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Huffington's Manager Also Works as a Lobbyist

Lorillard Tobacco is among advisor's clients. Candidate sees no clash with campaign stance.

August 16, 2003|Rich Connell | Times Staff Writer

The campaign manager hired by gubernatorial candidate Arianna Huffington, who frequently blames "high-priced lobbyists" and "special-interest money" for California's ills, is himself a lobbyist for major tobacco, gambling and waste hauling firms in his home state of Minnesota.

Dean Barkley, who helped put Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura on the political map and is now directing Huffington's campaign, collects $3,000 a month as a lobbyist for Lorillard Tobacco, one of the nation's largest cigarette producers.

His other current or recent clients include AOL Time Warner Inc.; Allied Waste/Browning-Ferris Industries, the nation's largest trash hauler; and Southwest Casino and Hotel Corp., which is seeking approval of a harness racing track in the Minneapolis area.

Announcing her campaign, Huffington, an author, political columnist and TV commentator, said she was an "independent leader uncompromised by special-interest money ... who will ensure that we don't force the most vulnerable -- our children -- to be sacrificed because they can't afford to hire high-priced lobbyists."

Huffington said she first learned of Barkley's lobbying work Friday afternoon, as a result of inquiries from The Times.

"Obviously, we wish that he had not been a lobbyist," she said. A tobacco company like Lorillard, which markets Newport, Kent and other brands, is a "purveyor of something that is harmful to the public interest," Huffington said.

Nonetheless, Barkley will continue crafting campaign strategy and overseeing day-to-day operations for her campaign.

"I'm not running for governor of Minnesota," she said. "If he were a lobbyist in California, I would have asked him to leave."

Having a lobbyist as her campaign manager is not at odds with her message, she insisted, because Barkley would not be among those "lobbyists who work for political campaigns and recycle themselves to influence the people" they got elected.

It was the second time this week Huffington had to square her campaign message with her actions. On Thursday, The Times reported Huffington, who lives in a $7-million Brentwood home, paid no state income taxes and just $771 in federal taxes over the past two years. Closing tax loopholes for "fat cats" and corporations is another of her campaign themes. She said all the deductions and losses she used to wipe out her tax liability were proper and legal.

Barkley initially told The Times on Friday that he had informed Huffington he was a lobbyist before he was hired, but had not discussed his clients. Later, after speaking with the candidate, he said he actually had told an intermediary, who apparently failed to pass the message to Huffington.

In all, Barkley said he expected to collect about $60,000 in fees under existing or recent contracts with his Minnesota clients. Among his successful lobbying efforts, he said, was getting a measure passed for Lorillard that placed added costs on small tobacco companies "to stop the infiltration of a lot of cheap cigarettes" into the state.

He said he had no involvement with a recent Lorillard lawsuit against the state of California that sought to halt an anti-smoking advertising campaign. A federal judge threw the case out last month, but Lorillard and another tobacco company are expected to appeal.

His other lobbying work has included promoting a bill for Browning-Ferris that would increase the costs of refuse dumping, a measure he conceded might put small competitors at a disadvantage.

He said he is not like other lobbyists because he doesn't make campaign contributions to win influence with elected officials.

He said he is not the sort of lobbyist Huffington is criticizing in her speeches. As an independent political activist, and briefly a U.S. senator from Minnesota, Barkley said, "You'll never find anyone who has railed more against influence in politics."

He said he hoped to "get a few more clients to become one of those high-priced lobbyists" in Minnesota. But he vowed never to represent clients in California, even though he would be in heavy demand by special interests if his candidate were to be elected.

Huffington said one of the reasons she was keeping Barkley was his strong stance supporting public financing of campaigns. "It's going to be one initiative I propose if I'm elected," she said.

Reminded that she had declined to direct $3 toward public financing of presidential campaigns on her 2001 and 2002 income tax filings, she said that was "nothing more than an oversight."

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