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article imageOp-Ed: Is there hypocrisy regarding lobbyists in the White House?

By Nikki Weingartner     Jan 30, 2009 in Politics
With politicians abroad being called hypocrites for going back on their devout promises to "not" do something that others have done, should we expect any less from our Commander In Chief? "Just say no" to lobbyists in the White House now means what?
Sure, a spokesperson explained that William Lynn, President Obama's choice for Deputy Secretary of Defense, came " highly recommended from experts," which very well may be the case, but was Lynn a lobbyist? Oh yea.
According to National Journal Magazine who is tracking the number of lobbyists being hired by President Obama in a direct contradiction of his own ethical reform statement that publicly showed contempt their "kind," the hiring spree of lobbyists in the White House is actually a "vindication" of sorts for those who are lobbyists. During his campaign, he promised that lobbyists "won't find a job in my White House," but later softened that harsh tone to say that they would not "dominate" or run his White House.
President Obama, during his campaign, made the promise that lobbyists would not work in areas that pertained to the field in which they lobbied for "at least two years after" that association. A reasonable boundary.
Well, in terms of numbers and by the definition of domination, the former lobbyists who are now White House staffers are not dominating, with Journal's claim of 14 of the112 staffers being registered as lobbyists since 2005. But as far as holding to his promise of working in the fields of pertinence? Thats a different story.
White House Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden, Ron Klain, was a lobbyist for Fannie Mae until 2004, as well as ImClone, according to the NY Times. His lobbying was done through the law firm O’Melveny & Myers. Of course, many could say that this guy's history of lobbying for the decrepit and corrupt companies shows no connection whatsoever to his ability to fulfill duties as Biden's right hand.
William Lynn lobbied for Raytheon as recently as the summer of 2008, which is in direct opposition with Obama's softest of statements that they cannot work in areas pertaining to their lobbying field. However, Raytheon's image on its website will tell the tale that defense is their job. What was Lynn appointment? Deputy Defense Secretary, which obviously has nothing to do with defense.
William V. Corr was nominated for the position of Secretary, Health and Human Services. Corr was the Executive Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and lobbied maybe as recently as September of 2008 against tobacco. He was federally registered until the summer of 2008. Again, health and lobbying against tobacco isn't exactly a different area or field, now is it?
Richard Verma, supposedly in line for Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs of the State Department lobbied for the diverse law firm giant, Steptoe & Johnson. He will be in charge of coordinating lawmaking activity.
Mark Patterson lobbied for Goldman Sachs, a global investment banking company, until spring, 2008. He is up for Treasury Department.
Mark Gitenstein departed from the world renowned law firm Mayer Brown as a lobbyist for big clients such as the US Chamber of Commerce for legal reform issues with the United States Government. His choice appointment is Justice Department's Office of Policy-Development.
As a bit of simplistic understanding with regards to the term, lobbyists are in the business of trying to get legislatures to PASS laws that benefit themselves and their clients and DEFEAT those that are not beneficial to them. They make a lot of money doing their job, with some showing Gitenstein receiving $500,000 US for his work with AT&T. They are supposedly held to certain standards, but those standards, especially in individual cases, are often skirted and they develop a reputation of being ruthless in that they will go to great lengths to meet their objective. This is not surprising, as those who lobby in certain areas have a lot to gain.
So whether its a nomination or official declaration, those who are holding White House positions may not be the dominating factors but they certainly are in positions of decision making capacity. Furthermore, they clearly are in positions that parallel with their lobbyist skills, that which is a direct violation of the promises made to the people who elected him.
Is it outright hypocrisy, where statements were made to gain the trust of the population and now the true grit is coming through or is this simply a case of getting in over one's head by making a statement and not realizing that with the number of registered lobbyists on record, finding the best fit for the position who has no lobbying experience in his or her field would be virtually impossible?
If the latter holds true, then why not a simple fact checking of numbers and why all the pomp and circumstance surrounding numerous campaign events that hammered lobbyists in general, leaving those in favour of ethics reform cheering in the stands? The ethical are not cheering now.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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