Business & Lobbying

Obama campaign brings on ex-lobbyist as senior adviser

President Obama’s reelection campaign has hired a former lobbyist to serve as a senior adviser to the 2012 team.

The Obama campaign announced Monday the hiring of Broderick Johnson, a veteran of the Clinton White House and Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) 2004 presidential campaign.

Obama positioned himself as an enemy of K Street and special interests during his first presidential campaign. He repeatedly vowed that lobbyists would not run his White House and refused to accept campaign contributions from registered lobbyists.   

{mosads}Johnson is a former partner at the law firm Bryan Cave and was registered to lobby up until April 2011 for several major companies and trade groups, including the Financial Services Forum, Comcast Corporation, and Microsoft, according to lobbying disclosure records.

Johnson left Bryan Cave in April this year, deregistered as a lobbyist and co-founded the Collins Johnson Group, a strategic communications firm, with Art Collins, a former adviser to the Obama 2008 and Kerry 2004 presidential campaigns.  

Johnson was also a lobbyist for AT&T before he joined Bryan Cave, according to lobbying disclosure records.

An aide to the Obama campaign emphasized that Johnson is no longer a lobbyist and said he will not discuss matters related to his former clients with the campaign.

The campaign aide also said that, unlike the Republican presidential candidates, Obama is not accepting campaign contributions and fundraising help from K Street. 

“The Republican candidates are relying on Washington lobbyists who are seeking to influence the policymaking process to bankroll their campaigns,” the aide said.

In a press release announcing Johnson’s hire, the Obama campaign did not mention his time at Bryan Cave. 

Johnson will be “an ear to the ground” and “a national surrogate” for the campaign, according to the statement. 

“Broderick joins the campaign with the insight of many years of experience in public service and on campaigns, including the 2008 campaign. Broderick will be an invaluable advisor to the campaign as well as our representative at key events around the country,” said Jim Messina, campaign manager for the Obama 2012 reelection bid, in the statement.   

Johnson said in the statement he had “great pride” in accepting the position.

“I accept this opportunity to join the senior staff of the Obama-Biden 2012 campaign with great pride and a strong sense of duty. We must reelect the President in order to build an economy that rewards hard work and restores economic security for the middle class and that provides an opportunity to families working hard to rise above poverty,” Johnson’s statement said.  

Considered close to this White House by other lobbyists, Johnson described himself as an “informal adviser” to the Obama 2008 campaign, according to his biography on the Collins Johnson Group’s website.

Johnson’s wife, Michele Norris, is stepping away from her duties as co-host of NPR’s “All Things Considered” until after the 2012 presidential campaign.

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