Obama's Lobbying Ban is Crippling His Administration

Bad rhetoric leads to bad results.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

My column in our U.S. News Weekly focuses on how Barack Obama is paying the price for sloppy campaign rhetoric, especially in regards to his pledge to ban lobbyists from his administration. Great minds must think alike, as Politico's Jonathan Martin strikes the same chord in a smart piece today on how the lobbying ban is hamstringing the administration as it keeps trying to ramp up.

Martin writes:

The policy has spurred frustration among some Democratic lobbyists, especially those who got behind Obama early in his hard-fought primary. They believe the president is depriving himself of an entire group of capable aides—at a time when Obama already is having trouble staffing up his Treasury Department and other key agencies.

...

Yet Obama's anti-lobbyist rule has hardly been airtight. At least a dozen former lobbyists have found work in his administration.

The money quote:

"I think it's a stupid rule," said Steve Elmendorf, a well-connected Democratic lobbyist and former senior aide to Rep. Dick Gephardt. "If the goal is to get rid of people who have a potential conflict, focus more on that than the definition of a lobbyist." Elmendorf cited the hypothetical example of a PHRMA executive who could lobby but a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical trade group who would be barred. One top Democratic lobbyist wondered just what the Obama administration would do in a year or two when their ranks become thinned from burn-out and they're still wedded to this policy.

The answer is that the existing trickle of lobbyists into the administration will only grow (perhaps after a cleansing period of penitence on the Hill). And that will only make the administration look more foolish, more hypocritical, or both.

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