Two Days After Instituting Ethics Rules, President Obama Waives them for Deputy Pentagon Secretary Nominee

Jan 23, 2009 5:12pm

Two days after introducing what he heralded as the most sweeping ethics rules in American history — ones that would "close the revolving door that lets lobbyists come into government freely" — President Barack Obama today waived those rules for his nominee for Deputy Secretary of Defense, William Lynn.

Until last fall, Lynn was a registered lobbyist for the defense contractor Raytheon.

“After consultation with counsel to the president," said Director of the Office of Management of Budget Peter Orszag in a statement, "I hereby waive the requirements of Paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Ethics Pledge of Mr. William Lynn. I have determined that it is in the public interest to grant the waiver given Mr. Lynn’s qualifications for his position and the current national security situation. I understand that Mr. Lynn will otherwise comply with the remainder of the pledge and with all preexisting government ethics rules.”

The "Revolving Door Ban" pledge heralded on Wednesday and discarded for Mr. Lynn today states:

"I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts" and

"If I was a registered lobbyist within the 2 years before the date of my appointment, in addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 2, I will not for a period of 2 years after the date of my appointment: (a)  participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment; (b)  participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls; or (c)  seek or accept employment with any executive agency that I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment."

Asked about Mr. Lynn on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that "a waiver process that allows people to serve their country is necessary. In the case of Mr. Lynn, he’s somebody who obviously is superbly qualified, is experienced, going back to his Pentagon jobs during the Clinton administration, make him uniquely qualified to do this.”

In a written statement, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain, R-Ariz., said he was "disappointed" that President Obama has waived his "revolving door" executive order so soon.

“While I applaud the president’s action to implement new, more stringent ethical rules, I had hoped he would not find it necessary to waive them so soon," McCain said in the statement. "Before I can determine whether to support his nomination as Deputy Secretary of Defense, I intend to ask him to clarify for the record what matters and decisions will require his recusal.”

– Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.

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