The Real Hilary Rosen Scandal: Does Her Firm Sell Access To The White House To Powerful Corporations?
Hilary Rosen, a Democratic lobbyist and pundit for CNN, found herself caught up in 24-hour news cycle controversy after she made some inflammatory comments about Ann Romney’s work as stay-at-home mom. Rosen has apologized for her off-the-cuff comments. But the entire story may set off a greater, more substantive inquiry about the nature of Rosen’s consulting firm, SKDKnickerbocker, an unregistered lobbying firm that has become one of the biggest names in the influence business by using its ties to President Obama and leaders in Congress.
Predictably, Republicans have noticed that Rosen is a frequent visitor to the White House. While Democrats are arguing that Rosen is not an advisor to the Democratic Party or President Obama’s reelection campaign, then what are the meetings about? Today in the Politico’s “Morning Money,” reporter Ben White flags a deeper concern:
Per a senior Dem: “Serious Dem operatives are aghast at Hilary Rosen’s misguided attack on Ann Romney’s work history. She and others at PR firm SKD Knickerbocker have represented many clients that have raised hackles with senior White House staff. It’s an open secret in the Dem consultant community that SKD has been signing up clients based on ‘perceived White House access’ tied to prior relationships and employment.”
As we’ve reported, SKDKnickerbocker is led by a team of former Democratic operatives and key White House figures. But instead of promoting a progressive agenda, or even an Obama agenda, these consultants score huge contracts by helping corporate interests lobby for policies that are not in line with the public interest. Many SKDKnickerbocker employees, including Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director, are also frequent White House visitors.
We’ve compiled a partial list of SKDKnickerbocker’s clients. Since the firm refuses to register as an ordinary lobbying firm, we don’t know their full roster of clients:
-– SKDKnickerbocker was hired by Kaplan Education to block Obama’s reforms on for-profit college companies, an industry plagued by by low quality education, false promises to students, and fraudulent business practices.
-– SKDKnickerbocker was hired to push for billions in tax breaks for already profitable corporations. As Bloomberg reported, SKDKnickerbocker manages a lobbying campaign called “Win America,” an effort by companies like Google and Pfizer to receive hundreds of billions in tax breaks on profits made overseas.
-– SKDKnickerbocker was hired by a coalition of food manufacturers to fight the Obama administration’s proposals on food nutrition standards. As the Washington Post reported, the firms paying Dunn includeGeneral Mills and PepsiCo.
– SKDKnickerbocker represents consulting for Students First, a lobbying group aimed at destroying collective bargaining, and replacing public education with a mix of charters, private schools, and online learning companies. According to documents revealed the blog At The Chalk Face, Students First helped craft bills in Michigan to break teachers unions by severely limiting collective bargaining.
– SKDKnickerbocker previously worked with the Association of American Railroads, a group representing large railroad companies. When the railroad industry was in a pitched battle with their respective labor unions, SKDKnickberbocker produced ads for the railroad lobby.
A proposal leaked two months ago showed that a group of political consultants, including SKDKnickerbocker’s Anita Dunn, worked up an effort to find hedge funds to pay them to kill efforts to enact the “Buffett Rule.” In the memo, Dunn clearly advertised her ties to the White House.
Earlier this year, I asked Hilary Rosen’s partner, Anita Dunn: “You have a lot of access to the President, from advising his campaign to regular visits to the White House. Do you think its a little bit disingenuous that you’re simultaneously being paid by a lot of corporations to lobby against his reforms?” Dunn scoffed at my question, and replied that she works for “some corporations” because “people have a right to be heard.” But the evidence suggests Dunn isn’t just giving voice to these multinational corporations. She’s also peddling their interests in multiple meetings with White House officials, all without registering any of her employees as lobbyists.
We would like to know more about who is paying Dunn, especially since she has the president’s ear. However, like Newt Gingrich and Ed Gillespie, she exploits weaknesses in current lobbying registration law to avoid revealing her clients.