The LA Times took eBay's Meg Whitman at her word in a post about a presidential campaign ad for Obama. Whitman, who remains at eBay as an advisor until the end of the year (and Board member until 2010) after serving as President and CEO for 10 years, thrust herself in to national presidential politics by joining first Mitt Romney's campaign, then John McCain's.
I jumped in my chair last night when I saw the Obama television ad that included a clip of John McCain walking down the street with Meg Whitman just behind his right shoulder. The spot implies that McCain is walking with a group of lobbyists.
The Times' Maeve Reston reports, "McCain's campaign manager is a former lobbyist, but McCain's companions in the clip are former EBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman and aide Greg Wendt, neither of whom have lobbied, according to a Whitman spokesman and the campaign. The two other men pictured were identified by the campaign as Secret Service agents."
However, for Whitman to say she has not lobbied seems disingenuous given her company's enormous lobbying activities in Washington, DC and across the country. Some of these efforts were documented in Katie Hafner's June 4, 2006, article, "How eBay Makes Regulations Disappear."
Regulators in other states also say that when they try to erect guidelines around eBay's activities, they quickly encounter the realities of the company's political power, raising anew the perennial questions about the proper balance among public policy, consumer protection and business interests. EBay's lobbying tactics, meanwhile, illustrate the spoils to be won when a savvy, resourceful company combines local political persuasion and grass-roots rallying to get lucrative regulatory exemptions that allow it to safeguard its profits.
Over the last eight years, eBay has built a stable of local lobbyists in 25 states. Those lobbyists - who work on retainers that can reach $10,000 a month, according to state lobbying registration documents - have also made contributions to individual politicians who sponsor bills favorable to eBay.
Whitman also cleverly devised a program to send eBay sellers to Washington every year to meet with members of Congress, calling it the "United States of eBay."
Whitman isn't a lobbyist, but has hired plenty of them while head of eBay.