Tags: obama | daschle | lobbying

Daschle Choice Tests Obama's 'No Lobbyist' Pledge

Thursday, 20 Nov 2008 12:03 PM

By Jim Meyers

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President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle for Secretary of Health and Human Services raises questions about Obama honoring his vow not to employ lobbyists in his administration.

Newsmax reported earlier that in November 2007, candidate Obama said of lobbyists: “I don’t take a dime of their money, and when I am president, they won’t find a job in my White House.”

But since leaving the U.S. Senate following an election loss in 2004, Daschle has been a highly paid adviser to healthcare clients at the law and lobbying firm Alston & Bird.

Although Daschle is not a registered lobbyist, he “provides strategic advice to the firm’s clients about how to influence government policy or actions,” The New York Times reports.

Those clients include Abbott Laboratories and HealthSouth.

Daschle is also a board member of the Mayo Clinic, a major healthcare provider and recipient of grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Daschle’s selection raises questions on another score as well. Obama pledged on his campaign Web site that “no political appointees in an Obama administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years.”

That suggests Daschle might have to recuse himself from any matter related to the Mayo Clinic or some of the clients he advised at Alston & Bird — “a potentially broad swatch of the health secretary’s portfolio,” The Times observes.

Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman for the Obama transitional office, said: “If [Daschle] is asked to serve in the Obama administration, he will represent the interests of the president-elect and not his former clients.”

Footnote: The former senator’s wife, Linda Hall Daschle, is one of Washington’s top lobbyists, working mostly on behalf of airline-related companies.

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