Lobbyist Oliver sits out ’08 primaries

Republican moneyman-turned-lobbyist Jack Oliver won’t be dialing for presidential-primary campaign dollars this year. Instead, he’ll be focusing on his co-chairmanship of the ONE Campaign, an anti-poverty initiative founded by rock star Bono.

Oliver, President Bush’s finance director in 2000 and campaign vice chairman in 2004, is taking on a distinctly new role in presidential politics in the coming months: advising ONE on the art of influencing contenders from both parties. His mission will be to make the fight against global poverty part of all the White House hopefuls’ campaign platforms.

“This is kind of a new thing for me,” said Oliver, who also serves as the chairman of Bryan Cave Strategies and as a senior adviser to Lehman Bros. “It’s a chance for me to give back and use some small modicum of skill from doing politics.”

Oliver, a native Missourian who has worked for Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and former Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.), said his faith as an evangelical Christian and his commitment to social justice weighed heavily in the decision to join ONE.

Plus, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who occasionally worked with Democrats on anti-poverty issues, and former White House official John Bridgeland encouraged Oliver to take on anti-poverty issues, he said.

The ONE Campaign aims for an additional 1 percent of the budget to be dedicated to anti-poverty and -disease programs for the world’s poorest countries. The umbrella organization boasts a mailing list of 2.5 million people and has more than 100 partners, including the NAACP, OxFam, Mercy Corps and a spectrum of religious groups. ONE considers itself a post-ideological organization.

Susan McCue, a former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), is the group’s chief executive. Dan Rosensweig, a former chief operating officer of Yahoo and a powerful Democratic donor, is a fellow co-chairman. The eight board members include representatives from major non-governmental organizations, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Google and DATA, a think tank founded by Bono.

Former Clinton White House press secretary Mike McCurry and GOP media consultant Mark McKinnon are outside advisers.

“Jack has opened doors to a wide Republican network and brought new exposure to ONE as we move forward in a bipartisan and nonpartisan way,” McCue said.

ONE hopes to combine advocacy with cool.

For example, as Congress completed last year’s appropriations process earlier in 2007, ONE’s members sent more than 200,000 e-mails to lawmakers asking that they ensure the measure included $1.45 billion for anti-poverty and -disease programs.

Meanwhile, ONE is encouraging candidates to don white rubber bracelets indicating support for its cause — Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was seen wearing a wristband last week while campaigning in New Hampshire.

Bono himself last week made rounds on Capitol Hill and in New York City to hype ONE’s mission. He discussed global poverty, disease and other issues with former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), the 2004 vice presidential nominee, in New York last Wednesday for 30 minutes, according to Edwards’s spokeswoman, Kate Bedingfield.  
Bono and Obama met last Tuesday in his Senate office, a spokesman for the lawmaker said.

Bono also has met with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) and GOP Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Sam Brownback (Kan.), according to campaign officials and media reports.