Do you recall that moment of Hope and ChangeTM when Barack Obama barred lobbyists from the federal government by executive order? By golly, Obama would clean up government and keep lobbyists out of policy-making positions, or else … he wouldn’t. For the second time in the eight days since signing the order, the Obama administration has plucked a lobbyist and put him in charge of the policy on which he’d lobbied:
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner picked a former Goldman Sachs lobbyist as a top aide Tuesday, the same day he announced rules aimed at reducing the role of lobbyists in agency decisions.
Mark Patterson will serve as Geithner’s chief of staff at Treasury, which oversees the government’s $700 billion financial bailout program. Goldman Sachs received $10 billion of that money.
Goldman Sachs, eh? Four months ago, I wrote about GS’s political connections and predicted that they would survive the crisis. Now they have one of their bailout lobbyists in charge of the bailout, a neat trick that even the Bush administration would have avoided.
And what exactly did Obama promise us as Hope and ChangeTM?
3. Revolving Door Ban Lobbyists Entering Government. If I was a registered lobbyist within the 2 years before the date of my appointment, in addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 2, I will not for a period of 2 years after the date of my appointment:
(a) participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment;
(b) participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls; or
(c) seek or accept employment with any executive agency that I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment.
So let’s see. Patterson will serve as chief of staff to Geithner, which means deep involvement in the bailout money — unless Geithner won’t be involved in it himself, in which case the entire raison d’être of confirming Geithner evaporates. Goldman Sachs will get a big chunk of that money, and might come back for more. It appears that Patterson will by definition unavoidably violate sections 3(a), (b), and (c) of the new code of ethics in the Obama White House.
Will there be more exceptions to this rule … or have the exceptions already become the rule, eight days after Obama signed it? Change, baby!