In a post-rally interview with Edwards, the congresswoman promised to help the 99 Percent Movement fight against corporate corruption of government. But Edwards, a standout in Congress for her support of Occupy Wall Street, may lose her district to a challenge from K Street.
Edwards faces corporate lawyer-lobbyist Glenn Ivey in the Democratic primary next year. There were rumors of Ivey’s intentions to run against her in 2009. However, Ivey announced his candidacy last month, shortly after Maryland Democrats redrew Edwards’ district to include Anne Arundel County, a more conservative area.
Democratic insiders predict that Ivey will raise vast sums to defeat Edwards in the primary.
Many in the 4th Congressional District, which encompasses the suburbs directly east of the nation’s capital, only know Ivey through his last job, as the top prosecutor in Prince George’s County. As state’s attorney, Ivey, who was first elected nine years ago, attempted to crack down on the epidemic of police brutality in the county. Ivey is well-respected among the Democratic Party establishment, and maintains connections within the influential Congressional Black Caucus because of his prior work for Congressman John Conyers (D-MI).
They Ivey for Congress website triumphs the candidate’s employment history at prestigious law firms, but glosses over his career as a registered federal lobbyist. After about a decade of work on Capitol Hill, serving at one point as the chief counsel to Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD), Ivey became a partner to Preston Gates & Ellis (now known as K&L Gates). His lobbying clients, which numbered as many as 19 one year, included Fortune 500 corporations, an association of insurance companies that deal with nuclear energy, as well as the Seattle Art Museum in its bid for federal money.
Ivey’s influence peddling may become a flashpoint in next year’s political election, which is shaping up to be as much about political corruption as about the economy.
A review of Ivey’s lobbying records shows that in last months of 2000, the year he joined his first corporate lobbying firm, Ivey worked on a Microsoft contract with infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a handful of his associates later known as “Team Abramoff.” The $260,000 contract shows that Ivey worked on several Internet-related legislative bills for Microsoft, as well with issues regarding “competition in the software business.”
Along with Abramoff, Amy Berger and Patrick Pizzella, two lobbyists identified by the press as part of the network of Abramoff allies called “Team Abramoff,” worked with Ivey for a brief period on the Microsoft account:
A transcript of e-mails sent by Berger and Pizzella to Abramoff, including schemes on how to funnel corporate money through conservative think tanks, can be found in a Senate Finance Committee investigation.
When Abramoff left Preston Ellis & Gates for the firm Greenberg Traurig LLP, part of Abramoff’s portfolio of lobbying clients, including the Business Software Alliance and BNSF, a railroad corporation, were adopted by Ivey.
Abramoff typified some of the worst behavior on K street. He represented Indian casinos, many of which he manipulated using the threat of anti-gambling crusades from his friends in the Christian right, while privately referring to his clients as “troglodytes” and “monkeys.” Abramoff bribed members of Congress with campaign contributions, food, golfing trips to Scotland, and more. At Preston Ellis & Gates, he helped Hong Kong industrialists continue to mark products made in their Saipan-based sweat-shops, where forced prostitution and other abuses were rampant, as “Made in America.”
The Abramoff scandal plagued Congressional Republicans for years. Ivey left his lobbying gig in 2002 to run for local office in Maryland, escaping scrutiny of his ties to the “Super Lobbyist” and his crew.
Abramoff was hired by Preston Gates & Ellis in 1994 to lead the firm’s outreach to top Republicans, and left the firm a few months after Ivey was hired in late 2000.
Ivey may seek to downplay his work for Preston Ellis & Gates, but local Prince George’s County campaign finance data suggests a continued relationship well after he left the firm. Ralph Nurnberger, another Abramoff associate from his time representing sweat-shop interests, contributed $500 to Ivey’s first race for state’s attorney. One of Ivey’s most generous donors has been Emanuel Rouvelas, a lobbyist with Preston Ellis & Gates and now K&L Gates, who has given a total of $5,250.
View an Excel spreadsheet of Ivey’s campaign contributors here, compiled by The Second Alarm using Maryland public disclosures.
Ivey currently works as a partner to Venable, another major law firm with a DC office that is heavily involved in the corporate lobbying business. Although Ivey is not registered as a lobbyist, his firm currently represents a long list of businesses with interests that may clash with causes embraced by progressives, including Lockheed Martin, Maryland Blue Cross Blue Shield, ING Bank, and an industry group for financial speculators trading swaps and derivatives. As online critics of Ivey have pointed out at at the community website DailyKos.com, Venable touts Ivey in categories like defense work on behalf of white collar crime. The same bio page also lists Ivey as available to work in “Government Affairs” and “Congressional Investigations,” activities that require lobby registration if Ivey meets the statutory threshold for contact with lawmakers.
As activists across the country have focused their frustration at the nexus of corporate money in politics, even Ivey’s current colleagues could become an issue. James Burnley, a lobbyist at the firm, serves on the board of the FreedomWorks, the polluter-backed Tea Party group responsible for trashing health reform and other issues important to progressives.
Edwards won her office in 2008 by defeating Al Wynn, a Democratic incumbent with a reputation for doing the bidding of corporate lobbyists in Congress. Asked by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman what her victory meant, Edwards gushed that the people of her district were “saying no to the corporate special interests and yes to the public interest.” Her message was the same last week, when she stood outside the W Hotel with OccupyDC demonstrators. While Edwards faces a rough campaign against Ivey, this time she may have a movement to back her up.
Originally posted on Nation of Change.