The New York Times reports that Obama has made a rule which bans former lobbyists from working in the government agencies that they had been lobbying in the past 2 years.
In what ethics-in-government advocates described as a particularly far-reaching move, Mr. Obama barred officials of his administration from lobbying their former colleagues “for as long as I am president.” He barred former lobbyists from working for agencies they had lobbied within the past two years and required them to recuse themselves from issues they had handled during that time.
Unfortunately, Obama is already breaking this rule, with his nomination of William Lynn to Deputy Secretary of Defense, who was previously (as in, 2 weeks ago) a lobbyist for defense giant Ratheon.
Chris Kelly figured out how this is possible:
Since then, of course, he’s had his memory scrubbed clean with a powerful amnesia agent — not unlike the one in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind — and now he doesn’t even know what Raytheon does.
It’s like he was never Senior Vice President of Government Operations and Strategy at all.
Another problem is with the nomination for Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, William V. Corr, who was a lobbyist for an anti-kids-smoking non-profit. Which, of course, many (including me) would say qualifies him even more for the position. But still, it breaks the rule.
The only comment from the White House on this issue that I know of is found in the NY Times article:
A senior White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, conceded the two nominees did not adhere to the new rules. But he said that Mr. Lynn had the support of Republicans and Democrats, and would receive a waiver under the policy, and that Mr. Corr did not need a waiver because he had agreed to recuse himself from tobacco issues.
I think we can agree that the rationalization of the Lynn situation is pretty meaningless and does not address the issue in any way.
In Corr’s case — is it just me, or is it a little ridiculous that the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services is going to be restricted from working on tobacco issues?! We’re lucky that he wasn’t formerly a lobbyist for heart disease or obesity issues!