It’s About The Change Yet Lobbyists and Tax Cheats Abound in New Administration
By: Warner Todd Huston
From the early days of his campaign, Obama made with the flourish that, should he be elected, lobbyists would not be welcome in his new tone Washington, his Washington of change and hope. Soon after the election, Obama’s spokesman John Podesta made a great show of announcing that Obama was insisting on the “strictest ethics rules ever applied” to his ongoing choices for members of his administration and his transition team.
In the early November news conference, Podesta proudly proclaimed that Obama was so interested in distancing himself from the old, business-as-usual Washington that they didn’t care if they were excluding people of long Washington experience with their supposed strict ethics rules. Podesta sternly told reporters, “I’ve heard the complaint that we’re leaving all these extra people on the side, that we’re leaving all the people that know everything out in the cold. So be it. That’s a commitment that is one the American people expect and one the President-elect made.”
Yet within weeks it became clear that this new ethical standard was merely so much window dressing. Now, lobbyists abound in Obama’s administration and have since day one. Not only that, but tax cheats seem to be particularly drawn to the new president.
Several high profile Obama appointees have had major tax issues chief of whom is Timothy Geithner, Obama’s new Secretary of Treasury. But, late last week, it also came to light that Obama’s choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Dsaschle, seemed to have conveniently forgotten to claim a free car and driver as income on his taxes and had somehow made this tax faux pas for years.
Naturally, during the vetting process to be approved as the new HHS head, Daschle mysteriously “remembered” the oversight and “repaid” the IRS $101,943 which is the cost of the free limo service and the interest on the “accidentally” forgotten income tax.
And let us not forget that former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson had to withdraw his name for consideration as head of the the Department of Transportation because he is connected to illegal pay-to-play schemes in his state.
Then there are the many lobbyists that have joined the anti-lobbyist president in Washington.
Recently Politico detailed a list of some of the many lobbyists that Barack Obama has seen fit to “bend his rules” to allow into his administration. They find “at least a dozen” lobbyists have entered this purportedly anti-lobbyist administration.
Here is the list of lobbyists joining the Obama administration Politico came up with:
Eric Holder, attorney general nominee, was registered to lobby until 2004 on behalf of clients including Global Crossing, a bankrupt telecommunications firm.
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 presidentâ€™s assistant for intergovernmental relations, lobbied for the American Association of Justice from 2001 until 2005.
Doubtless this will be just the beginning.
Obama’s lip service to which he subsequently fails to adhere is nothing new. He has built a career on it. For decades in Chicago Obama used as a weapon with which to disarm his opponents his rhetoric of hope-n-change, his breathless exclamations that we all need to be working together. He’s claimed for a decade that he wants to reach across the aisle and work with anyone that wants to do so. Yet, he has no actual voting record to prove the rhetoric. He has talked a great game, but every time it has come to crunch time, Obama always votes for an agenda that is strictly in keeping with the far left.
So, it is clear that his acclaimed rhetoric on ethics is in keeping with his long standing practice of issuing flowery speeches and then voting against his own words. After all, from what we’ve seen so far, Obama will hire anyone he wants quite regardless of his so-called “strict ethics.” Lobbyists and tax cheats quite aside.