A new piece in the Washington Post shreds to shards President Obama’s claim to run an administration devoted to reining in lobbyists. The article makes clear that the Obama White House is in fact crawling with lobbyists trying to win friends and influence powerful people for their clients.
From the piece:
It was an unremarkable January day, with a steady stream of lobbyists among the thousands of daily visitors to the White House and the surrounding executive office buildings, according to a Washington Post analysis of visitor logs released by the administration . . .
The visitor logs for Jan. 17 — one of the most recent days available — show that the lobbying industry Obama has vowed to constrain is a regular presence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The records also suggest that lobbyists with personal connections to the White House enjoy the easiest access.
The White House visitor records make it clear that Obama’s senior officials are granting that access to some of K Street’s most influential representatives. In many cases, those lobbyists have long-standing connections to the president or his aides. Republican lobbyists coming to visit are rare, while Democratic lobbyists are common, whether they are representing corporate clients or liberal causes.
The Obama claim on the lobbying issue is that he has halted the “revolving door” by not hiring lobbyists. This is mostly true, though he’s brought in a couple, and some lobbyists have de-registered in order to “get clean” so they could eventually come work for Obama.
But the Can’t-Work-Here policy has done deceptively little to “clean up” Washington.
My experience with lobbyists – and I got to know a lot of them during my work as a mainstream reporter – is that they become creatures of whoever they work for. Like all of us. Trade a Washington Redskin to the Dallas Cowboys, and he becomes a Dallas Cowboy.
So while bad things sometimes happen, most lobbyists that go to work in an administration put the administration first, not their once or future clients.
What’s more, by keeping lobbyists out of the administration, Obama has lost one of the best sources of knowledge he could have about Washington’s issues and processes.
The main thing Obama would need to do to keep lobbyists from “tainting” his precious policymaking is to put a lobbyist mosquito net around the White House to keep them out. And that, the Post makes clear, he has not done.
It’s also worth noting that a White House supposedly devoted to openness and bipartisanship is open only to Democratic points of view on legislation and issues. Republican lobbyists are pretty much barred.
One special moment in the piece was the spin the offered by a White House aide attempting to beat down the story:
“The people selected for this article are registered lobbyists, but this article excludes the thousands of people who visit the White House every week for meetings and events who are not,” he said.
This is exactly like if a suspect admitted to investigators, “Sure, I murdered him, but there are thousands of people I didn’t murder. Let’s focus on that.”
Gosh, they could really do a little better than this in the West Wing spin room.