The Times of India claimed that Barack Obama had appointed seventeen lobbyists to high government positions in the first 14 days of his administration. Politico provided a list of twelve of these last week, a handy reference with which we can start building our lists of “exceptions” to the Obama Administration Ethics Policy:
Here are former lobbyists Obama has tapped for top jobs:
- Eric Holder, attorney general nominee, was registered to lobby until 2004 on behalf of clients including Global Crossing, a bankrupt telecommunications firm [now confirmed].
- Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture nominee, was registered to lobby as recently as last year on behalf of the National Education Association.
- William Lynn, deputy defense secretary nominee, was registered to lobby as recently as last year for defense contractor Raytheon, where he was a top executive.
- William Corr, deputy health and human services secretary nominee, was registered to lobby until last year for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a non-profit that pushes to limit tobacco use.
- David Hayes, deputy interior secretary nominee, was registered to lobby until 2006 for clients, including the regional utility San Diego Gas & Electric.
- Mark Patterson, chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, was registered to lobby as recently as last year for financial giant Goldman Sachs.
- Ron Klain, chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, was registered to lobby until 2005 for clients, including the Coalition for Asbestos Resolution, U.S. Airways, Airborne Express and drug-maker ImClone.
- Mona Sutphen, deputy White House chief of staff, was registered to lobby for clients, including Angliss International in 2003.
- Melody Barnes, domestic policy council director, lobbied in 2003 and 2004 for liberal advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the American Constitution Society and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
- Cecilia Munoz, White House director of intergovernmental affairs, was a lobbyist as recently as last year for the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group.
- Patrick Gaspard, White House political affairs director, was a lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union.
- Michael Strautmanis, chief of staff to the president’s assistant for intergovernmental relations, lobbied for the American Association of Justice from 2001 until 2005.
This doesn’t count Tom Daschle, who never registered as a lobbyist but got paid millions for his political connections in pursuit of preferential treatment for his clients in the health-care industry. The AP notes this in today’s look at the Lobbyist Administration:
Sloan and others said embarrassments over Daschle, one of several top Obama appointees with a history of influencing government for clients, should not detract from the president’s first-day vow to sharply limit the role of lobbyists in his administration.
Daschle, a former senator tapped to head Health and Human Services, is not technically a lobbyist. But he was paid more than $5.2 million over the past two years as he advised health insurers and hospitals and worked in other industries such as energy and telecommunications.
Fred Wertheimer of Democracy21 is one of Washington’s best-known advocates of more open and honest government. He called Obama’s executive order “unprecedented and almost revolutionary in nature” and “a direct attack on the culture of Washington and the way business is done here.”
“A few waivers will not undermine it,” he said, provided they are justified and limited.
Limited? It’s been less than two weeks since Obama took office, and he’s appointed a lobbyist a day to a government position. What kind of governing philosophy is that, if not a big “For Sale” sign on the White House, at least according to Obama’s own anti-lobbyist rhetoric on the campaign trail? A lobbyist a day helps keeps accountability away.
Wertheimer demonstrates all that is wrong with these ersatz watchdog groups who really only are interested in partisan outcomes. Can anyone seriously believe that Wertheimer would have had the same orgasmic reaction if George Bush had written that ethics policy and spent every day afterwards violating it? Does he really expect anyone to believe that words matter more than action?
Well, the media might buy it, gauging by their coverage of this issue, but perhaps not for long. If the AP has started to point it out, even this mildly, others may soon follow.