You won’t find Ed Gillespie, the likely Republican nominee to challenge Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) this fall, on the official list of lobbyists maintained by the Secretary of the Senate’s database. That’s because Gillespie isn’t registered. But not being registered doesn’t mean he doesn’t help big corporations and lobbying firms advance their interests in Washington.
As a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Virginia, Gillespie’s recently filed ethics forms show that he made $2,958,800 over the last year from his consulting firm, aptly named Ed Gillespie Strategies.
Though Gillespie was for many years a registered lobbyist, through his previous firm Quinn Gillespie, he dropped off the rolls when he departed to pursue other ventures. Indeed, veteran lobbyists have deregistered en masse in recent years. In a recent investigation for The Nation, I reported on this latest trend against transparency, with thousands of lobbyists dropping their registrations — owing to a lax enforcement regime and the growing realization in Washington that the current lobbying registration law is largely a joke.
Because of his non-registered status, however, most voters probably have little idea what Gillespie has been up to. Using bankruptcy filings, I found one recent client paying Ed Gillespie Strategies several years ago: Washington Mutual, the bank that failed in 2008.
The ethics forms filed this month provide a new window into Gillespie’s business, which represents not only some of the largest corporations in America, but also works with several of the largest lobbying entities inside the Beltway: American Petroleum Institute, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, AT&T, Bank of America, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Broadband for America, DCI Group, Facebook, Microsoft, RATE Coalition, The Brunswick Group, U.S. Telecom, Univision, and Walgreens.
Notably, the DCI Group is itself a lobbying firm, while the American Petroleum Institute and America’s Natural Gas Alliance are trade associations that lobby heavily on their respective issues (API, which represents ExxonMobil, Chevron, and other oil majors, lobbies on fossil fuel subsidies, the Keystone XL, and expanded drilling access; ANGA , which represents the largest hydraulic fracturing companies in America, lobbies on fracking regulations, natural gas exports, and other liquefied natural gas regulations). Other Gillespie clients are essentially lobbying groups. The RATE Coalition, for example, is a coalition of firms such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin seeking lower corporate tax rates.
For Gillespie, formerly a White House Communications Director for George W. Bush, the revolving door has swung many times — and with each swing, his clout and wealth have climbed. If he wins election this year, his stock among the Beltway bandits on K Street is sure to rise for any future venture in the private sector.
The new disclosure of Gillespie’s clients also provides a new focus on the candidate’s issue platform. Gillespie opposes the Affordable Care Act’s regulatory mandates, and has made the effort to repeal the law a central part of his campaign. How much of that opposition, one must wonder, may relate to his work for insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield? On energy, Gillespie has attacked efforts to address climate change. In light of this new client list, voters may be scratching their head when they try to distinguish Gillespie’s policy platform from the goals of his Big Oil benefactors at the American Petroleum Institute.
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