Bloomberg News reported today that the Democratic Party will name additional corporate lobbyists to leadership posts in the party, which would allow them to vote as “superdelegates.”
Superdelegates are able to vote on the party’s presidential nominees, and were the subject of some controversy in both 2008 (when Hillary Clinton tried to court them even as she lost the actual primary elections and caucuses) and in 2016 (where Bernie Sanders did kind of the same thing).
In 2016, reporting from The Intercept and the Sunlight Foundation (where I worked at the time) noted that dozens of these superdelegates were registered lobbyists. Many more were “shadow lobbyists,” who advocate on an issue but avoid disclosing this work under lobbying laws.
The existence of superdelegates at all is a weird, old-fashioned throwback to the time of “smoke-filled rooms,” and seems pretty darn unnecessary. More than that, having paid lobbyists fill these positions does nothing to dispel the image of the Democratic Party as a corrupt institution filled with elites, bought-and-paid for politicians, and useless consultants.
Anyway, let’s see if the Democrats have considered any of this and learned from their mistakes. (All the quotes below are from Bloomberg):
The new members-at-large of the Democratic National Committee will vote on party rules and in 2020 will be convention delegates free to vote for a primary candidate of their choice. They include lobbyists for Venezuela’s national petroleum company and for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., according to a list obtained by Bloomberg News.
A DNC aide who asked not to be identified defended including the lobbyists, saying they were all carry-overs from the last presidential election cycle and were renominated because of their service to the party.
One of the lobbyists is Joanne Dowdell, who’s registered as a federal lobbyist for News Corp., where she’s senior vice president for global government affairs. Dowdell ran for New Hampshire’s House seat as a Democrat in 2012 and is a party donor.
Two other lobbyists who disclosed corporate clients in their most recent public reports are Clinton White House veteran Harold Ickes and Manuel Ortiz. Ortiz’s clients this year include CITGO Petroleum Corp, owned by the Venezuelan government, and Citigroup Management Corp. Ortiz also lobbies for Puerto Rican interests.
On Wednesday, the party’s “Unity Commission” will vote on proposals that could limit the influence of superdelegates, Bloomberg reports. It will not vote on proposals to end superdelegates entirely, or to kick lobbyists out of the party infrastructure, or ban lobbyist and corporate donations entirely—but don’t worry, it won’t take donations from corporate donors “whose work conflicts with the party platform.” So, payday lenders no, but big banks that got away with the mortgage crisis, probably.
The Democratic Party must realize that the time for half-measures and dealing with lobbyists are over, and it hasn’t. It has not realized this. Instead it is renominating them because of their “service to the party.” It has learned nothing.