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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lobbying the White House

Our chapter on interest groups discusses the ways in which lobbyists try to influence the White House.  A previous post noted that many meetings between lobbyists and White House aides take place in a building off the White House grounds.  These meetings do not show up on the White House visitor logs.  Still, 
The Washington Post finds useful information from its database of White House visitors:
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.
More than any president before him, Obama pledged to change the political culture that has fueled the influence of lobbyists. He barred recent lobbyists from joining his administration and banned them from advisory boards throughout the executive branch. The president went so far as to forbid what had been staples of political interaction — federal employees could no longer accept free admission to receptions and conferences sponsored by lobbying groups.
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 administration’s stance on lobbying may be a great applause line for people outside the Beltway but there are people here in D.C. who are lobbying on behalf of a multitude of worthy causes,” [ACLU lobbyist Laura] Murphy said.

Andrew Menter, the chief executive of Vivature Health, said that Downey helped set up a meeting for him in December 2010 with Michael Hash, a top health-policy official. The group discussed how the new health-care law might affect Menter’s business, a Texas-based company that provides billing services for college health programs.
“The whole process was interesting for me. It’s a little scary,” Menter said. “You need a lobbyist to get a meeting.”