Lobbyists "a steady stream" at White House despite Obama pledge

Remember when Barack Obama pledged to keep lobbyists from dictating outcomes in his administration?  Good times, good times.  It only took a fortnight for Obama’s promise to become a joke when Jake Tapper asked Robert Gibbs to produce the “waivers” for lobbyist appointees to Obama’s administration, which numbered in the dozens by early March.  The Washington Post follows up more than three years later and discovers that lobbyists are “a steady stream” in the White House visitor logs:

It was an unremarkable January day, with a steady stream of lobbyists among the thousands of daily visitors to the White House and the surrounding executive office buildings, according to a Washington Post analysis of visitor logs released by the administration. The Post matched visits with lobbying registrations and connected records in the visitor database to show who participated in the meetings, information now available in a search engine on the Post’s web site.

The visitor logs for Jan. 17 — one of the most recent days available — show that the lobbying industry Obama has vowed to constrain is a regular presence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The records also suggest that lobbyists with personal connections to the White House enjoy the easiest access. …

“A lot of folks,” Obama said last month, “see the amounts of money that are being spent and the special interests that dominate and the lobbyists that always have access, and they say to themselves, maybe I don’t count.”

The White House visitor records make it clear that Obama’s senior officials are granting that access to some of K Street’s most influential representatives. In many cases, those lobbyists have long-standing connections to the president or his aides. Republican lobbyists coming to visit are rare, while Democratic lobbyists are common, whether they are representing corporate clients or liberal causes.

Some of these visitors are the usual suspects — lobbyists for unions, the ACLU, and so on.  But a great many more represent the very corporate interests that Obama blasted in 2008.  For instance, a lobbyist for Comcast and Taser International has been to the White House on 30 occasions.  Another lobbyist for the biotech industry has made two dozen visits.  A well-known liberal lobbyist has been to the White House 47 times, twenty more than Tony Podesta,  the lobbyist brother of former Obama aide John Podesta.  The spouse of former climate-change czar Carol Browner, Tom Downey, made 31 visits to the White House.  His firm represents Time Warner and Herbalife, among others.

Does that sound like a President who chased the lobbyists out of the government?  Or does it sound more like a President who just opened the doors for the moneychangers of choice?

Don’t get me wrong.  Lobbying is a legitimate profession, and in fact is explicitly protected by the First Amendment, which forbids Congress from passing a law infringing on the right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  Groups form on permanent or ad hoc bases to argue for policy choices.  Lobbying is only illegitimate when it involves illegitimate means.  However, Barack Obama set himself up as the scourge of lobbyists and demagogued on the subject incessantly during the 2008 campaign. As recently as last month, he posed himself as holier-than-thou on the subject.  This is a clear example of hypocrisy in action.  Kudos to the Washington Post for exposing it.

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