WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton is being taken to task by her two closest rivals for accepting $400,000 in campaign contributions from Washington lobbyists.
Sen. Hillary Clinton dismissed criticism that she took money from lobbyists, saying it would not influence her.
Over the weekend, Clinton was booed by an audience of liberal bloggers in Chicago when she defended taking money from Washington lobbyists, something both Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards have vowed not to do.
"I don't think, based on my 35 years fighting for what I believe in, anybody seriously believes I'm going to be influenced by a lobbyist or a particular interest group," Clinton said.
"A lot of these lobbyists, whether you like it or not, represent real Americans. They actually do. They represent nurses, they represent social workers -- yes, they represent corporations that employ a lot of people."
The former first lady said that she welcomed the debate on the issue.
"I've been waiting for this. This gives us a real sense of reality with my being here," Clinton said, prompting a loud rumble from the audience at a candidates' forum sponsored by The Daily Kos.
Edwards' response was to ask, "How many people in this room have a Washington lobbyist working for you?"
"You are not represented by Washington lobbyists. We need to cut these people off," he said, to cheers.
However, while eschewing contributions from Washington lobbyists, Edwards has accepted about $10,000 in contributions from lobbyists in his home state of North Carolina, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Edwards campaign said there is no inconsistency because his pledge did not extend to lobbyists representing local interests.
Monday, the Edwards campaign also said it would return a $4,600 donation from the Credit Suisse bank, which is registered to lobby in Washington.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, lobbyists actually provide less campaign cash than political action committees or donors directly affiliated with large corporate interests.
"But they do get a lot of attention because it's very easy to point at them and say, well, these are the special interests, these are the people who most represent these big moneyed interests that are trying to influence policy," said Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the center.
And while the grassroots interests of many ordinary Americans are represented by Washington lobbyists, as Clinton noted, some political experts think that could be a hard case for her make.
Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report said that while Clinton is making an "analytical argument" about the way the political system works, Edwards "is simply getting the emotional advantage of portraying her as somebody who is close to lobbyists and big business and the establishment." E-mail to a friend