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New York Sun - Obama Disagrees With Clinton Over Role of Lobbyists

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Location: LE MARS, Iowa

New York Sun - Obama Disagrees With Clinton Over Role of Lobbyists

Mike Glover, Associated Press

Senator Obama, a Democratic presidential hopeful, criticized his chief rival, Senator Clinton, yesterday, contending that candidates who are comfortable with the role of lobbyists in this country have been in Washington too long.

In an interview with the Associated Press and later at a town hall-style event, Mr. Obama said the matter would be a critical issue in his campaign.

Mr. Obama pointed to Saturday's Web loggers forum in Chicago where he touted his promise not to take money from lobbyists. Mrs. Clinton argued at the event that taking money from lobbyists was acceptable because they represented real people and real interests. Mr. Obama declined to use Mrs. Clinton's name, though he told the AP, "I profoundly disagree with her statements."

"If lobbyists for well-heeled interests in Washington are setting the agenda on the farm bill, in the energy bill, on health-care legislation, and if we can't overcome the power of those lobbyists, then we're not going to get serious reform in any of those areas," he said. "That doesn't mean they don't have a seat at the table. We just don't want them buying every chair."

Mr. Obama has taken money from lobbyists registered in his home state of Illinois, some of whom have federal interests. When lobbyists registered in Washington have given money to his campaign, he has returned it. Mr. Obama said he accepts that lobbyists have a legitimate role in Washington, but he said they now hold too much power.

"When they've come to so dominate the debate that ordinary citizens' interests and viewpoints and concerns are drowned out, then I think we've got a problem," Mr. Obama said. "This campaign is going to come down to whether you believe that it's enough just to get somebody other than George Bush in the White House to fix what ails Washington, or do you think we need to set a fundamentally new course."

The Clinton campaign released a memo from chief strategist Mark Penn in which he highlighted her lead in national polls.

"She is expanding her vote among anti-war voters, women, Democrats, the middle class, and voters who believe that she has the strength and experience to make change happen," Mr. Penn wrote. Mark Daley, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign in Iowa, called Mr. Obama's comments "disappointing" and noted the money he's taken from lobbyists in Illinois and elsewhere.

Speaking before about 200 people at a county fairgrounds in one of the most rural â€" and Republican â€" regions of the state, Mr. Obama said candidates who are comfortable with the role of lobbyists are out of touch.

"I think that if you don't think lobbyists have too much influence in Washington, then I believe you've probably been in Washington too long," Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama argued that without a change in the culture of Washington, the nation couldn't effectively address key issues such as health care reform.

During his town-hall meeting, Mr. Obama was also pressed on his recent suggestions that he might use military force to root out terrorists in Pakistan. He said reports of his speech have been oversimplified.

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