Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic candidate for Senate from Pennsylvania, is out with a new TV ad called “timeline” that contrasts his 31-year Navy service record with his Republican opponent’s career of “serving Wall Street.”
Pat Toomey, a former congressman from Allentown, worked as a Wall Street trader before his political career, and the ad says he “voted for Wall Street” in the U.S. House. A strong conservative believer in supply-side economics, most of Toomey’s House votes no doubt were pleasing to the financial industry. And it’s true, as the ad details, that Sestak became a three-star admiral and led an aircraft carrier battle group into combat, etc.
But the ad goes on to say Toomey “got rich as Wall Street’s top lobbyist” after he left Congress. This is an apparently reference to Toomey’s leadership of the Club for Growth advocacy group from 2005 until early 2009. It is true that the Club for Growth was founded by top capitalists on the Street to push for limited-government policies and lower taxes, so there’s no doubt that Toomey helped the financial industry achieve its agenda. And he did earn a handsome paycheck working for the Washington group. The Club and its PAC have support from the financial industry and its employers, but the group says it has grown since its founding to include 400,000 members from various walks of life.
Toomey is not now – nor has he ever been – a registered lobbyist, according to records kept by the Clerk of the U.S. House and the Secretary of the Senate.
UPDATE: Sestak's campaign argues that it is perfectly legitimate to call Toomey a lobbyist, though he is not in the narrowest legal sense a registered influence-peddler, the Club for Growth has described itself as a grassroots lobbying organization. And it is clear that the Club is about influencing policy in Washington and congressional elections.