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Obama co-chair a state lobbyist

From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan and NBC's Mark Hudspeth
Obama's campaign proudly announced today the endorsement of former South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges who will join his campaign as a national co-chair.

But the endorsement of Hodges may raise eyebrows among those who support Obama because he strongly decries lobbyists on the stump, frequently saying that he will not let them work in his White House or set the agenda in Washington.

Hodges is the founder of Hodges Consulting Group, a state-based lobbying firm he started in 2003. The firm is a subsidiary of Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman, L.L.P, a law firm that represents clients in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Earlier this week, after Edwards vowed that no lobbyists would work in his administration, he was criticized because a key supporter and fundraiser was a state lobbyist. The Obama campaign wrote this Tuesday in an e-mail to reporters on Edwards' plan: "Early in this campaign, Barack Obama introduced the furthest-reaching lobbying reform proposal of any candidate in this race, and we appreciate that John Edwards is now following his lead. The truth is, in his six years as a U.S. Senator, John Edwards did not propose or accomplish a single thing to reduce the power of lobbyists while Barack Obama passed the most sweeping lobbying reform since Watergate."

Hodges Consulting describes itself on its Web site as "well positioned to offer highly effective lobbying services and unparalleled state budget expertise. Hodges Consulting Group can also provide federal representation to clients."

Though Obama has also said that he won't take federal PAC and lobbyist money on his campaign, he does take money from state based lobbyists as previously reported by First Read.

Obama's co-chair in New Hampshire, Jim Demers, is a state based lobbyist for the pharmaceutical and financial services industries amongst others.   Michael Bauer, a member of Obama's LGBT steering committee, is a state based lobbyist in Chicago. And in Nevada, Obama's campaign also has three state based lobbyists who play senior advising roles in August last year.

When asked by reporters on the call why Hodges could work with the campaign even though he is a lobbyist, campaign manager, David Plouffe, said the campaign's policy for limiting lobbyists' influence applied to taking money only from federal registered lobbyists and PACs.

Obama also has said that no lobbyists can regulate industries they were working for in his White House for two years and that they cannot work for lobbyists after leaving his White House for the remainder of his tenure.   and that they cannot go lobby for an industry that t

Obama, however, has justified taking money from state based lobbyists and working with them.  

"Because I have no power in this state, so I'm not influenced in any way by somebody who's lobbying at the state level," he told NBC's Sacramento affiliate in August. "The main thing that we're trying to avoid is any perception that somehow those who are doing business in Washington have an influence on my agenda."

*** UPDATE *** NBC's Domenico Montanaro adds that Hodges is, in fact, a registered federal lobbyist, a search of the Senate Office of Public Records Lobbying Disclosure Act Database shows. He registered as such on June 1, 2007.