Search This Blog

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Shadow Lobbyists and the Revolving Door

Byron Tau reports at Politico:
The White House is poised to reverse a key part of its ban on registered lobbyists serving in government.
The Office of Management and Budget will release a new rule on Wednesday expected to allow registered lobbyists to participate in policymaking deliberations in an advisory role after a judge ruled against the administration earlier this year.
Lobbyists for corporations and industry groups will now be allowed to serve on more than 1,000 industry boards, panels and commissions that give the private sector an advisory role in decision-making across the executive branch,according to a copy of the rule published on the Federal Register site.
In any case, the rule always had a huge loophole.  "Shadow lobbyists" -- people working for interest groups who did not have to register as lobbyists -- were always welcome to enter and exit the revolving door.  Tau also reports:
A POLITICO review shows that the Obama administration has hired about 70 previously registered corporate, trade association and for-hire lobbyists. And many of these former lobbyists work at the highest levels of government.
Take Broderick Johnson, who is a top aide to Obama as a liaison between federal agencies and the White House. He’s the husband of NPR anchor Michele Norris and is known to be close to Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder. Until 2011, Johnson was a well-known Democratic lobbyist for companies including Microsoft, Pearson, Globalstar, Comcast and FedEx. Then he disappeared from the lobbying rolls.

Yet according to the financial disclosure form he filed when entering government, he remained a consultant for those same five companies right up until he started to work at the White House. He also served as a political adviser on Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign — all while consulting for a client roster of corporate interests.

The revolving door also means that having put in their time, at least two dozen Obama administration veterans can be found all over town in advocacy, strategy or consulting gigs.

When he ran for president, Obama vowed lobbyists would not find a place in his White House. “I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over,” Obama said in a 2007 Iowa speech. As president, Obama signed an order the White House said “closes the revolving door that allows government officials to move to and from private sector jobs in ways that give that sector undue influence over government.”

“As you know, there’s a wide variety of government-relations activities that don’t count as lobbying activities under the LDA. You can provide political consulting, you can provide what’s called political intelligence,” said Michael Toner, a partner with Wiley Rein and an election law expert. Toner worked with Collins Johnson Group on lobbying compliance issues and said that all of the firm’s activities were carefully reviewed to make sure they complied with the letter of the law