Well, it depends on how you define 'lobby'

Mitt Romney, who is fond of painting himself as a D.C. outsider, is finding it hard to have his cake and eat it, too. He got into it the other day with Associated Press reporter Glen Johnson during a South Carolina photo-op over the question of his ties to lobbyists. Mitt insists he is running a lobbyist-free campaign, or at least that those evil lobbyists are doing nothing more than just sort of hanging out with his campaign. Now comes Boston Herald reporter Jessica Van Sack with her story, “More than a dozen lobbyists raising money for Romney.”

Van Sack used a Public Citizen data base to identify at least 13 registered lobbyists who are working as “bundlers” for Romney, meaning they’re bringing him bundles of cash with, um, no expectation that Romney will someday remember how nice they were to him. You can access the same data at WhiteHouseForSale.org, which is maintained by Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

From Van Sack’s story:

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, called Romney’s denials “Clintonian.”

“This is just ridiculous. It’s a self-inflicted wound,” Sabato said. “Campaigns are just obsessed with the ideas of presenting their candidates as being lobbyist-free – but it isn’t true.

While some data on bundlers is available to the public, most of the presidential candidates are declining to reveal how much their top bundlers have raised. Last week, Public Citizen called on the candidates to come clean.

Hey, all lobbyists aren’t evil. There — I said it. But it sure doesn’t help your credibility as a candidate to try and distance yourself from them with one hand, while taking their cash with the other.

Mitt’s little tiff has opened the door for bloggers to drag him over the coals.

Jonathan Stein, Mojo Blog: “In fact, nearly every lobbyist who has endorsed Romney is peddling influence for the health care industry. They represent insurance companies like AIG and New York Life; trade groups like the Health Industry Group Purchasing Association and the Healthcare Leadership Council (which reps “chief executives from all disciplines within the health care system”); pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer . . .”

John Cole, Balloon Juice: “Seriously, if people are looking for Bush’s heir, this guy is it. Another blue-blood with a penchants for making shit up and saying whatever, Mitt is completely beholden to corporate interests, surrounded by sycophants who dare question him, attractive enough that he can get the golf reclublican vote, enthusiastic about torture yet completely willing to act religious when the scenario calls for it- the guy is a Bush clone.”

Hat City Blog: “The laundry list of misleading statements from the Mitt Romney and his campaign is becoming so annoying that finally someone challenged him on his nonsense.”