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Barack Keeps Dean as Chair DNC / Bans Lobby Money

DNC bans lobbyist money; Dean remains as chair


NEW YORK (AP) – Acting swiftly as his party’s presumed presidential nominee, Barack Obama is keeping Howard Dean at the helm of the Democratic National Committee, while bringing in one of his top strategists to oversee the party’s operations.The campaign also announced that the DNC will no longer accept donations from lobbyists and political action committees, to comply with Obama’s campaign policy. Party officials say they expect the DNC’s staff to quickly expand to run an aggressive general election campaign.Campaign adviser Paul Tewes was dispatched to help lead the changes Thursday.“Senator Obama appreciates the hard work that Chairman Dean has done to grow our party at the grass-roots level and looks forward to working with him as the chairman of the Democratic Party as we go forward,” Obama spokesman Bill Burton said.By keeping Dean as party chairman, Obama ended up taking sides in a long-running dispute between Washington-based Democratic Party leaders and state party officials. Although Obama campaign officials have expressed concern in the past that the party did not have enough money, Obama shares Dean’s goal of building the party from the ground up, even in states where Republicans dominate.

The fundraising changes will make the party and the candidate have a consistent position. Obama often says banning the donations is one way to help keep him free of the influence of Washington insiders.

An Obama spokesman announced the change Thursday as the candidate prepared to fly from New York, where he had been raising money, to campaign in Virginia.

Obama himself planned to discuss the change at a town hall meeting in Bristol, Virginia.

The move indicates Obama will press his case that Republican rival John McCain is under the influence of special interests because of his advisers’ lobbying ties.

McCain’s senior advisers are former lobbyists, including campaign manager Rick Davis. McCain was stung last month by the disclosure that two advisers worked for a firm that had represented Myanmar’s military junta, which has restricted foreign assistance for cyclone victims.

The Arizona senator instituted a new lobbying policy that says no campaign staffer can be a registered lobbyist, resulting in three more departures from his campaign, including a top fundraiser, former Texas Rep. Tom Loeffler.

Obama’s ban on lobbyists money is not ironclad. He does accept money from lobbyists who do not do business with the federal government and he also accepts money from spouses and family members of lobbyists. He has had unpaid advisers with federal lobbying clients, and some campaign officials also previously had lobbying jobs.

Obama took a congratulatory call from McCain around 7 p.m. Wednesday night that lasted several minutes, aides to the Democratic candidate said. “They talked about how they wanted to have a cordial campaign going forward,” said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor.

The new policy will eliminate one source of contributions to the DNC, which has significantly trailed its Republican counterpart in fundraising. So far this election cycle, the DNC has raised $77.6 million and had $4.4 million cash on had at the end of April. The RNC, however, had raised nearly twice as much and had $40.6 in the bank.

The Democratic National Committee received more than $3 million in PAC contributions in this election cycle – a period covering all of 2007 and so far this year, according to its latest report with the Federal Election Commission.

Both parties also rely on lobbyists for money, but their biggest sources of money tend to be donors in the securities and investment industries or in real estate. The DNC raised more than $3 million so far this election cycle from lawyers and lobbyists, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That was the narrowest category analyzed, meaning much of that money did not come from federally registered lobbyists.

The Republican National Committee raised $1.1 million this election cycle from lawyers and lobbyists, according to the center.

While the DNC has been the least successful fundraising operation in the Democratic Party, its takeover by the Obama camp means it will likely see a dramatic jump in fundraising. Obama has been the leader in the presidential money race, raising a record $264 million.

As DNC chairman, Dean set up a joint fundraising committee earlier to amass money for the eventual nominee. Acceding to Obama’s wishes, that committee already was not accepting money from federal lobbyists.

Jim Kuhnhenn reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Libby Quaid in St. Petersburg, Fla., contributed to this report.        
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