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Obama sets strict rules on lobbyists during transition

ByABC News
November 12, 2008, 2:01 AM

WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama imposed strict new ethics rules on his transition team Tuesday, barring federal lobbyists from donating to his transition and inaugural events.

The Democrat, who vowed that special interests will not run his White House, also prohibits federal lobbyists from engaging in any lobbying while working for the transition.

Obama transition aide John Podesta called the guidelines "the strictest ethics rules ever applied."

Obama, however, allows state and local lobbyists to work on the transition. Federal lobbyists also can participate as long their transition work is not in areas in which they tried to exert influence in the previous year.

Fred Wertheimer, president of the non-partisan watchdog group Democracy 21, said the rules are unique for a president-elect and "unlike anything that I have seen at the transition stage in 35 years."

Podesta acknowledged that the guidelines may leave some qualified people out of the Obama transition. "So be it," he said.

Obama, who collected a record $659.7 million in his presidential race, must raise even more before he is sworn into office Jan. 20.

He needs to collect about $6.7 million in private donations to supplement the $5.3 million in public money available for office space, furniture and other essentials. Relocation expenses for transition employees, for instance, must come from private money, said Michael Toner, a former Federal Election Commission chairman and President Bush's transition attorney in 2000.

Federal law limits transition contributions to $5,000, but sets few rules on who can donate. Podesta said Obama will not take transition money from federal lobbyists, corporations or political action committees as he did during his campaign. The donors will be disclosed later this month and in December. Obama is not required to do so until Feb. 20.

Millions more in private donations will be needed for inaugural events. Podesta said no lobbyist money would be accepted for those expenses. He said more details, including the budget, are still to come. In 2004, President Bush spent $42.8 million.