Remember Anita Dunn? She played a key role in the Obama administration’s war on Fox News, acting as the informal liaison between the White House and Media Matters in the ill-fated effort, but eventually left the White House communications office after noting that one of her heroes was Mao Zedong. Dunn never quite left the Obama administration’s circle of advisers, however, and has also provided assistance to Obama’s re-election campaign — or at least she has up to now. The New York Times caught up with Dunn’s activities, which include a lot of lobbying at the same time she’s advising the President:
As a confidante of President Obamaand a senior campaign adviser, Ms. Dunn has helped prepare him for the debates this month, plotted campaign strategy and acted as a surrogate of sorts in attacking Mitt Romney for a “backward-looking attitude” on issues like women’s rights and health care.
She and her colleagues atSKDKnickerbocker, a communications firm, have built a growing list of blue-chip companies — food manufacturers, a military contractor, the New York Stock Exchange and the Canadian company developing the Keystone XL pipeline — willing to pay handsomely for help in winning over federal regulators or landing government contracts. Some clients and lobbyists who have teamed up with SKDK say they benefit from the firm’s ability to provide information about the Obama administration’s views.
“It is difficult to penetrate this administration,” said Jason Mahler, a lobbyist for the computer technology company Oracle, which was part of a coalition that hired Ms. Dunn’s firm to push for reduced tax rates on offshore profits. “Anyone that has an insight into what they are thinking or their strategy or thoughts on issues we are working on is helpful, and they provided that.”
SKDK executives said that Ms. Dunn, who declined to be interviewed, was scrupulous about separating her political work from her corporate agenda, and that she followed White House ethics rules barring her from appealing on behalf of clients.
And hey, she’s not the only Obama adviser in this position. Hilary Rosen, who Team Obama used as a surrogate early in the campaign only to see her usefulness vanish in a nasty personal attack on Ann Romney, is a colleague at SKDK:
What the firm offers, said Hilary Rosen, an SKDK partner who is also a high-profile Obama ally, is help in navigating the political landscape in Washington.
Remember, of course, that the Obama campaign’s entire “Hope and Change” mantra was based on demonizing lobbyists and their close connections to politicians — especially on behalf of eeeeeeeeeeevil corporations. That was always an intellectually dishonest argument, as the right to lobby government is enshrined in the First Amendment, and there is nothing wrong with organizing to do so. The closeness of Dunn and Rosen to the Obama campaign, though, certainly makes them look like hypocrites.
The Daily Beast reports that this revelation has some Obama aides fuming for that very reason:
White House and campaign officials privately are voicing chagrin and surprise over the extent of presidential confidante Anita Dunn’s extensive consulting work for firms lobbying the administration on policies and regulations at the very time she is a key reelection adviser.
“It smells,” said one Obama campaign official. He asked for anonymity, as did at least three other White House and campaign aides, as well as one close personal friend of the president who responded to disclosures by The New York Times.
A White House aide conceded being “pissed off” by the story, expressing concern that Mitt Romney could use it to ridicule Obama’s pledges to change Washington’s political culture. He cited several other consultants working on the reelection campaign and said, “You don’t hear stories about them so obviously exploiting their access.”
A campaign aide said: “The timing is terrible. I bet it comes up in the debate [Monday] as a question of Obama ethics. I think she is well over the line.”
I’m not sure it will come up in the debate tonight, which will focus on foreign policy, unless SKDK does a significant amount of lobbying for foreign corporations. So far, that doesn’t appear to be the case. However, one can expect Team Romney to ding Obama for this hypocrisy in the next few days, although they probably won’t spend too much time on it. Most people want to hear about economy and a change in direction, and Mitt Romney already has his closing argument for those voters.
Update: I took “and” out of the headline. It was an artifact from an earlier headline draft, and it made no sense at all once I had edited it — because Obama isn’t lobbying anyone, obviously. My apologies if it confused anyone.