress Investment Group LLC, about the “tax treatment of investment companies,” (one of their issues). Fortress, which used to employ Edwards, is represented by, among others, former IRS commissioner Fred T. Goldberg, who works for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP,, which just happens to be Edwards’ tenth biggest donor.

Or perhaps some corn husker could ask Giuliani where his administration stands on offshore tax shelters; Ernst & Young, his top patron, is currently lobbying (go to page 5 of the form) on S. 681, the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act. When he introduced the bill, Sen. Carl Levin listed some of the abuses the bill intended to end:

Abusive tax shelters are another target. Abusive tax shelters are complicated transactions promoted to provide tax benefits unintended by the tax code. They are very different from legitimate tax shelters, such as deducting the interest paid on your home mortgage or Congressionally approved tax deductions for building affordable housing. Some abusive tax shelters involve complicated domestic transactions; others make use of offshore shenanigans. All abusive tax shelters are marked by one characteristic: there is no real economic or business rationale other than tax avoidance. As Judge Learned Hand wrote in Gregory v. Helvering, they are “entered upon for no other motive but to escape taxation.”

Four current and former Ernst & Young partners have been accused of doing just that.

Following the money isn’t quite as easy as I’d like, but it’s never been easier. The Center for Responsive Politics provides summary financial information on every candidate, plus links you can follow to find their biggest campaign contributors (labeled “Top Contributors” on the candidate profile pages). You can also use our friends at CRP to find out if these donors lobby the federal government; for more detailed information on what they’re doing, you can look up and read the actual lobbying forms at the Senate Office of Public Records Web site.

Of course, all this can be done for members of Congress too — something I’ll be doing a series of posts on in the New Year.