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.

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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 ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegTrump hits polling on Fox News: 'Something weird going on at Fox' Trump hits polling on Fox News: 'Something weird going on at Fox' 2020 Democrats look to cut into Biden's lead with black voters 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 ClintonBroadway play 'Hillary and Clinton' closing early due to low ticket sales Broadway play 'Hillary and Clinton' closing early due to low ticket sales Facing challenge from Warren, Sanders touts strength against Trump MORE's 2008 presidential run.

Former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeProgressive activist: Democratic nominee will 'need to ride a little bit to the center' Poll: Biden leads Sanders by 22 points Poll: Biden leads Sanders by 22 points 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 Devi HarrisTrump hits polling on Fox News: 'Something weird going on at Fox' Trump hits polling on Fox News: 'Something weird going on at Fox' 2020 Democrats look to cut into Biden's lead with black voters 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 Elizabeth GillibrandOvernight Health Care: Democrats attack after Trump revives talk of ObamaCare replacement | Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control face major obstacles | CVS investing M to fight teen e-cig use Overnight Health Care: Democrats attack after Trump revives talk of ObamaCare replacement | Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control face major obstacles | CVS investing M to fight teen e-cig use Trump's 2020 campaign strategy is to be above the law MORE (D-N.Y.) and $1,000 to Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Health Care: Democrats attack after Trump revives talk of ObamaCare replacement | Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control face major obstacles | CVS investing M to fight teen e-cig use 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 Anthony Booker2020 Democrats look to cut into Biden's lead with black voters 2020 Democrats look to cut into Biden's lead with black voters Overnight Health Care: Democrats attack after Trump revives talk of ObamaCare replacement | Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control face major obstacles | CVS investing M to fight teen e-cig use 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 InsleePoll: Biden leads Sanders by 22 points Poll: Biden leads Sanders by 22 points Debunking Democrats' claims about fossil fuel tax breaks 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) John Ryan2020 Democrat: Harriet Tubman will be on 'within the first year of my presidency' 2020 Democrat: Harriet Tubman will be on 'within the first year of my presidency' Democratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement 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 Wright HickenlooperPoll: Biden leads Sanders by 22 points Poll: Biden leads Sanders by 22 points Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate 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.