Candidate Obama on the campaign trail, NOVEMBER 3, 2007:
"One year from now, we have the chance to tell all those corporate lobbyists that the days of them setting the agenda in Washington are over. -blur- I don't take a dime of their money, and when I am President, they won't find a job in my White House."
A commitment! Made by President Obama, on the campaign-trail in November 2007. By the time that George W. Bush left office 17 of the 24 people who had served in his cabinet had already become lobbyists. Lobbyists and the Bush Administration were like garlic and garlic-breath, tests and anxiety, prom-nights and acne -- two things so closely linked they were almost just one thing. So candidate Obama promising lobbyists they would no longer be setting the agenda in Washington was a big deal.
And when PRESIDENT Obama in fact took office, what did he do on day one? It wasn't closing Guantanamo. It wasn't reversing the abortion gag-rule. It wasn't rescinding all the Bush legal advice on interrogations and prisoners sent between 9/11 and the end of that administration -- all of those things had to wait -- because on Day One it was Change-the-way-Washington-works Day.
President Obama, JANUARY 21, 2009:
"As of today, lobbyists will be subject to stricter limits than under any other administration in history. If you are a lobbyist entering my administration, you will not be able to work on matters you lobbied on, or in the agencies you lobbied during the previous two years."
The Presidency, all cleaned up with a stroke of the pen. Sounded great! Felt great! Too great to be entirely true, as it turns out. Politico.com this week listed about a dozen former lobbyists who have found top jobs in Obama's administration. The administration has given waivers to at least two appointees, and a handful of others will recuse themselves from dealing with matters on which they lobbied within the two-year window.
Today Politico reports that HHS Secretary-nominee Tom Daschle -- whom ABC News reports may have a tax problem of his own -- has a new chief of staff, Mark Childress, who was also a lobbyist through late last year and will have to recuse himself from issues he worked to influence. That's 13 former lobbyists in the administration that... won't have lobbyists.
Change we can believe in as long as we pay attention to the disappointing asterisk on the word change??? I need to be talked down here.