by Jill Zuckman
FLORENCE, S.C. – Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney flatly declared Thursday during a stop in Columbia that he doesn't have lobbyists running his campaign. In fact, several lobbyists either work in the campaign or advise Romney and his aides.
Romney's statement sparked a heated exchange with an Associated Press reporter, who challenged his truthfulness. (See full video-taped exchange here.)
"That's not true governor," said Glen Johnson, the AP reporter. "That is not true. Ron Kaufman's a lobbyist. How can you say that you don't have lobbyists?"
Kaufman, the former White House political director for President George H.W. Bush and a lobbyist at the Dutko Group, is a senior adviser to the Romney campaign. He frequently travels with Romney and is intimately involved with the campaign.
Romney, however, parsed his words, angrily telling Johnson that Kaufman doesn't actually run the campaign.
"I said I don't have lobbyists running my campaign and he's not running my campaign," said Romney, adding that Beth Myers is his campaign manager and she runs the campaign.
But in fact, Romney does employ lobbyists at his campaign and he has lobbyists who advise him regularly on a volunteer basis as he seeks the Republican nomination for president.
For instance, Thomas D. Rath is a senior adviser who helped guide Romney through the byways of New Hampshire politics. Rath, the former attorney general of New Hampshire, is also a registered lobbyist who represents clients in New England and nationally.
Former Rep. Vin Weber is a lobbyist at Clark & Weinstock, and he's the policy chairman for the Romney campaign.
Barbara Comstock, a communications consultant and frequent spokesperson for Romney on television, is a lobbyist at Corallo Comstock.
Caeser Conda is an economic policy adviser and a lobbyist at DC Navigators.
And Warren Tompkins is Romney's South Carolina consultant, as well as a lobbyist.
When asked about the other lobbyists involved with Romney's campaign, spokesman Kevin Madden replied in an email: "Gov said he doesn't have one running his campaign and he doesn't. Beth is not a lobbyist."
Attempting to shift the focus off Romney, Madden pointed out that Sen. John McCain frequently complains about special interests and Washington lobbyists "yet those representing them run his campaign."
McCain, however, has never said he won't work with lobbyists or that they do not work in his campaign. McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, is a former lobbyist and his firm has not lobbied for any client since December 2005.