Some 95 of the 712 super Delegates at the Democrat National Convention in Philadelphia were either lobbyists or shadow lobbyists at some point, according to a report by the Sunlight Foundation.
Super delegates make up about 15 percent of the Democrat delegates who choose the party’s nominee. In 2016 they overwhelming pledged their support early for the eventual nominee Hillary Clinton. That support was reflected in media reports on the contest between Bernie Sanders and Clinton, padding her lead and adding a sense of inevitability to her candidacy.
Comprised of elected Democrat officials, party bosses, and influencers, the super delegates are free to vote for the nominee of their choosing. More than 600 pledged their support to Clinton and it was pledged super delegates that led the Associated Press to declare Hillary Clinton the winner of the Democrat nomination on the eve of the California primary before voters in that state got their say. The timing of the announcement was a move that Sanders’ supporters saw as further evidence of a rigged system and voter suppression.
According to the Sunlight Foundation’s analysis, those super delegates who propped up Clinton included “lobbyists for interests like big banks, payday lenders, health care insurers and unions.” A day after Senator Sanders announced that the Democratic Rules Committee had passed a commission “charged with reducing the number of so-called superdelegates,” Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump weighed in on the controversy on Twitter.
An analysis showed that Bernie Sanders would have won the Democratic nomination if it were not for the Super Delegates.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2016
The report list several big names among the Super Delegate lobbyists including former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and former House Majority leader Dick Gephardt. The report also explains the methodology used to determine how many super delegates were also lobbyists.
Since February, Sunlight has pored over hundreds of names and affiliations of DNC superdelegates from all over the country. Our methodology included going state by state to the respective lobbying registration database, as well as using data from OpenSecrets.org, to see if an individual was ever registered as a federal or state lobbyist.
At least 63 superdelegates have registered as a lobbyist at the federal level or state level at some point. (Note: As we documented in our state lobbying report card, some states keep poor records of lobbying, so some information may be out of date.)
Those include some pretty big names, such as former Democratic Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell — who used to lead DLA Piper, a law and lobbying firm — and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who was a registered lobbyist working for Ballard Spahr LLP on telecommunications and health issues as recently as 2012. Richard Gephardt, the former House minority leader, is also a registered lobbyist on behalf of a firm that shares his namesake, the Gephardt Group.
The report also explained the methodology for determining the count of “shadow lobbyists” among the super delegates which included former DNC Chair and former presidential candidate Howard Dean.
Pulling back another layer into the list of superdelegates reveals that there are several who aren’t officially registered as lobbyists, but are heavily involved in the influence industry. This includes individuals employed wholly or partially by law firms with a lobbying practice, public relations firms and government affairs firms.