K Street execs open wallets to 2020 Dems

K Street execs open wallets to 2020 Dems
© Greg Nash

K Street executives are opening their wallets to 2020 Democrats, according to 2019 first-quarter filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Democratic presidential contenders face a tough decision on whether to accept money from lobbyists and others in the influence world amid pressure from progressive groups to decline those donations. The corridors of K Street, though, are stocked with Democratic donors, often former staffers with long-lasting ties to candidates, who are offering their support early in the race.


Some of these notable donors are working in government relations, consulting or public affairs spaces in D.C., and alongside lobbyists at their firms, but are not registered lobbyists themselves.

Pete ButtigiegPete Buttigieg'Biff is president': Michael J. Fox says Trump has played on 'every worst instinct in mankind' Buttigieg: Denying Biden intelligence briefings is about protecting Trump's 'ego' Biden's win is not a policy mandate — he should govern accordingly MORE, the South Bend, Ind., mayor who is rising in the polls, received $250 from prominent K Street Democrat Steven Elmendorf, founder and partner at Subject Matter and onetime chief of staff to former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.).

Buttigieg also received $500 from former Obama deputy campaign manager and Precision firm co-founder Stephanie Cutter and $1,025 from David Barnhart, a consultant with Locust Street Group and the Iowa caucus director for former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGroups seek to get Black vote out for Democrats in Georgia runoffs Biden's political position is tougher than Trump's Valadao unseats Cox in election rematch MORE's 2008 presidential run.

Former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeMexican president breaks with other world leaders, refusing to acknowledge Biden win until election is finalized Mexico emerging as foreign policy challenge for Biden Beyoncé sports pro-Biden mask on Instagram MORE (D-Texas) was seen as an early favorite among aides to former President Obama, but the 2020 candidate has said he will not take campaign contributions from lobbyists. That allowed opponents like Buttigieg to take in donations from former Obama aides working on K Street.

Among the prominent K Street donations to Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force Club for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Biden's political position is tougher than Trump's MORE (D-Calif.) were $2,700 from Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney with Holland & Knight and onetime staff director for the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, and $575 from Angela Freyre of Squire Patton Boggs, who worked as an adviser in the Obama White House on Cuba policy. Neither are registered lobbyists.

Edie Fraser, a former bundler for Clinton and the founder of STEMconnector/Million Women Mentors, gave to three female senators running for the 2020 nomination: $1,500 to Harris, $500 to Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' Ocasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' MORE (D-N.Y.) and $1,000 to Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (D-Minn.).

For many candidates, those with home state connections, colleagues and former staffers can be an important source of contributions.

Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerDangerously fast slaughter speeds are putting animals, people at greater risk during COVID-19 crisis Senate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs MORE’s (D-N.J.) former chief of staff, Modia Butler, now a partner at Mercury Public Affairs but not a lobbyist, donated $3,172.28 to his campaign. Bryan Lanza, a former Trump campaign staffer, is managing director at Mercury.

Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeWashington county warns of at least 17 positive tests after 300-person wedding The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by UAE - US records 1 million COVID-19 cases in a week; governors crack down Washington state issues sweeping restrictions to combat coronavirus surge MORE's (D-Wash.) campaign received donations from a former House colleague, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), now a senior policy adviser at VanNess Feldman and also not a registered lobbyist, who gave $2,500. In 2018, Dicks lobbied for General Dynamics and Washington state companies Boeing and Kitsap Transit.

Inslee also received contributions from a number of former staffers, including $2,800 from Nick Shipley, a vice president at PhRMA. Shipley was a former legislative director for Inslee in the House.

Tracy Tolk, a government relations professional at VanNess Feldman, who worked for Inslee for over seven years as a senior policy adviser and senior legislative assistant, donated $2,800. And Inslee’s former legislative counsel, Jared Weaver, now vice president at the Alpine Group, donated $500.

Gillibrand's campaign also received donations from ex-congressional staffers, including her former aide, Valerie Delp, an associate at Alston & Bird LLP. Delp, who gave $1,000, was a legislative correspondent and worked on Gillibrand's Senate campaigns.

Gillibrand also received donations from former staffers of some 2020 rivals, including contributions from Sarah Morgenthau, a one-time scheduler for Booker and a member of the National Finance Committee for Obama's 2008 run, as well as Crystal Patterson, a former communications director to Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Now's the time to make 'Social Emotional Learning' a national priority Mourners gather outside Supreme Court after passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg MORE (D-Ohio). Patterson is now the global civic partnership manager at Facebook. 

Ryan announced his candidacy after March 31, the first quarter fundraising deadline.

Among other notables donating to Gillibrand are Boies Schiller attorney William Isaacson, who donated $2,700 to her campaign, and Pia Carusone, former chief of staff to ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and now a political consultant, who gave $1,000.

Gillibrand also received a donation from Sara van Geertruyden, a partner at Thorn Run Partners, who previously worked on the Hill for ex-Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) and at Patton Boggs. She donated $2,800 and her husband, Goulston & Storrs PC attorney Yann H.H. van Geertruyden, donated $2,700.

Another candidate, former Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperDemocrats frustrated, GOP jubilant in Senate fight Chamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord  MORE (D-Colo.), received $1,000 from former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, now a partner at WilmerHale's Denver office. Salazar is a former senator and state attorney general from Colorado. Hickenlooper also received $2,800 from Steven Kaufmann, an attorney with Morrison & Foerster who was chief of staff of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a federal aid agency. 

Other former Obama officials who gave this quarter included Mickey Kantor, a former U.S. trade representative under President Clinton and now partner at Mayer Brown, who gave $1,000 to Klobuchar.

This story was updated at 11:19 p.m.