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Lobbyists Are People Too

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A large number of President Obama's supporters were outraged that one day after instituting strict lobbying restrictions for his administration he turned around and gave a waiver to Bill Lynn, Raytheon lobbyist, to be the deputy secretary of Defense. Despite all of candidate Obama's anti-lobbyist rhetoric, President Obama has found that, in many cases, he wants lobbyists in his administration.

Lynn was the first to receive a waiver of the rules in Executive Order 13487 restricting lobbyists from entering the administration in a position that has authority over issues on which they previously lobbied. It looks like the President's nominee for deputy secretary of Health and Human Services will require a waiver as well:

Obama plans to nominate William Corr, who had been executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and a registered lobbyist since 2000, to be deputy secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). But nominating Corr would require the White House to waive Obama’s Jan. 21 executive order against lobbyists serving in his administration. The order says a person may not “seek or accept employment with any executive agency that I lobbied within the two years before the date of my appointment.”

Of course, as The Hill notes, this does not irk Obama's supporters as Corr's lobbying, unlike Lynn's defense lobbying, is more closely ideologically aligned with them. (Lynn will also be in charge of a department that contracts with his former client to the tune of $66 billion over the past 8 years.) When using a broad brush to define "Washington lobbyists" these kinds of distinctions are blurred and it is hard to claim that one is more acceptable than another.

Obama has found many former lobbyists to work in his administration in positions that do not fall under EO 13487. Bara Vaida at the National Journal runs a list (you can read her story on the subject here):

Cassandra Butts, deputy counsel (2005-2006, registered to lobby for Center for American Progress) David Axelrod, senior adviser (2005, Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt) Michael Strautmanis, chief of staff to senior adviser Valerie Jarrett (2005, American Association for Justice) Cecilia Munoz, director of intergovernmental affairs, (2008, National Council of La Raza) Patrick Gaspard, White House political director (2007-2008, SEIU) Dan Turton, deputy director of legislative affairs (2003-2008, Timmons & Co.) Emmett Beliveau, director of advance (2007, Patton Boggs) Thomas Donilon, deputy at the National Security Council (2008, O'Melveny & Myers; 2005, Fannie Mae) John Brennan, homeland security adviser (2008, the Brennan Group; 2006, MWW Group) David Medina, deputy chief of staff to Michelle Obama (2008, US Global Leadership Campaign) Jocelyn Frye, deputy assistant to Michelle Obama (2008, National Partnership for Women & Families) Jay Heimbach, legislative affairs (2001-2006, Ricchetti Inc.) Denise Wilson, legislative affairs (manager of government relations at Motorola, but not in lobbying database) Sean Kennedy, legislative affairs (2005-2006, SBC Communications -- now AT&T)

Everyone should continue to watch to see if the issuance of waivers remains rare. So far, it seems that many lobbyists are being frozen out of a job. Some lobbyists are even considering moving into jobs in Congress to "cleanse" themselves of the lobbyist taint so they can eventually gain employment in the administration. That just sounds terrible for Congress. They should not allow themselves to be perceived as a detoxicification center.