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MEMBER DIARY

What Was It That Obama Promised Again?

Oh, that’s right:

Section 1. Ethics Pledge. Every appointee in every executive agency appointed on or after January 20, 2009, shall sign, and upon signing shall be contractually committed to, the following pledge upon becoming an appointee:

“As a condition, and in consideration, of my employment in the United States Government in a position invested with the public trust, I commit myself to the following obligations, which I understand are binding on me and are enforceable under law:

[snip]

“3. Revolving Door Ban Lobbyists Entering Government. 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.

During his Presidential campaign, Barack Obama, for effect, created the notion that lobbyists were “bad”, especially lobbyists representing corporate industries. So he put in the above Executive Order to keep lobbyists out of the government. As is typical with anything said by Barack Obama, what he says needs to be taken with a grain of salt:

Sec. 3. Waiver.

(a) The Director of the Office of Management and Budget, or his or her designee, in consultation with the Counsel to the President or his or her designee, may grant to any current or former appointee a written waiver of any restrictions contained in the pledge signed by such appointee if, and to the extent that, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, or his or her designee, certifies in writing (i) that the literal application of the restriction is inconsistent with the purposes of the restriction, or (ii) that it is in the public interest to grant the waiver. A waiver shall take effect when the certification is signed by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget or his or her designee.

(b) The public interest shall include, but not be limited to, exigent circumstances relating to national security or to the economy. De minimis contact with an executive agency shall be cause for a waiver of the restrictions contained in paragraph 3 of the pledge.

Now it turns out the waiver will get a workout. The end of this Washington Post article on Tim Geithner mentions this:

Geithner’s chief of staff is Mark Patterson, who oversaw policy for former senator Thomas A. Daschle.

Maybe the Post should have had Dana Priest write the article, being a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and all. Why? Because there’s more to Patterson than meets the eye, so much so that even Matt Yglesias noticed (who draws the wrong conclusion at the end of his post):

Despite President Barack Obama’s pledge to limit the influence of lobbyists in his administration, a recent lobbyist for investment banking giant Goldman Sachs is in line to serve as chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Mark Patterson was a registered lobbyist for Goldman until April 11, 2008, according to public filings.

Yglesias believes the ethical rules for lobbyists entering the Obama administration are wound too tightly, requiring a search for loopholes to allow some lobbyists in. Not being as optimistic as Mr. Yglesias on the intentions of our new President, I would say the waiver is the rule and the pledge is the exception.

I guess this is one of those Obama campaign promises that didn’t necessarily have an expiration date of January 20, 2009. The Executive Order went in the next day.

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