With the Barack Obama campaign continuing to hammer away at John McCain for having lobbyists on his campaign staff, Soren Dayton wonders why turnabout hasn’t been made fair play yet. It all depends on the meaning of the word “staff”, apparently, as Dayton and the Washington Post discovered earlier this week:

Barack Obama’s campaign tries to play “count the lobbyist” with John McCain. Now I don’t accept the lobbyist = bad equation, and so I think that this is all a little trivial.

But hypocrisy is not trivial. Let’s do a little recount of the lobbyists around Obama.

There’s Jim Johnson, who I have previously written about. Johnson has represented the former Prime Minister of Senegal, and as CEO of Fannie Mae, he improperly disclosed profits that resulted in him getting a big bonus he didn’t deserve. Obama put this lobbyist-fundraiser-foreign-agent in charge of picking his Vice Presidential candidate.

There’s Francisco J. Pavía, his Puerto Rico state director, and a lobbyist for the Government of Puerto Rico. That violates Obama’s lobbyist policy. What have they done about that?

There’s his chief strategist David Axelrod, may not be exactly a lobbyist but certainly represents a lot of those corporations that Obama condemns. Obama said “I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over.” I guess that the corporate lobbyists are elemental evil, while corporate admen and astroturfers are all good.

Obama’s campaign said in response to Pavia that he was an “active volunteer” and therefore could work on the campaign. Isn’t that getting a little too cute by half? The purpose for the no-lobbyist rule wasn’t that Obama (and McCain) would eschew paying them — it was about their influence on the campaign. Regardless of whether they volunteer or occupy paid positions on the staff, they have obvious access to the candidate, and that supposedly was the point.

Actually, when one considers the issue, having a lobbyist volunteer to do political favors sounds more suspicious than paying them for their work. One has to ask what the lobbyist expects to receive for all of these hours as a volunteer. A paid relationship would establish a normal, above-board relationship, as the person would get all of the compensation one would expect as a salary, rather than favors down the road.

It’s an absurd issue in any case. Lobbyists aren’t criminals; they represent groups of citizens before Congress on legislative matters. If Obama and McCain want to reduce the influence of lobbyists, they can start by reducing the power and scope of the federal government, which creates the spoils system on which they thrive. That would be a lot more effective than kicking them off the campaign payroll, and more meaningful.

However, the Obama campaign response insults the intelligence. If Obama thinks that having lobbyists on campaigns is a bad idea, he shouldn’t have any working in any capacity on his campaign at all, paid or not. Drawing distinctions such as these is grossly hypocritical and laughably obtuse.

Tags: Barack Obama