On his first full day in office, Obama made a show of signing an executive order that says that lobbyists will not be allowed to work in his administration. Upon signing the order, he released the following statement. Credit for story here.
"If you are a lobbyist entering my administration, you will not be able to work on matters you lobbied on or in the agencies that you lobbied during the previous two years," Obama said. "When you leave government, you will not be able to lobby my administration for as long as I am president."
Since then, I don't think he has had a nomination for his administration that hasn't violated this rule. According to the National Journal Magazine:
As of January 21, Obama had nominated two recent lobbyists to high-level administration posts, and 14 of the 112 White House staffers that Obama had named had been registered as lobbyists at some point since 2005.
This is over 12% of his nominees. Of course the media is not reporting this. The only one that has gotten any play at all is the Deputy Secretary of Defense, William Lynn. Following is a partial list of lobbyists that Obama has nominated for his administration.
This month, Obama nominated William V. Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, to be deputy Health and Human Services secretary. He also tapped William Lynn, vice president of government operations and strategy at Raytheon, to be deputy Defense secretary. Both men were federally registered lobbyists until June 30, 2008.
Expectations are that three other lobbyists or former lobbyists will be nominated for political positions: Richard Verma, a lobbyist for Steptoe & Johnson, is rumored to be in line for the post of assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the State Department; Mark Patterson, who was a lobbyist for Goldman Sachs until April 11, 2008, is being considered for a top job at the Treasury Department; and Mark Gitenstein, who took a leave from Mayer Brown last summer, is said to be Obama's choice to head the Justice Department's Office of Policy -Development.
Let's go back to the original quote above though. "If you are a lobbyist entering my administration, you will not be able to work on matters you lobbied on or in the agencies that you lobbied during the previous two years," This in itself is a statement that has, shall we say evolved, over the last year.
In November 2007, Obama boasted at a campaign event that lobbyists "won't find a job in my White House." He later softened that rhetoric to say that lobbyists "won't dominate" the White House.
Under George Bush hiring lobbyists was blasted. There were charges of cronyism, political payback, buying administration jobs, etc. Now it's OK to ignore your own standards if you feel the person is qualified. It's a new day folks.
Bottom line is this whole mess brings two questions to mind.
Is there anybody on the left who could be confirmed without special exemptions? We have had a Treasury Secretary who had to pay his back taxes before he could be confirmed. A Secretary of State who the Senate had to ignore all conflict of interests standards to confirm. If anybody is really paying attention, they would realize that one of the only appointments that Obama has made that did not need a special exemption was a hold-over from the Bush administration, Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Of course Obama made up for this by appointing a lobbyist as his deputy secretary.
Finally, why did he bother? The ink wasn't even dry on the executive order before Obama violated it.
The answer is, because he can. With the media swooning at his every word he can make a grand pronouncement about something and the media will get a chill down it's collective leg. They will be so enraptured by his brilliance and the "change" he is bringing to Washington that they will not notice that he is actually doing just the opposite.
If there is one campaign promise he has kept so far, it's this. He did bring "change" to Washington.