Former White House Aides Cashing in on Connections

Image: Former White House Aides Cashing in on Connections President Barack Obama with former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn.

Friday, 31 May 2013 12:59 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Despite President Barack Obama's promise to limit the influence of special interests on Washington, a number of his former aides have found lucrative work for groups seeking access to the administration and Congress.

Many of them now have a vested interest in controversial issues ranging from gun control and mining to the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, reports the Washington Post.

Four of them, the newspaper notes, are former Obama aides Bill Burton, Stephanie Cutter, Jim Papa, and Paul Tewes, now all consultants for opponents of the pipeline project, while another Obama aide, former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn, has the project's sponsor, TransCanada, as a client at her communications firm.

After he was first elected, Obama implemented new rules barring his former aides from directly lobbying the government for two years. But that effort, the Post said, has "done little to slow a tide of groups hiring former top aides as highly paid consultants, speakers and media advisers in an effort to influence the administration."

"Obama's made a really bold step trying to rein in the revolving door and keep people from cashing in on their executive branch experience, but some people are pushing the envelope and are trying to find ways around that," Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, told the Post.

Companies that hire former Obama aides are also trying hard to capitalize on their connections, reports the Post, pointing to the advocacy group Trout Unlimited, which hired Tewes, former White House spokesman Tommy Victor and former speechwriter Jon Favreau this year to help lobby against a proposed gold mine near Alaska's Bristol Bay. Trout Unlimited wants the Environmental Protection Agency to protect a salmon fishery there.

"These are people with access to the administration, and we are working to tell the stories of these real people . . . and make sure the president hears this and has a good grasp of what's at stake, Shoren Brown, the company's campaign director, told the Post.

Despite the cashing by aides, Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman, defended the president's efforts in a statement to the Post.

"Our goal has been to reduce the influence of special interests in Washington — which we've done more than any administration in history," he said. "These restrictions are intended to avoid conflicts of interests, but do not and should not prohibit former government officials from expressing their opinions or participating in a public exchange of ideas."



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