Hillary Clinton came under attack from fellow Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and John Edwards Saturday after she said she had no problems with accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists:
Clinton said she had to raise money to be competitive and that her 35 years of public service proved she would fight for ordinary Americans. "I have stayed true to my core principles," Clinton said. "A lot of those lobbyists, whether you like it or not, represent real Americans" such as nurses, teachers and others who need a voice in the halls of government, she added.
That stance did not sit well with her opponents:
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards jumped on Clinton for that position in what was the sharpest exchange of the 90-minute debate in an auditorium at the sprawling McCormick Place Convention Center.
"I disagree with the notion that lobbyists don't have disproportionate influence," Obama said, arguing that Clinton could not get lawmakers to pass a healthcare reform measure she promoted when she was first lady because of massive opposition from pharmaceutical and insurance lobbyists. "You can't tell me," Obama said, "that money did not have an influence. You can't tell me that money was for the public good. They have an interest."
Obama has pledged to disdain donations from federally registered lobbyists, while Edwards has staked out that position since he represented North Carolina in the Senate. Both trail Clinton in national polls.
To illustrate his point that lobbyists represent special interests rather than those of ordinary citizens, Edwards asked for a show of hands of how many in the room had a Washington lobbyist. Noting that only a handful in the audience raised their hands, he told the audience, "You are not represented by Washington lobbyists. We need to cut these people off."
If Hillary Clinton truly believes that lobbyists represent and are representative of average Americans then perhaps she has been in Washington too long.