I’m surprised that Obama’s faux-populist pandering on the issue of lobbyists hasn’t received more criticism. He said:
To close that credibility gap, we have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, to end the outsized influence of lobbyists, to do our work openly, to give our people the government they deserve.
That’s what I came to Washington to do. That’s why, for the first time in history, my administration posts our White House visitors online. That’s why we’ve excluded lobbyists from policy-making jobs or seats on federal boards and commissions.
It’s true lobbyists can’t get policy-making jobs in the Obama White House — unless of course they give a waiver. From Politifact:
One of the first Obama appointees to get a waiver was William J. Lynn to be deputy secretary of defense, the No. 2 position at the Pentagon. Lynn was a Raytheon lobbyist for six years, lobbying extensively on a broad range of defense-related issues.
Jocelyn Frye, director of policy and projects in the Office of the First Lady, also got a waiver. Previously, Frye lobbied for the National Partnership for Women and Families from 2001 to 2008. The organization advocates for fairness in the workplace, access to health care and “policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family.”
And Cecilia Muñoz, director of intergovernmental affairs in the Executive Office of the President, manages the White House’s relationships with state and local governments and is a principal liaison to the Hispanic community. Formerly, Muñoz formerly lobbied for National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization.
The White House has issued seven waivers to its ethics rules, which apply to lobbyists as well as to people who served as officers and directors of a company or organization. And agencies have issued 15. The White House has said these waivers are quite rare — less than 1 percent of the thousands of appointments that have been made.
What about those recusals we mentioned earlier? The administration has not made public how many of these have been issued. We do know that Mark Patterson, the chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, took one — but that information was only released by the White House after lawmakers and media reports started asking questions. Public records show Patterson worked as a lobbyist for Goldman Sachs in 2008.
Obama said that he has “excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs.” But that’s not the case. We know of at least four that have taken on policymaking roles in the Obama administration — Frye’s title even contains the word “policy.” While these appointments may be few and far between, and while those who made the cut have signed special waivers, we give Obama a False on this claim.
Obama’s waivers are defensible, but it’s a bit irksome to hear talk of “closing the credibility gap” and boasting of transparency, without at least mentioning this stuff.