Looking for Loopholes in the Obama Administration Lobbyist Ban--Saving the Sinners

How does one cleanse the lobbying taint?

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

These questions are making the rounds in Washington right now: Can sinners repent and be saved? Can they, through penitent labors for an appropriate amount of time in purgatory, redeem their mortal souls and once again be welcome in the heavenly host? Is this a resurgence by the religious right? No—just the wonderings of those damned souls we in Obama's Washington call Democratic lobbyists. 

Now that those on the side of angels are back in power, Democratic denizens of K Street find themselves barred from the administration's pearly (or wrought iron) gates by the Obama dictum that former lobbyists shall not serve in his government ( mostly).

According to Politico, fallen Democrats lobbyists are hoping that by spending some time in purgatory on the Hill, they can find their way into the administration later in the term: 

Some Democrats who had found refuge on K Street during the Bush administration and now have their eyes on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. are trying to wash off the lobbying taint with a pit stop on Capitol Hill—in some cases at half the pay."I'll cleanse myself there and then go to the administration," said one Democratic lobbyist who is trying to find a job as chief of staff to a senator.

As I've said previously, I've got mixed feelings about this whole thicket of issues: I'm sympathetic to concerns about the revolving door and interest-peddling; but as a practical matter, sweeping denunciations of lobbyists and wholesale bans on them from government make much better campaign rhetoric than practical policy. (I'm somewhat more sympathetic to post-governmental cooling-off periods.)

Not all lobbyists are soulless influence-peddlers (though some certainly are). William Corr, for example, is a registered lobbyist for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. How much more white hat can you get than that? And the Obama administration gets this, which is why it's gone ahead and nominated ... William Corr to be deputy secretary of health and human services.

Which is why Democratic lobbyists around town are contemplating bank-shot career paths, caroming off the Hill and into the executive branch.

And all of this demonstrates the silliness of such sweeping denunciations and rules. Inevitably the rules will be bent or punched through with loopholes. And the holier-than-thou pols end up on their own petards. That's not to say that the revolving door should spin free, but rather these matters should be viewed through a more nuanced lens than a bumper sticker slogan.

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