Lobbyists like pro-Obama super PAC

Democratic super PAC draws few corporate contributions

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Only a small number of businesses have given to the pro-President Barack Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action, and ironically, most of the money raised has come from lobbying shops.

Since it was launched in April 2011, Priorities USA Action has raised just $771,000 from businesses. That’s about 5 percent of the $21 million that the super PAC has raised through the end of June.

Two of these six donors to Priorities are firms specializing in government relations with offices in D.C., blocks from the White House.

Obama himself does not accept campaign contributions from registered federal lobbyists, nor does the Democratic National Committee. The president has also had a policy of refusing to hire lobbyists to work for his administration, except under special circumstances.

The lion's share — $600,000 — has come from a Washington, D.C.-based “strategic advisory firm” called Perennial Strategy Group, LLC.

While Perennial’s services include government relations, it has not been registered as a lobbying firm since April 2011. However, between July 2003, when it first registered to lobby, and April 2011, it reported more than $1.3 million in lobbying income to Congress.

Records show Perennial’s clients over the years have included Regions Financial Corp., Hewlett-Packard, the Avis Budget Group car rental company, the energy company Southern Co. and the MGM Mirage casino.

Perennial’s founder and CEO Lamell McMorris, has donated the legal maximum of $5,000 to Obama’s re-election campaign. McMorris, who is also on the national board of directors of the NAACP and is a former CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, has further given the legal maximum of $61,600 to the DNC during the past two years.

Notably, the firm additionally employs Stephanie Baucus, the daughter-in-law of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., as its vice president of government relations and public affairs. Baucus was one of the chief architects of the healthcare reform law often called “Obamacare,” which was passed by Congress in 2010.

A second government relations shop that has donated to Priorities USA Action is still actively lobbying.

Records filed on Friday show that MWW Group, which is headquartered in New Jersey but also maintains a D.C. office, reported $1.8 million in lobbying income during the first half of the year.

MWW Group represents nearly three dozen clients — including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Molycorp Minerals and several municipalities and universities.

MWW Group has contributed $50,000 to Priorities USA Action.

Another business that has donated to Priorities USA Action is the Florida law firm of Morgan & Morgan, which also gave $50,000. The firm’s founder, John Morgan, is also a top campaign bundler for Obama.

Meanwhile, political action committees connected to five unions have collectively given about $2.4 million to Priorities USA Action. That’s about 11 percent of all the funds Priorities USA Action has raised through the end of May.

These include the PACs of the Service Employees International Union ($1 million), the National Air Traffic Controllers Union ($1 million), the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Pipe Fitting Industry ($250,000), the United Auto Workers ($100,000) and the National Association of Social Workers ($5,000).

The rest of the group’s money has come from individual donors such as Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg ($2 million), comedian Bill Maher ($1 million), actor Morgan Freeman ($1 million) and media mogul Fred Eychaner ($500,000).

Super PACs arose in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010 and a related lower court ruling. They are allowed to collect unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and individuals to fund political advertisements that are not coordinated with campaigns.