Lobbying of Hillary begins

Tim Devaney, The Hill

The lobbying of Hillary Clinton has begun.

Pressure groups are making moves to bend Clinton’s ear in hopes of shaping the policy platform she would use to run for the White House in 2016.

On issues ranging from energy policy and immigration to gay rights and medical marijuana, advocacy groups are increasingly tailoring their public campaigns toward Clinton in hopes of winning her early support.

Environmentalists, for instance, are pressing Clinton to take a stand against the Keystone XL oil pipeline. As secretary of State, Clinton refused to weigh in on the issue.

Before backing her for a potential presidential bid, some environmental groups are insisting she publicly oppose Keystone, even as the Obama administration continues to delay a decision on the highly controversial oil pipeline.

“Secretary Clinton, will you stand with us against Keystone XL?” dozens of environmental groups wrote in a letter to Clinton this year.

Clinton has remained coy about her intentions regarding Keystone, a strategy that keeps her from getting backed into a corner. By standing with environmental groups, Republicans would paint her as an “anti-jobs” candidate. But siding with business groups, would infuriate Democrats’ environmental base of supporters.

Her silence is concerning for environmentalists. The CEO of one green company told The Hill earlier this year that “environmental voters will know she cannot be counted on” if she does not come out against Keystone.

But Clinton is also facing pressure from coal groups to support rolling back controversial power plant regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The industry group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) called on Clinton to be a “voice of reason” ahead of her speech to an environmental group earlier this month

“As Mrs. Clinton considers another run for the White House, we hope that she continues to be the voice of reason for coal-powered electricity,” ACCCE spokeswoman Laura Sheehan said.

Sheehan pointed out that the former presidential contender supported an all-of-the-above energy policy during her 2008 campaign.

“We are going to use coal,” Clinton told voters during campaign stop in Indiana.

“There’s no doubt about that,” Clinton added. “It’s just that we’ve got to figure out how to make it as clean as coal can be.”

The industry group says it plans to hold Clinton to her word, if she runs again.

On immigration, advocates are warning Clinton that she’ll be in “big trouble” if she does not take a stronger stance on the hot-button issue. 

They’re calling on her to push comprehensive immigration reform in Congress during what would be her first year in office. 

In the meantime, they want her to commit to enforcing President Obama’s recent executive order delaying deportations for millions of illegal immigrants.

“If I was Hillary Clinton, I would be concerned because her statements so far are not as conclusive and supportive as Latinos would like to see,” said Arturo Carmona, executive director of the Latino advocacy group Presente.org.

Other Hispanic leaders have called on the former first lady to push for driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.

According to a recent survey by the polling firm Latino Decisions, 85 percent of Hispanic voters would cast their ballots for Clinton if she were to commit to upholding Obama’s executive order.

“But it will be much harder to mobilize the Latino vote in 2016, if you don’t have a candidate who strongly supports the Latino community,” said Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions.

Meanwhile, other special-interest groups are courting Clinton’s super-PAC, Ready for Hillary, in hopes of gaining influence with her potential campaign.

Ready for Hillary has raised more than $11 million and built a base of 3 million supporters that it intends to turn over to her campaign, if and when she announces her candidacy.

The group has had conversations with leaders in the LGBT, Latino American and African-American communities, though its efforts are more focused on grassroots-level organizing, Ready for Hillary spokesman Seth Bringman said.

“That’s been our focus identifying those Hillary supporters out there to encourage her to run,” Bringman said.

Tico Almeida, president and founder of the gay rights organization Freedom to Work, confirmed he has reached out to Ready for Hillary to discuss her potential campaign.

“Our ask of Hillary Clinton is that if she is elected president, in her very first State of the Union address, we would like her to call for Congress to pass federal legislation protecting LGBT Americans from all forms of discrimination,” Almeida said.

One foreign policy group is even calling on the former secretary of State to lift what critics say is an outdated Cuban embargo.

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) spoke with Ready for Hillary this week to discuss Clinton’s foreign policy.

“What I’ve conveyed to the Ready for Hillary camp is that we’d like to see Hillary come out and say the Cuban embargo has failed,” said Marc Hanson, WOLA’s senior associate for Cuba.

A number of special-interest groups say they’re waiting until Clinton announces her candidacy before they begin their lobbying efforts.

Marijuana lobbyists, for one, are hoping to encourage Clinton to take pot decriminalization laws “into serious consideration.”

Mike Liszewski, director of government affairs at Americans for Safe Access, says he plans to speak with Clinton’s staff about marijuana laws sometime next year after she announces whether she will run for president.

The group is planning to keep a scorecard of where Clinton and other presidential candidates stand on the issue.

“If Clinton doesn’t seize upon this issue, other candidates can make significant in-roads by seizing upon it,” Liszewski said. “It’s an issue that’s going to resonate with voters across the country in 2016 like it never has before.”

In the wake of the CIA report on enhanced interrogation, the Americans for Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) would like to see Clinton, as well as other presidential candidates, commit to broader reforms within the nation’s intelligence community, said Michael Macleod-Ball, chief of staff at the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office.

Once the campaigns heat up, the ACLU plans to “nail candidates down on” on where they stand on torture, as well as other issues such as the militarization of police and domestic surveillance activities.

For some groups, however, it’s never too early to make sure their issues are on Clinton’s radar.

“From our perspective, it’s never a bad time to reach out to Hillary Clinton,” said Hanson, of the Latin America group. “Whether or not she’s going to run, she commands a lot of attention and she’s still someone who can make an impact on the national debate.”