Politico Comedy: Obama Has 'Gone Further' Than Any Predecessor to Keep Lobbyists Out of WH

October 16th, 2012 1:25 PM

There must be some kind of alternative universe reporters at the Politico inhabit as they toil for the online publication. That's the only conceivable explanation I can conjure up when I read some of what is presented there.

Take a report which first appeared early Monday morning from Anna Palmer (please). If she weren't reporting from that alternative universe, she wouldn't possibly be able to believe what she wrote in her story about how big, bad, eeeevil l-l-l-lobbyists will have so much influence in a possible Mitt Romney administration, and how that is such a stark contrast to how pristine and pure things have been during the Obama years (bolds are mine):

Lobbyists ready for a comeback under Mitt Romney

President Barack Obama’s gone further than any president to keep lobbyists out of the White House — even signing executive orders to do it.

But the mood on K Street is brightening.

Industry insiders believe that Mitt Romney will unshackle the revolving door and give lobbyists a shot at the government jobs their Democratic counterparts have been denied for the past four years, a dozen Republican lobbyists said in conversations with POLITICO.

... Allowing lobbyists back into the White House could be a PR nightmare early on in a new administration, some Republicans fear. Romney would have to toss out Obama’s orders, which shook up how President George W. Bush did business and let Obama claim his agenda wouldn’t be hijacked by special interests.

Sources close to Romney’s campaign say there has been no official word from the campaign on what the rules about lobbyists in the administration will be. And Romney himself has said nothing definitive on the trail about the issue.

But there are clear signs that lobbyists could be back in the executive branch.

... Obama’s rules bar lobbyists from serving in agencies they've lobbied within the past two years, ban political appointees who leave for the private sector from lobbying their former colleagues and shut down lobbyists from serving on federal boards.

President Bill Clinton implemented a rule in his tenure that blocked senior appointees from lobbying his administration for five years after their service. But the former president reversed course one month before leaving office because people complained about not being able to find jobs.

Working backwards, Clinton's course reversal at the end of his term proved that his post-administration lobbying ban was just a show which he always intended to cancel at the end of his tenure.

Next, within two weeks of Obama taking office, the White House was already on track to be crawling with former lobbyists, as Hot Air's Ed Morrissey noted at the time:

  • Eric Holder, attorney general nominee, was registered to lobby until 2004 on behalf of clients including Global Crossing, a bankrupt telecommunications firm [now confirmed].
  • Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture nominee, was registered to lobby as recently as last year on behalf of the National Education Association.
  • William Lynn, deputy defense secretary nominee, was registered to lobby as recently as last year for defense contractor Raytheon, where he was a top executive.
  • William Corr, deputy health and human services secretary nominee, was registered to lobby until last year for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a non-profit that pushes to limit tobacco use.
  • David Hayes, deputy interior secretary nominee, was registered to lobby until 2006 for clients, including the regional utility San Diego Gas & Electric.
  • Mark Patterson, chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, was registered to lobby as recently as last year for financial giant Goldman Sachs.
  • Ron Klain, chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, was registered to lobby until 2005 for clients, including the Coalition for Asbestos Resolution, U.S. Airways, Airborne Express and drug-maker ImClone.
  • Mona Sutphen, deputy White House chief of staff, was registered to lobby for clients, including Angliss International in 2003.
  • Melody Barnes, domestic policy council director, lobbied in 2003 and 2004 for liberal advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the American Constitution Society and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
  • Cecilia Munoz, White House director of intergovernmental affairs, was a lobbyist as recently as last year for the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group.
  • Patrick Gaspard, White House political affairs director, was a lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union.
  • Michael Strautmanis, chief of staff to the president’s assistant for intergovernmental relations, lobbied for the American Association of Justice from 2001 until 2005.

At the time, even the Politico (really, Anna) took note of the hypocrisy:

President Obama promised during his campaign that lobbyists "won't find a job in my White House."

So far, though, at least a dozen former lobbyists have found top jobs in his administration, according to an analysis done by Republican sources and corroborated by Politico.

Oh, and Palmer herself took note of the administration allowing lobbying by another name just six months ago:

Courting the White House: Don’t call it lobbying

Want to get a meeting with the White House? Just don’t call it lobbying.

But some Washington insiders have figured out how to work the new system. Case in point: A nonprofit called Business Forward can boast of setting up an average of three meetings a week between top White House officials and business leaders, and member companies like Microsoft, Visa and Hilton.

The strategy: The meetings, with top officials like Cass Sunstein and Jack Lew, are billed as “dialogues.” It’s an approach that plays well with former academics in the administration who prefer a discussion with ... special interest groups to a meeting with a hired gun.

The Politico's alternative universe appears to wipe reporters' memory banks clean. Not ours, Anna.

If there is a substantive difference between "a discussion with special interest groups" and "a meeting with a hired gun" in terms of influence on public policy, I'd like to know what it is. Until someone can tell me, I'll assume the obvious: There is none.

This arrangement, which was also designed to shield people who were for all practical purposes functioning as l-l-l-lobbyists for their causes from being listed as official White House visitors.

But now it's a few weeks before the election, and Anna Palmer apparently feels the need to tell us that there will l-l-l-lobbyists influencing a potential Romney administration, while Obama's has been clear as the driven snow. Spare us, Anna. "Lobbying" as any normal person would define it has expand greatly during the Obama administration, simply because the government has grown so much, and there have been so many more goodies to hand out.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.