The Right of the People to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances (a.k.a. Lobbying)

By Dotcomabc

Nov 15, 2008 12:58pm

As we’ve covered before, the pledge of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., that lobbyists wouldn’t work in his White House evolved into a pledge that they won’t run his White House, which is now on his Transition Team a different pledge altogether.

The Obama Transition Team on Friday released a list of the names of 137 individuals who will work on "Agency Review Teams" to delve into policy and personnel at federal agencies to prepare for the January transfer of power.

And there are former federal lobbyists among them.

The Obama Transition Team’s ethics rules allow lobbyists to work on the Transition, but they have to stop lobbying during that time, they cannot work for the transition on issues in which they’ve lobbied in the previous 12 months, and if they return to lobbying after the transition they cannot lobby on the issue they worked on for the transition in the next year. Good government types say these are the strongest ethics rules a transition team has ever had.

That said, the New York Times’ David Kirkpatrick notes that at least one official "initially involved in the transition appears to have been reassigned because of concern about his lobbying or legal work. Henry Rivera, a former Democratic commissioner on the Federal Communication Commission who was involved in planning for the agency’s transition, has dropped out of that role because he had represented clients on communications policy in the last year, the newsletter Communications Daily reported Friday."

More than a dozen members of the Obama Transition Team, the Washington Post’s Matt Mosk writes, have recently been federally registered lobbyists.

Among those mentioned in the Times and Post stories:

John Podesta, co-chair of the Transition Team, lobbied for the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress until 2006.

Ron Klain, the just-named chief of staff for Vice President-elect Joe Biden, was registered as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae until 2004.

Tom Donilon, who’s overseeing the Agency Review Team for the U.S. State Department, lobbied for Fannie Mae until 2005 as a partner with the law and lobbying firm O’Melveny and Myers

Mark Gitenstein, one of the key members of the Transition Team Advisory Board, has lobbied for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Boeing, and General Dynamics, and was registered to do lobbying work for AT&T, Merrill Lynch, KPMG, and Ernst & Young.

David J. Hayes, a member of the Obama-Biden Transition Project’s Agency Review Working Group responsible for the energy and natural resources agencies, is the chairman of the environmental practice at Latham & Watkins, a lobbying and legal firm. Hayes was registered as a lobbyist for San Diego Gas and Electric as recently as 2006.

Sally Katzen, a member of the Obama-Biden Transition Project’s Agency Review Working Group responsible for the Executive Office of the President and government operations agencies, was registered to lobby for pharmaceutical company Amgen in 2007.

Tom Wheeler, a member of the Obama-Biden Transition Project’s Agency Review Working Group responsible for the science, technology, space and arts agencies, lobbied for the cable television and wireless industries before 2004.

The Times suggests that some Transition Team officials who have been lobbyists in the past "appear to skirt the edges of the ban on working in areas of the transition where they have recently lobbied. Handling some Interior Department issues is Keith Harper, who lobbied earlier this year for Native American tribes. Overseeing the Consumer Products Safety Commission is Pamela Gilbert, a former executive director of the agency who as recently as two years ago lobbied for a consumer advocacy group. Within the last year she has lobbied for the company Barr Laboratories, for an investor group, and for an antitrust enforcement group."

You can access the Senate’s lobbyist disclosure database HERE. The House database is HERE. The Center for Responsive Politics also has a good database HERE.

- jpt

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