After bashing K Street, Dodd mingles with lobbyists

After distancing himself from lobbyists in campaign ads, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) was on Martha's Vineyard this weekend meeting with some of the most well known names on K Street.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) hosted its annual retreat this weekend at the high-class getaway. Designed for candidates to meet with senators for campaign advice and policy guidance, several high-powered lobbyists also attend and network with lawmakers during the retreat.

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Dodd's attendance at the retreat follows a series of web videos his campaign released promoting his populist credentials and highlighting the frustration some lobbyists are feeling with the senator, including quotes from anonymous lobbyists in news reports.

Facing a tough campaign, Dodd has been aggressive in running on his recent legislative moves — such as passage of the credit card reform bill and his support of a consumer financial products agency.

"You almost have to feel sorry for the poor lobbyists. They just can't get Chris Dodd to listen to them," says Dodd's campaign website introducing one of the videos.

Noting his presence at the lobbyist-attended retreat, some K Street insiders contend that Dodd is taking one stance publicly and a different one privately.

A state party aide said despite Dodd being at the retreat, it does not mean he is siding with K Street. Instead, lobbyists can still expect the Connecticut Democrat to fight special interests on behalf of voters, the aide added.

"If lobbyists thought they had a hard time currying favor with Sen. Dodd before, you can imagine what calling him an idiot might do to their chances," said Colleen Flanagan, communications director for the Connecticut Democratic Party. "By virtue of his job in the Senate, clearly lobbyists want things from him, but as the numerous blind quotes have proven, they aren't getting them, and that's just fine by us."

Many politicians, including President Obama, have criticized lobbyists on the campaign trail. Obama refused to accept donations from registered lobbyists as well money from political action committees. Dodd’s campaign has no such restrictions. However, Dodd does not accept contributions from companies that received funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

According to an invitation list for the retreat obtained by The Hill, several influential lobbyists were invited to the event. For example, Ben Barnes of the Ben Barnes Group, former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) of the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group and Ed Black of the Computer & Communications Industry Association are on the list.

Almost 30 senators were expected to attend the retreat, according to the invitation list, including Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and newly swore-in Al Franken (D-Minn.). Senate candidates invited to the event were Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) and Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D). Rep. Charlie Melancon (D), who is considering mulling a bid against Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), was also invited.