Obama's 'Revolving Door' Ban on Hiring Lobbyists a Failure

Tuesday, 12 Aug 2014 09:08 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The Obama administration has hired 70 people who were at one time registered as either corporate, trade association, or for-hire lobbyists, Politico reported.

President Barack Obama vowed when he ran for his first term that he would prevent former lobbyists from working in government departments where they could exert "undue influence" on issues for which they had previously lobbied.

Instead, many of the former lobbyists hired are in senior government posts, according to the political news website.

During a campaign speech in 2007, Politico says Obama declared that lobbyists would not be given jobs in his White House. "I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over," he said.

When he took office, Obama signed an order that the White House then said "closes the revolving door that allows government officials to move to and from private sector jobs in ways that give that sector undue influence over government."

By revolving door, the White House means stopping former staffers in the administration taking their government knowledge and using it in the private sector for personal gain.

The White House says it has done more than previous administration to prevent staffers cashing in on their government experience by requiring employees to sign an ethics pledge and by making it more difficult for former lobbyists to enter the administration, according to Politico.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz told the website, "President Obama has done more in the past six years to close the revolving door of special interest influence than any president before him, namely by prohibiting executive branch appointees from accepting gifts from lobbyists, prohibiting former lobbyists from working on issues on which they lobbied, and by preventing appointees from lobbying the White House after working here."

Despite the intentions, Politico said Obama has had trouble running his administration without hiring lobbyists, or having former employees work in private sector jobs where they can attempt to use their experience in government to lobby for special interests.

"It’s expected that in any administration that this is going to happen," said David Urban, a veteran Republican lobbyist with American Continental Group, about former federal staffers joining private industry. "I think it’s disingenuous on their part to say that it wasn’t going to happen or to try to distance themselves from it."

Obama’s regulations against lobbying have been attacked from people on K Street from the get-go, Politico reported, with critics saying that omitting registered lobbyists from potential policy and management position reduced the supply of qualified applicants.

"Lobbyists are easy political targets for presidential candidates and for freshly minted presidents," Jeff Birnbaum, a longtime lobbying reporter at The Washington Post now in charge of public relations at BGR Group, told Politico. "But when a president and his staff get down to doing the hard work of governing, they quickly realize that they need serious experts on a wide range of complicated topics to get the job done,"

Proponents of the lobbying ban believe that it has helped do away with abuses seen in previous administrations.

"K Street lobbyists want to attack the ethics waiver and argue that it isn't doing anything, but it has had a very, very significant impact," Craig Holman, a lobbyist with the watchdog group Public Citizen, told Politico.


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