Lobbyists in key positions in Team Obama transition team
posted at 11:45 am on November 15, 2008 by Ed Morrissey
To put the old song on its ear, everything new is old again. Remember when Barack Obama said this?
To rousing applause, Barack Obama formally announced this afternoon that the Democratic National Committee will follow his lead and begin refusing donations from registered lobbyists and special-interest political action committees.
“They do not fund my campaign,” the presumptive Democratic nominee told a small-town southwest Virginia crowd, after delivering a standard refrain that blames drug and insurance interests for blocking universal health care. “They will not fund our party. And they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I’m President of the United States.”
They may not have funded his campaign, although that’s highly questionable, but the Washington Post reports that they’ll be running his government. Obama has tapped a number of lobbyists for high-profile positions in the transition team, and most of them will likely end up with significant leadership roles in the coming Obama administration:
Barack Obama campaigned on a pledge to change Washington, vowing to upend the K Street lobbying culture he encountered when he joined the U.S. Senate.
But more than a dozen members of President-elect Obama’s fast-growing transition team have worked as federally registered lobbyists within the past four years. They include former lobbyists for the nation’s trial lawyers association, mortgage giant Fannie Mae, drug companies such as Amgen, high-tech firms such as Microsoft, labor unions and the liberal advocacy group Center for American Progress.
Mark Gitenstein, one of the 12 transition board members who will play a significant role in shaping the Obama administration, worked on million-dollar lobbying contracts with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and promoted legislation for giant defense contractors Boeing and General Dynamics. Until this fall, he was registered to petition Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission on behalf of AT&T, Merrill Lynch, KPMG, Ernst & Young and others.
Gitenstein has blue-chip credentials for the volunteer role on the Obama team. He was chief Democratic counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee during confirmation hearings for controversial Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork; was a close adviser to Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s White House bid; and served as counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Hey, nothing says post-partisan culture change than hiring the lobbyist that engineered the shameful attacks on Robert Bork! Gitenstein isn’t alone, either. Matthew Mosk notes the other significant lobbyists now rising to power under President Hope N. Change:
- Ron Klain – Joe Biden’s chief of staff, had lobbied for Fannie Mae on “regulatory matters” until 2004, when the fraud got uncovered after years of Congressional interference with regulators. Klain also lobbied for companies defending asbestos lawsuits and for ImClone, the drugmaker that faced charges of fraud.
- John Podesta – The man running Obama’s transition spent the last few years lobbying for the far-Left group Center for American Progress.
- Patrick Gaspard – Lobbied on health care issues on behalf of the SEIU, now associate personnel director for the transition team
Podesta has an even more interesting tie to lobbying. Bill Clinton enacted a five-year ban on former White House staffers lobbying present and future administrations in order to curtail influence peddling. However, after George Bush won in 2000, Clinton rescinded the order to help his staffers get jobs in the wake of the Republican sweep to victory. The man who helped write the revocation? John Podesta.
There is nothing inherently wrong with lobbying. There is plenty wrong with hypocrisy, especially on the grand scale committed by Barack Obama during this campaign. He regularly indulged in the populist demonization of lobbyists and claimed to lead a new movement to purify Washington of their eeeeevil influences. Now that he has the power, Obama has no problem working with lobbyists for fraudulently run mortgage giants and drug makers, smear artists, and asbestos-lawsuit defenders.
That’s change that 63 million suckers believed in.