The Islamic Post Blog

Initiatives Set Limiting ‘Revolving Door’ Lobbying by Khalida
February 2, 2009, 10:11 am
Filed under: February Volume I- 2009, Front Page News, National, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

By Mubeen Khaleel

Islamic Post Staff Writer

One of the first executive orders signed by President Barack Obama commits every appointee in every executive agency appointed on or after January 20 to sign an ethics pledge disallowing them from receiving gifts from lobbyists or engaging in lobbying activities for two years after their employment. While the order stops unethical lobbying in its tracks this point forward, it does not pertain to government officials of former administrations from becoming lobbyists for corporate interests related to their former field of work.
The U.S. Senate defines lobbying as the practice of trying to persuade legislators to propose, pass, or defeat legislation or to change existing laws. A lobbyist may work for a group, organization, or industry, and presents information on legislative proposals to support his or her clients’ interests.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) recently published a report titled “Revolving Door” which details the lobbying opportunities that have been availed by 24 former cabinet members. Although the Obama Administration has stopped the rotation in its tracks from its inception, CREW reports on those who have already passed through the highly unethical process and perhaps still retain a good deal of power in Washington:
“After leaving their government positions, many of these top officials joined the ranks of the companies they once regulated where they are highly compensated. In several instances, they have helped their new employers obtain lucrative government grants and contracts.
“The report names the companies these former officials have joined and the private interests for which they have advocated. Perhaps more importantly, it also reveals the power they continue to wield within the halls of government.
“To compile this information CREW staff reviewed news articles, press releases, websites, lobbying disclosure forms, and other public records. While aiming to be exhaustive, because information is not always readily available, CREW may not have uncovered every position held by these former officials.
“Similarly, CREW relied on the Senate Open Public Records website for information on lobbying activities. Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act [of 1995], however, a number of threshold requirements must be met before registration is required. Therefore, it is possible that an organization or individual lobbied, but was not required to file a registration form and, accordingly, was not included here.”
The key findings of the CREW were as follows:
Seventeen former cabinet officials hold positions with a total of 119 companies.
Seventeen former officials hold positions with 65 companies that lobby the federal government.
Fifteen former officials hold positions with 40 companies that lobby those officials’ former agencies.
Nine former cabinet members hold positions with 15 companies that began or resumed lobbying the former officials’ agencies after those officials joined the companies.
The most prodigious corporate advisor appears to be former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, who has worked for 42 different companies since leaving the Bush administration.
Five former officials founded lobbying firms. Combined, these firms have represented at least 48 clients.
Ten former cabinet officials work with 39 different non-profit organizations.
President Obama has issued waivers to some lobbyists, notably to Bill Lynn, who was nominated as deputy defense secretary after having been listed as a lobbyist in the defense industry for the defense contractor, Raytheon Company. Testifying before a Senate panel in support of Mr. Lynn, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said stringent ethics rules are a major reason it is difficult to fill top posts at the Pentagon.
Capitol News reported the focus on Mr. Lynn is misplaced, according to John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Hamre asserts Lynn registered as a lobbyist out of an abundance of caution, and while he did oversee Raytheon’s government affairs operations, “he didn’t roam the Capitol or the Pentagon,” according to Hamre., who himself held the position of deputy defense secretary between 1997 and 2000.
Critics like Senator John McCain, however, disagree with the waiver. “It’s a bit disingenuous to announce strict rules and then nominate someone with a waiver from the rules that you just announced,” he told Fox News. But Hamre feels Lynn’s experience is more important. What Mr. Bill Lynn did was work “with people like me in think tanks,” he said. “That’s not lobbying.”