Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Podesta Watch: White House Visits, Red Shoes and 61 Percent Gains

Tony Podesta, the California stem cell agency's man on the Potomac, is making news again, largely for flashy fundraising and access to the Obama White House.

Podesta was hired as a federal lobbyist by CIRM last February under a 10-month, $240,000 contract. California state agencies, rarely if ever, hire federal lobbyists, although the state does maintain a lobbyist on the state payroll in Washingon.

Podesta visited the White House five times in six months, but the clients were not identified. Our guess is that they did not include CIRM. So far, CIRM Chairman Robert Klein has not reported publicly to his board of directors on what California taxpayers are receiving for their money. Podesta's contract with CIRM is due to expire in December but could be extended.

Here is a rundown on recent Podesta stories:

Podestas Rule Washington and Obama Guest List” – US News and World Report – The story says it shows “the power of the Podesta family. Between them, Obama adviser and former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta; his brother, lobbyist Tony Podesta; and Tony's lobbying wife Heather made 25 visits. By comparison, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made one visit.”

Holdouts to Obama's Vow to Change” – Commentary by Albert R. Hunt, formerly of the Wall Street Journal and now of Bloomberg, “Heather and Tony Podesta are conscientious objectors to the culture of change in Washington. The husband and wife, with separate lobbying firms, are raking in millions from the insurance and drug industries, tobacco companies and corporate interests fighting changes to labor laws or the overhaul of the student-loan program.” In New York Times also.

Tony Podesta Scoops Up Nearly $19 million in Third Quarter, Up 61 percent – National Journal

"Tony Podesta has happy feet for 65th birthday” – Washington Examiner - Podesta and friends celebrate his birthday at a high-profile fete wearing red shoes.

Big money buys seats at lawmakers' dinner tables” – Washington Times --Heather Podesta, wife of Tony and a lobbyist herself, throw fundraiser at her $2 million home

Then there is this paean to Heather Podesta in the Washington Post in August that had, as they say, tongues wagging along the Potomac.

Releasing the names of the White House visitors was a first. The Bush administration refused to do so. Initially Obama adopted that position but wisely changed his mind. The release of the list attracted a great deal of coverage because of its novelty but that will diminish.

Here is a link to the White House list of Podesta visits.

As readers may recall, we have raised questions about the effectiveness and propriety of CIRM's efforts to become a player in Washington politics. We do not object to CIRM making its voice heard in Congress nor particularly in Sacramento. But CIRM has more than enough laundry to take care of in the Golden State. Attempting to become a major influence in Washington will require funds and time that CIRM cannot afford.

Here is a link to one article on the subject. You can also search on the terms “podesta” and “lobbying.”

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