As he campaigns for the presidency this year, Martin O’Malley has cast himself as a populist “public enemy” of Wall Street and a champion of the working class against America’s monied elite.
But only a year ago, O’Malley was working with corporate lobbyists to recruit business-friendly politicians into the Democratic Party.
In 2011, O’Malley co-founded a group called The NewDEAL, a nonprofit described as an effort to highlight the work of “pro-business progressives.” Rather than championing anti-bank populists, the group worked to promote moderate Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, now an attorney who counts Walmart as a client.
The website for The NewDEAL does not list board members. But the group’s annual tax filing does, revealing a number of lobbyists who helped oversee the group. Under O’Malley’s leadership, the board of the group included Comcast vice president for federal affairs Melissa Maxfield, public relations executive Claude Fontheim, and lobbyists James Bonham and John Michael Gonzalez.
Gonzalez’s lobbying firm, Peck Madigan Jones, represents the very Wall Street interests O’Malley now decries. The firm recently lobbied on behalf of a trade group that represents Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, among other banks, on efforts to slow down Dodd-Frank reforms through cost-benefit analysis reports.
I obtained a list of contributors to the NewDEAL group, and listed them in a piece last year for Vice. One of the corporate benefactors to his group was the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, a lobbying group for the private equity industry.
Critics have noted that O’Malley campaign as a populist stands in sharp contrast with a career of moderation. In 2007, as co-chair of the Democratic Leadership Council, a group dedicated to promoting business-friendly politicians, O’Malley authored an opinion column for the Washington Post with Harold Ford urging Democrats not to stray too far from the “center” of politics.
In 2012, when O’Malley chaired the group, the Democratic Governors Association collected donations from Sallie Mae, Highstar Capital, Wells Fargo and VISA, among other financial industry firms.
According to one recent report, O’Malley has also reached out to bankers for contributions, meeting in recent months with officials from Morgan Stanley.
O’Malley’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.