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Hi! Are you a corporate lobbyist who needs to reach out to the DNC?

Even if it's just to "talk?"

And are you worried about the way that there’s supposed to be this whole new Dizzy City anti-lobbying initiative going on in a few months, and everything? Well, stop worrying, and instead check out the Southern Governors’ Association. More specifically, the SGA’s Corporate Affiliate Program, which “was created to provide a more formalized structure by which individuals and organizations with an interest in the South can work with member governors through the exchange of information and ideas that address issues and initiatives of regional importance.” Among other things, joining that gets you face-to-face time with Southern governors – and at the higher, price-tag-carefully-not-attached levels, the deal’s pretty sweet, as no doubt Northrup-Grumman will tell you. Just call up Chairman Tim Kaine

Yeah, the same guy as who’s been tapped to run the DNC. And he’s going to keep being Chairman of the the SGA until August; and, of course, will be a governor whose attention you can still buy with this program until January of 2010. But he’s sure that won’t be a conflict of interest.

Trust him.

See Bloomberg News for more details:

Kaine, 50, is the chairman of the Southern Governors’ Association, a group that raises money from tobacco, oil, energy and pharmaceutical companies in exchange for access to governors and other state officials.

The donors include more than 60 associations, trade groups and companies, including tobacco giants Altria Group Inc. and Lorillard Tobacco Company, Pfizer Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp. Participants in the group’s Corporate Affiliates Program also include mortgage lender Freddie Mac, which was taken over by the federal government last year, and General Motors Corp., which is among automakers being rescued by the government.

Kaine’s continuing involvement with the SGA as Democratic National Committee chief may raise questions for Obama, who targeted special interests during his campaign, vowing to end their “days of setting the agenda in Washington.”

“If Tim Kaine is going to be the head of the DNC, given Obama’s rhetoric in the past, Mr. Kaine will have to either change the rules of the SGA or step down as chairman, because the policies of the SGA appear inconsistent with Obama’s,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Washington-based watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

The article also helpfully mentions more of the donors, and at least one favor: hitching a ride on a jet plane. Which, judging from a quick look at pricing for air flights from Virginia to Mississippi, had a street value for Kaine and his staffer of about $750 – $1,250, depending on how much you value your time not standing in a TSA line in your socks. I’d personally value it a great deal. The lobbyist that rode along probably valued access to Kaine’s time even more.

The SGA is defending the whole thing by stating that – wait, let me quote this, it’s quite good.

[SGA executive director Diane] Duff said Kaine, who was the SGA’s vice chairman and second vice chairman for the two years before he became chairman, has no plans to change the Corporate Affiliates Program.

The affiliates “contribute to the organization and it gives them access to the members,” Hickey said. “But they get no decision-making and no policy access. It’s just glad-handing.”

…which leads one to believe that apparently groups like Altira Group (the company that makes Marlboro cigarettes) have shelled out an undisclosed amount of cash to get “Four (4) complimentary registrations to all SGA Annual and Business Meetings (not including those closed to public); Four (4) invitations to a private reception with SGA’s governors at the Annual Meeting; Preferred seating, as available, with at least one governor during the Annual Meeting State Dinner; Invitations to each of SGA’s quarterly breakfasts attended by the governors’ Staff Advisory Committee representatives; Invitations to periodic Washington, D.C.-based “coffee breaks” with governors, as determined by his/her schedule; Invitations to SGA-sponsored legislative briefings; Prominent recognition on SGA’s Web site, with a link to the CAP member’s Web site, as well as in all Annual Meeting materials, SGA’s annual report and other appropriate publications; and Portfolio of SGA Position Papers” because they’re such nice folks generally. Nope, they don’t mind tossing out that money, but getting nothing back for it. Not at all.

I’m actually sorry to drag the SGA into this; they’re just doing their job. It’s just that their job includes making deals with corporate lobbyists, and “lobbyist” is the current swearword of choice for Obama supporters. Which has not stopped the President-elect from getting put in place as DNC Chair a man who just happens to have a job where corporate lobbyists can literally buy his attention… and we’re apparently expected to believe that this won’t make any sort of difference, which is nonsense. Put another way: this isn’t a case of criminal lobbyist behavior. Nobody’s saying that Kaine or the lobbyists involved with the SGA have broken any laws. But Barack Obama ran on a platform that did everything but criminalize lobbying – and it’s reasonable to hold him to that, now that they’re going to be in power. Or, as CREW put it:

“If Tim Kaine is going to be the head of the DNC, given Obama’s rhetoric in the past, Mr. Kaine will have to either change the rules of the SGA or step down as chairman, because the policies of the SGA appear inconsistent with Obama’s,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Washington-based watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

I hope that Ms. Sloan isn’t holding her breath on this one, though. Anoxia kills.

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