Klobuchar talks about Obama's ethics bill

Democratic National Convention: Day 1
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) speaks during day one of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) at the Pepsi Center August 25, 2008 in Denver, Colorado.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

Sen. Amy Klobuchar is touting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's role in winning passage of ethics legislation at the Democratic National Convention this week.

Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who addressed the convention Monday night, also has speaking roles at various state delegations during the week. On Tuesday, she comes before the convention a second time to participate in a panel of women Democratic senators.

She told the story Monday night of getting a call from Obama on her way out to Washington after winning election a couple of years ago. Even before leaving the driveway, Klobuchar said, Obama asked her to organize freshmen Democratic senators in a conference call to build support for ethics legislation.

"He said we need to get this bill passed right away, or we'll lose momentum," she said in a telephone interview from Denver Monday afternoon ahead of her speech. "So by the time we got to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we had all the freshmen on a call, by the time we got to Washington we had a plan in place."

2008 Democratic National Convention: Day 1
DENVER - AUGUST 25: U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) speaks during day one of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) at the Pepsi Center August 25, 2008 in Denver, Colorado.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The ethics legislation, which became law, banned members of Congress from flying on corporate jets at discounted rates, and required lawmakers to disclose the names of lobbyists who raise $15,000 or more for them within a six-month period by bundling donations from many people, among other things.

"It's not easy to change the rules of the game in Washington, and he was a true leader," Klobuchar said of Obama.

Obama's Minnesota spokesman, Nick Kimball, said in a statement that Klobuchar "is an emerging leader of our party and has proven to be a strong, independent voice for Minnesotans - she's a person we can trust."

Klobuchar said she's also reaching out to supporters of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who lost the Democratic primary to Obama. Klobuchar said she met with groups of them in Ohio and Minnesota, and will meet with supporters at the convention as well.

"That's part of the general theme that we're all coming together," said Klobuchar, who endorsed Obama about two months after he beat Clinton in Minnesota.

Klobuchar and Mondale
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (back to camera) embraces former Vice President Walter Mondale at the Minnesota delegation meeting Monday morning at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

Asked if she's faced any resistance, Klobuchar replied, "Not really - obviously, there are going to be a few people, but her leadership Tuesday is going to make a big difference" - when Clinton is scheduled to address the convention.

Klobuchar said she was happy with Obama's selection of Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden as his running mate.

"I really like Joe," she said. "I talked to him on the phone yesterday. He specifically said he's very interested in coming to Minnesota before the election's out, and I hope that works out with his schedule."

Minnesota's other senator, Republican Norm Coleman, also praised Biden, but in a way to criticize Obama.

"Joe Biden is a solid guy," Coleman said in a telephone interview. "I work with Joe Biden, I'm a senior member of his (Foreign Relations) committee. Joe Biden has great experience, I have great respect for him ... I think it highlights Obama's weakness."

Coleman took a page from Clinton's famous campaign ad which touted her as the best candidate to take a 3 a.m. phone call on national security.

"In the end, it's the president who's going to be answering that phone at 3 in the morning," Coleman said. "The vice president's not going to be lying in bed next to him."