Obama defies base, hires Wall Street lobbyist for re-election campaign

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    Oct 25, 2011 3:18 PM GMT

    President Barack Obama’s new senior campaign adviser is a longtime Wall Street lobbyist, and has the potential to damage the president’s aspirations to appeal to the protesters currently “occupying” New York City’s Zuccotti Park.

    Obama’s new adviser, Broderick Johnson, has an extensive history of lobbying for big banks and corporations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2007, he lobbied for JP Morgan Chase and in 2008 Johnson lobbied for Bank of America and Fannie Mae. From 2008 through 2010, he lobbied for Comcast and in 2011 he lobbied for Microsoft.

    Johnson is currently a partner at D.C.-based communications firm Collins Johnson Group, which boasts that it excels at “providing superior strategic planning and political consulting services to multinational corporations, government entities, political campaigns and parties, elected leaders, nonprofit organizations, issue groups, investors and entrepreneurs.”

    Including open houses and social events, Johnson has visited the White House 17 times since 2009, according to White House visitor logs. One of those meetings was with Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.

    In early 2009, Johnson was named partner at lobbying firm Bryan Cave LLP’s Washington, D.C. office. In that role, his responsibility was to “establish and lead the firm’s new Public Policy & Governmental Affairs Client Service Group.”

    That means that during those White House visits, Johnson was a registered lobbyist.

    Johnson also donated more than $150,000 of his own money Democratic candidates and causes since 2008. Public political donation records show Johnson has, since 2006, never donated to a conservative or a Republican.

    Perhaps most troubling to those who normally would consider themselves Obama’s 2012 base, though, is how Johnson has lobbied on behalf of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Huffington Post previously reported that Johnson is a “former Bryan Cave LLP lobbyist registered on the Keystone XL account” and that Bryan Cave LLP earned approximately $1.08 million lobbying for TransCanada between 2009 and 2011.

    Environmentalists are upset about the near-finalized pipeline proposal that would allow TransCanada to build a $7 billion, 1700-mile pipeline through the heart of the United States. If the State Department approves the proposals and the pipeline is built, it would transport crude oil from tar sands in Alberta, Canada to U.S. refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.

    Liberal group Friends of the Earth, which adamantly opposes the Keystone XL pipeline, is furious with Obama’s decision to hire a former pro-pipeline lobbyist. The group is disgusted with what it considers Obama’s blatant support for crony capitalism.
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    Oct 25, 2011 3:29 PM GMT
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    Protests Present Dilemma for Democrats
    Views of Some Occupy Wall Street Demonstrators May Turn Off Moderates Party Seeks to Attract

    The dozens of protesters arrested in Chicago this past weekend and a looming showdown with demonstrators in Providence, R.I., are the latest red flags for Democrats as they weigh whether to embrace the five-week-old Occupy Wall Street movement.

    When Democrats talk about harnessing the anger and energy of the protesters, they hope the face of the movement will be people like Jason Dean: a clean-cut, bespectacled, 32-year-old freelance Web designer from Brooklyn, N.Y., who said he goes to Manhattan's Zuccotti Park in his free time to join the demonstrators. "We need to get our country back on track ourselves because our politicians have totally failed us," he said Monday.

    But across the country near Los Angeles City Hall was Melissa Balin. Dressed on Sunday in a camouflage bikini and tutu, Ms. Balin, a veteran of the marijuana-legalization movement, laid on the lawn while a graffiti artist painted a mural on her body that included the message "Prosecute Wall Street" and a green cannabis leaf.

    "We're expressing our freedom of expression, and an extension of that is public art," Ms. Balin said Monday.

    As politicians decide whether to embrace the movement or distance themselves from it, their calculus revolves in large part around two central questions: Who are the protesters and what do they want? To try to figure that out, The Wall Street Journal dispatched reporters in five cities to interview more than 100 protesters.

    The picture that emerged is a motley conglomeration of people with widely varying goals—and some with no clear-cut goals at all other than to denounce greed. The movement is centered on unemployed or underemployed college students and college dropouts whose refrain is that their American inheritance has been squandered and their prospects are bleak. But there also is a tolerance—and, sometimes, sympathy—for causes well outside of the mainstream.

    "We have to detox from this corporate system that so many of us have been forced to live under," said Jimmy Hatt, 24, a student at Berkeley City College in Berkeley, Calif., who joined Occupy Oakland in nearby Oakland last week. "People around the world—working class, middle class—are really fed up with what's going on. [There is] a very acute awareness that they are getting the short end of the stick."

    Of the protesters interviewed by Journal reporters at random in New York, Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area, about a third said they are unemployed and nearly three quarters said they have college degrees or are pursuing them. About a quarter identified themselves as Democrats. Most called themselves independent or unaffiliated. The median age was 26.