Governor turned lobbyist endorses Obama

January 2, 2008 4:44:38 PM PST
A former South Carolina governor who now runs a lobbying and consulting firm endorsed Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama on Wednesday, despite the Illinois senator's constant criticism of lobbyists.

Former Gov. Jim Hodges, who served one term before losing re-election to a Republican, brushed aside the apparent inconsistency, saying he had just one federal lobbying client.

"It deals with federal home loan banks, so it's not exactly one of those that's been controversial," Hodges, a co-chairman of Obama's national campaign, told The Associated Press after making his endorsement. "It's a program to try to get more liquidity to community banks."

The Center for Responsive Politics shows Hodges Consulting Group is registered to lobby for Hillenbrand Partners, a Chicago-based company that does business with the Federal Home Loan Bank in Atlanta.

Hodges' lobbying partners include Billy Boan, a Republican and his former chief of staff. Boan's clients include the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Association.

Obama has sworn off taking donations from Washington lobbyists and political action committees, while assailing rival Hillary Rodham Clinton for not doing the same. He also has pledged they won't be welcome in his administration.

Obama hasn't always been so adamant about lobbyists and their money.

About 40 percent of the money he raised as a state senator came from PACs, corporations and unions, including organizations with a financial stake in legislation he was sponsoring.

Obama has tried to reduce the influence of lobbyists during his political career, campaign manager David Plouffe said in a conference call with reporters. But there's nothing wrong with lobbyists helping the campaign with endorsements, he said.

South Carolina Democrats vote Jan. 26.

Obama "was more impressive last week than he was the first day I met him - and he was pretty darn impressive then," said Hodges.