Politics & Policy

Obama Economy: Lobbyists Hardest Hit

Out-of-work dad seeking White House job is a former wheat lobbyist.

The adorable little girl who presented First Lady Michelle Obama with her long-term-jobless father’s résumé Thursday may have been carrying on a family tradition of turning political access into opportunity, according to public records. The girl’s dad appears to be a down-on-his-luck lobbyist and Democratic Party factotum.

The first lady was graciousness itself when 10-year-old Charlotte Bell approached her during a Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day event for White House staffers and announced, “My dad’s been out of a job for three years and I wanted to give you his résumé.”

Obama hugged the girl, cooing, “Oh my goodness.” She then explained to the audience, “It’s a little private, but she’s doing something for her dad” and assured Bell that the résumé had been received.

According to Associated Press reporter Nancy Benac, Obama later gave the girl another hug and made sure to retrieve the résumé from a table before leaving the event. Bell’s father, Ben Bell, worked on Obama’s 2012 campaign and is seeking a “policy job” in the administration, AP reports.

By making ambitious use of her access to power, Charlotte appears to be a chip of the old block.

According to Open Secrets, Benjamin Bell worked as a director of government affairs at the National Association of Wheat Growers (NASG) from 2011 until an undetermined date, and at the American Forest & Paper Association from 2010 to 2011. Prior to that, Bell worked as a Democratic legislative assistant to Representative Sanford Dixon Bishop, Jr. of Georgia and former Representative Bobby Ray “Bob” Etheridge of North Carolina.

Benjamin A. Bell is listed on 411.com with two phone numbers at an address in Bethesda, Md. An outgoing message identifies “Ben and Jennifer” at one of the numbers. A list of Office of Management and Budget contributors to the 2015 budget includes a Jennifer Wagner Bell, who appears to be the parent and breadwinner who brought young Charlotte to the White House event. Neither Jennifer nor Ben Bell responded to attempts to reach them by phone and on Facebook.

It’s not clear what Bell did for Obama’s campaign or why he parted ways with the wheat lobbying group. A 2011 press release announced that Bell would be joining NASG in July of that year as the organization’s director of government affairs and farm policy, specializing in “Title I programs, crop insurance and trade issues for the 2012 Farm Bill.”

A representative of NASG tells National Review Online “There’s presently no-one by that name who works here,” adding, “I do not know who Ben Bell is.” She confirmed that the organization currently has another director of government affairs and farm policy, but would not comment on whether the group was satisfied with Bell’s work; nor would she confirm that he had ever worked there. The 2012 Farm Bill appears to have been a winner for wheat growers, featuring what Heritage Foundation analyst Emily Goff calls a “costly new subsidy” designed to “shield farmers from even smaller (shallower) revenue losses than under the existing federal insurance programs.” NASG applauded the bill when it passed the Senate.

An audience with the Obamas is hardly a guarantee of career advancement. Texas-based semiconductor engineer Darin Wedel remained out of work for months after his wife publicly confronted President Obama about his predicament during a Google hangout, and the president responded by taking a copy of his résumé. Although Wedel eventually found employment, his wife Jennifer told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Friday that the president had had nothing to do with the new job, adding that the couple had been “disappointed” by the experience. Hofstra University student Jeremy Epstein was still looking for work eight months after he brought up the poor job market for graduates during a 2012 presidential debate between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Even for the gainfully employed, the president can have a reverse-Midas touch. Obama supporter Velma Hart, a CFO at a non-profit who pronounced herself “exhausted,” “deeply disappointed” and fearful that her family was still stuck in the “hot dogs and beans era of our lives” during a 2010 town hall with the president, was laid off two months later

— Tim Cavanaugh is news editor of National Review Online. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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