WASHINGTON — Andrew L. Woods and Ankit Desai are not household names, but the two K-Street lobbyists have gone out of their way to declare they are tight with Sen. Mark Udall.
Woods, the president of a lobbying firm that represents numerous health-care clients, and Desai, the top lobbyist for a firm that develops liquefied natural gas, were listed on federal campaign records last year as bundlers of campaign cash for the Colorado Democrat.
Woods bundled $59,900 and Desai $23,400 for Udall for Colorado, the senator’s re-election campaign committee, according to papers the organization filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Bundling money is an indirect form of fundraising that allows lobbyists to display their level of access with a politician. The lead donor asks their network of friends to give money to the candidate’s campaign committee, and then delivers the total amount raised in one bundle.
Udall collected more than $243,000 in campaign donations from lobbyists in the current election cycle. The Democrat ranks as the fifth highest recipient of campaign contributions from lobbyists among all federal candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Udall, a freshman senator whose re-election effort this year has come under fire from groups affiliated with David and Charles Koch, two Midwestern industrialists, has sought to position himself as a foe of the out-of-state billionaires.
Campaign spokesman Chris Harris told KDVR last month that Udall “has a long record of fighting to protect Colorado’s way of life and working for real change without compromising his principles or our Colorado values.”
Yet the Udall campaign’s decision to allow two affluent D.C. lobbyists to serve as major bundlers may raise eyebrows among Colorado voters, according to Russ Choma, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics.
“In black and white, the (Udall) campaign is saying that it has a relationship with a registered lobbyist, a person who represent a lot of clients. You can see he represents a lot of health and dental companies. I think you should look at his list of clients and see if they’re necessarily in Colorado’s best interests. (Udall) also takes a lot of money from non-lobbyists. But this is black and white,” he said.
Udall’s campaign spokesman did not return two email messages for comment.
Woods is the president of the Liberty Partners Group, which has its headquarters on K Street in Washington. Among other organizations, the firm represents the dialysis firm DaVita, Western Dental, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Woods was the second largest political donor to candidates among D.C. lobbyists in the 2012 election cycle, according to the website of Center for Responsive Politics, which referred to donors like him as “an elite class” that represents the “one percent of the one percent.” Woods gave $210,100 to candidates. A call to his office was not returned.
Desai is vice president for Cheniere Energy Inc., a Houston-based energy firm that specializes in developing liquefied natural gas LNG). According to his LinkedIn page, Desai has worked for John Kerry’s presidential campaign and was the political director for then-Sen. Joe Biden in 2005.
Desai said he approached Udall’s campaign about bundling campaign donations.
“He has been great on oil and gas issues,” Desai said in a phone interview.
“He’s one of the few Democrats who cares about the environment and who’s pro growth … he embodies Colorado. He’s a good guy,” said Desai, adding that he would continue to bundle donations for Udall.
Udall recently took the lead among Senate Democrats to lobby for the increased exportation of LNG, an industry that involves the fracking process and clashes with the views of many in his environmentalist base.
In addition to Woods and Desai, the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund bundled $103,400 to Udall for Colorado last year, according to FEC records.
Udall’s campaign did not accept money from bundlers until the last half of last year – funding that is intended for the Colorado Senate race in November against challenger Republican Rep. Cory Gardner.
But, Udall’s ties with K-Street lobbyists have been close before.
As Udall geared up his first senate race in 2008, his campaign committee received $290,293 in political contributions from lobbyists, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ website. He received the 18th largest haul from this group among all federal office-seekers.