‘Hope and Change’: Lobbyists return to the White House in droves
posted at 10:01 am on August 13, 2014 by Noah Rothman
“No political appointees in an Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years,” read one of the president’s many broken promises from the 2008 campaign. “And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration.”
“I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over,” Obama said in 2007 according to a post on Change.gov which is, gallingly, still live. “I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists — and won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president.”
Well, it was a nice thought.
“The Obama administration on Tuesday rolled back part of its ban on lobbyists serving in government, narrowing one of the president’s signature policies in the face of a legal challenge,” The New York Times reported.
Under a new rule, registered lobbyists whom Mr. Obama had previously barred from serving on government advisory boards may now participate if they are representing companies or groups and not acting on their own behalf.
The change was published in the Federal Register and took effect immediately, the administration said. It comes after the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected the Obama administration’s efforts to dismiss a lawsuit by six lobbyists who challenged the ban’s constitutionality after being excluded from a trade advisory committee. The lobbyists said their First Amendment rights to petition the government had been violated.
The change is the latest example of the limits of the president’s effort to rein in the influence of special interests in government. Mr. Obama barred lobbyists from contributing to his campaign and signed an order on his first day in office in 2009 prohibiting them from serving in his administration.
“[T]he New York Times reported on this topic and referred to only “a number” of lobbyists, conveniently omitting any sense of scale of the phenomenon for its readership,” National Review‘s Jim Geraghty observed. He pointed to a report authored by Conor McGrath in the Journal of Public Affairs which concluded that 119 lobbyists were working in the administration as of last year.
The case against money being allowed to play a prominent role in politics and elections is particularly weak. One, it is a utopian and unfeasible objective to demand that capital be somehow forcibly divorced from this rather central aspect of American life, particularly since the alternative is to create a public enterprise out of campaigns and elections. Two, petitioning the government for redress is a constitutionally protected activity, and the anger some express toward corporations for hiring individuals to do just that is more often than not just hollow, Bryan-esque populism.
That having been said, it is a virtue for politicians to keep their word when they make lofty promises to the American people while pitching their candidacy. The president has entirely reversed himself on the issue of lobbyist and, as Michelle Malkin noted in a compelling post, the press doesn’t really seem to care.
This is not even the first time that the president has been cornered on his hypocritical approach to the issue of lobbyists.
When asked about the inconsistency of saying he never takes money from lobbyists while taking money from lobbyists in 2008, candidate Barack Obama told the late NBC News host Tim Russert that he is a weak and fallible man.
“I have said repeatedly that money is the original sin in politics and I am not sinless,” Obama said. “But what I have been consistent about is fighting to reduce the influence of money in politics at every level of government.”
This entire interview is worth a watch because, at about the 2:50 mark, the president has the – let’s call it audacity — to respond to the accusation that he is being hypocritical by attacking his interlocutor for demonstrating rank cynicism by daring to notice.
Obama is, as he has repeatedly insisted, demonstrating the best of intentions. What more do you people want? Results??
The Hope and Change of 2008 has fully and completely descended into hypocrisy and despair, but Politico remains, as ever, forgiving of the president.
“Barack Obama promised to take on Washington’s revolving door culture,” a report on Obama’s about-face on lobbyists began. “Washington won.”
Such lengths to go merely to avoid admitting that Obama took you for a ride. Washington didn’t win. Obama capitulated in a fight he was never going to wage vigorously in the first place.