by Jack Craver
The Capital Times
In recent days, state Rep. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, has intensified her attacks against state Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, her chief opponent in the battle for the Democratic nomination for Congress in Wisconsin’s 2nd District.
Roys, who has repeatedly criticized Pocan for accepting contributions from corporate political action committees, put out an online video accusing the legislator from downtown Madison of raising money from “lobbyists for the Koch brothers.”
The video shows footage of Pocan walking into the Washington, D.C., offices of Mehlman, Vogel & Castagnetti, a firm that lobbies for a number of companies, including Koch Industries, owned by David and Charles Koch, who have become major donors to conservative and libertarian causes.
The Pocan campaign dismisses the attacks, pointing out that many of the firm’s staffers are Democrats.
Both sides are correct. Mehlman, like most successful lobbying firms — in both D.C. and Madison — makes sure to include veterans of both political parties in its ranks.
In fact, Koch Industries has done particularly well enticing Wisconsin Democrats to its cause.
One of Mehlman’s lobbyists, Cindy Brown, is the former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., who, despite sending out a fundraising appeal last year denouncing the influence of the Koch brothers in politics, has accepted $16,000 from the Koch Industries PAC throughout his career.
The ties between Koch and the state Democratic Party are close as well.
For instance, Jason Childress, who was the executive director of the State Senate Democratic Committee during the 2008 cycle, left the party to work for Foley & Lardner’s lobbying firm, where, from January 2011 to June 2012, he lobbied for Koch Industries as well as a number of other large companies.
Childress’ predecessor at the SSDC, Andrew Engle, who presided over the Democratic takeover of the Senate in the 2006 election, now works at Hamilton Consulting Group, another big contract lobbying firm, where he also lobbies for Koch.
Of the seven lobbyists who were registered in Wisconsin to represent Koch in the state Legislature over the past year and a half, all have contributed money to state Democrats — most of which has gone toward either the SDCC or the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, rather than to the campaigns of individual lawmakers. Most have given to both parties, while Childress and Engle only gave to Democrats.
Neither Childress, who is no longer registered to lobby for Koch, nor Engle responded immediately to a request for comment.
“I would argue that it’s to our benefit to have people from our side representing shi**y groups,” says a top state Democratic operative who wishes to remain anonymous. “When these groups decide who to give money to, we can have people in the room telling them to give money to Democrats.”