Saturday, December 6, 2008

Keeping Donors and Lobbyists at arms length

Yeah Right !

President-in-waiting Obama had promised during his long, long campaign to keep lobbyists at arms length. Now he is building his team. Let us look at who the AP has found he has chosen.

An Obama adviser on immigration issues, Maria Echaveste, lobbied for the United Farm Workers this year to protect immigrant agricultural workers as the Bush administration sought to ease hiring of seasonal farm labor and Congress debated an immigration overhaul. Echaveste, who worked in the White House and Labor Department under President Bill Clinton, assured Obama she will not weigh in on the farmworker visa issue that was her lobbying focus.

The former Agriculture Department official leading Obama's agricultural policy review, Bart Chilton, lobbied until last year as vice president of the National Farmers Union. It spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to press for farm subsidy programs, fighting the North American Free Trade Agreement and reducing taxes on farms and ranches.

A lawyer working on Indian issues for Obama, Keith Harper, has worked as a lawyer for Native American tribes, and wrote in a 2006 article that the Interior Department's handling of Indian trust matters has been a "national disgrace." Obama initially assigned Harper to be his lead adviser on the department, but now Harper is advising the campaign more narrowly on Indian gaming. Harper was registered to lobby on sovereignty issues for a tribe as recently as this year but did not personally lobby, transition aides and a tribe official said.

An Obama transition adviser for health and human services, Bill Corr, lobbied to prevent children from smoking as executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The group has spent $675,000 this year trying to influence policymakers. Corr has told Obama he will not offer advice on tobacco issues.

A transition advisory board member, Mark Gitenstein, was registered until August to lobby on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AT&T Inc. and financial firms such as Ernst & Young LLP and Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. Gitenstein is working on transition management issues, not specific policies, but has agreed not to deal with topics on which he lobbied.

Overall, the people Obama is relying on to build his administration have represented unions; energy, environmental groups, insurance, and drug companies; Wal-Mart; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; and the lobbying arm of the Washington-based Center for American Progress. The center is a think tank headed by John Podesta, former chief of staff to Bill Clinton and now co-chairman of Obama's transition.

Also prominent on Obama's new team are his big-money fundraisers. At least 18 of Obama's major financial backers are helping him create his administration. They collected at least $50,000 each from friends and associates to help pay for the most expensive presidential campaign in history.

A few raised at least $500,000 each. They include two former officials from the Federal Communications Commission: Donald Gips, a one-time aide to Vice President Al Gore who is co-chairman of Obama's teams reviewing government agencies; and Julius Genachowski, who was an executive at Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp, when the Internet giant owned Ticketmaster and Home Shopping Network. Genachowski is working on technology and government reform policy for the new administration.

A former Justice Department official advising Obama on the department, Thomas Perrelli, raised at least $500,000 for Obama. Perrelli is managing partner of a Washington law firm, Jenner & Block LLP. He lobbied pro bono in 2002 on behalf of victims of the 1998 Africa embassy bombings. His firm's law clients have included the mortgage company Fannie Mae, General Motors and the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman at the center of a bitter right-to-die battle.

Perrelli, a copyright expert, has represented Hollywood studios and the music industry cracking down on Internet piracy — a lingering problem facing the department.
So, you see, it is really simple.
All you have to do is tell Obama that you will not give him advice on anything that you know about and all is well.

Either the people that voted for him want uninformed advisors for their guy, or they all expect those that didn't vote for him to really believe that the advisors will not be involved in any decision-making.

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