Archive for the ‘lobbying’ Category

Obama Rhetoric, Reality Clash, Causing Backpedaling, Messy Messages

March 21, 2009

Barack Obama’s optimistic campaign rhetoric has crashed headlong into the stark reality of governing.

In office two months, he has backpedaled on an array of issues, gingerly shifting positions as circumstances dictate while ducking for political cover to avoid undercutting his credibility and authority. That’s happened on the Iraq troop withdrawal timeline, on lobbyists in his administration and on money for lawmakers’ pet projects.

From the Associated Press

”Change doesn’t happen overnight,” Obama said at a town-hall style event in California on Thursday, seeming to acknowledge the difficulty in translating campaign pledges into actual policy. Asked by a campaign volunteer how his supporters can be most effective in helping him bring the sweeping change he promised, Obama said: ”Patience.”

The event was part of a weeklong media blitz that Obama had hoped would help sell his budget — the foundation of the health care, education and energy changes he promised in the campaign. But his budget message was overshadowed for much of the week by the public furor over $165 million in executive bonuses paid by American International Group Inc. after the insurance giant had received billions in federal bailout funds.

”There was a lot of excitement during the campaign and we were talking about the importance of bringing about change,” Obama told the volunteer. ”We are moving systematically to bring about change. But change is hard.”

It’s the same delicate dance each of his predecessors faced in moving from candidate to president, only to find he couldn’t stick exactly by his word. Each was hamstrung by his responsibility to the entire nation and to individual constituencies, changes in the foreign and domestic landscapes, and the trappings of the federal government and Washington itself.

Once in the White House, presidents quickly learn they are only one part of the political system, not in charge of it. They discover the trade-offs they must make and the parties they must please to get things done. Inevitably, they find out that it’s impossible to follow through completely on their campaign proposals.

For now at least, Obama’s deviations have served only to invite occasional cries of hypocrisy from some Republicans and infrequent grumbles of disappointment from some Democrats. He has popularity on his side, and it seems people mostly are chalking up his moves to much-needed flexibility at a difficult time.

But the shifts could take a toll over time if they become a persistent pattern and the public grows weary. His overall job-performance marks could suffer and jeopardize his likely re-election campaign in 2012. People could perceive him as a say-one-thing-do-another politician and the Democratic-controlled Congress could see him as a weak chief executive.

Obama’s moves and maneuvering for political cover run the gamut.

He spent most of the campaign promising to bring combat troops home from Iraq 16 months after taking office, though he left himself wiggle room.

After directing his commanders to map out a responsible pullout, President Obama adjusted that timeline to 19 months and said 50,000 troops, about one-third of the current force, would remain.

While campaigning, Obama frequently swiped at lobbyists, saying, ”When I am president, they won’t find a job in my White House.”

Then he took office and had to fill thousands of positions. He did allow former lobbyists to join his administration. But he imposed ethics rules barring them from dealing with matters related to their lobbying work or joining agencies that they had lobbied in the previous two years. In several cases, he has made outright exceptions.

Obama the candidate pledged to curb spending directed at lawmakers’ pet projects; they’re known in Washington as ”earmarks.” Obama the president signed an ”imperfect” $410 billion budget measure that included 8,500 earmarks.

He had little choice. The measure, a holdover from last year, was needed to keep government from shutting down. But to blunt the fallout, Obama outlined guidelines to ensure tighter restraints on the spending and made a new promise: Future earmarks won’t become law so easily.

As for politics, Obama campaigned as a new-style leader who chastised partisanship and renounced divisiveness in Washington. But as president, Obama’s White House aides wasted little time pouncing on Republicans and mocking conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh as the GOP’s leader.

On fiscal matters, Obama the candidate urged Americans to tighten their belts. Once in office and saddled with recession, though, he signed a $787 billion stimulus measure and outlined a $3.6 trillion budget plan that will plunge the nation deeper into the red. But again he paired the proposal with a new promise, to cut the deficit by more than half by the end of his first term.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/03/
21/washington/AP-Rhetoric-Reality-Analys
is.html?_r=1

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Obama Envoy Mitchell’s Firm Lobbied for Dubai’s Ruler

January 27, 2009

George Mitchell, President Barack Obama’s special Middle East troubleshooter, was chairman of a law firm that was paid about $8 million representing Dubai’s ruler in connection with a child-trafficking lawsuit.

From Bloomberg

The DLA Piper law firm did legal and lobbying work on the case, which alleged that Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al- Maktoum and another official used children kidnapped from other countries to ride as jockeys in camel races. The firm lobbied federal agencies, members of the U.S. House and about two dozen Senate offices, including those of Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2006 and 2007, according to Justice Department foreign-agent disclosures.

Mitchell, 75, who isn’t a registered lobbyist, didn’t lobby either on this issue or for Dubai generally. DLA Piper partner Bill Minor said in an e-mail that Mitchell, a former Democratic senator from Maine, mainly focused on growth and management at the firm of almost 4,000 attorneys and 65 offices worldwide, and high-profile projects such as an investigation of steroid use in Major League Baseball.

Read the rest:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=206
01087&sid=aa7hdtvtfYxc&refer=worldwide

Madoff’s $50 Billion Scam Included Buying Influence in Washington

December 16, 2008

Within a day of the Dec. 11 arrest of Wall Street financier Bernard L. Madoff, his Washington lobbyists were scrambling to sever all ties to a man who’s been accused of a $50 billion fraud and who may go down in history as the largest financial scam artist ever.

The lobbying firm Dow Lohnes Government Strategies filed paperwork on Dec. 12, terminating its lobbying contract with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. That ended more than 10 years of Madoff lobbying in Washington, in which his investment firm spent more than $400,000 to influence the federal government.

By Eamon Javers, Lisa Lerer
Politico

Bernard L. Madoff, the Chairman of Madoff Investment Securities, ... 
Bernard L. Madoff, the Chairman of Madoff Investment Securities, is seen speaking in 2007.(Philoctetes Center/Handout/Reuters)

But lobbying is just a piece of Madoff’s influence in Washington. His family has contributed nearly $400,000 to political committees. And his niece, Shana Madoff Swanson, who serves as a compliance attorney at his firm, is married to a former high-ranking Securities and Exchange Commission official, Eric Swanson.

Swanson was the assistant director in the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations’ market oversight unit in Washington. According to his biography, Swanson “supervised and conducted inspections and examinations that involved a wide range of issues including best execution, order handling, insider trading [and] market manipulation.”

The SEC has come under criticism for not following up on tips….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20081216/pl_politico/16608

Democrats’ scandals play into GOP hands

December 14, 2008

It is payback time for Republicans, who have been burying Democrats in a blizzard of attacks about a “pay-to-play” scandal that has embarrassed and distracted Barack Obama’s   presidential transition and tax-evasion charges against a powerful political ally in the House.

Two years ago, it was the Democrats who were pounding congressional Republicans for a string of lobbying, legislative-payoff and sex scandals, but now it’s the Democrats and President-elect Obama who are on the defensive a little more than one month before they are to take charge of the government and strengthen their grip on Congress.

Democratic Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, whom Mr. Obama endorsed and supported in two gubernatorial campaigns, was arrested last week by federal authorities in a brazen “pay-to-play” scandal said to involve attempts to extract payoffs for filling Mr. Obama’s open Senate seat.

By Donald lambro 
The Washington Times

**FILE** A Nov. 5, 2008 file photo shows Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich at a news conference in Chicago. A report published Friday, Dec. 5, 2008, in the Chicago Tribune says that federal investigators have made covert tape recordings of Blagojevich as part of their corruption investigation of his administration. Blagojevich hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing and has repeatedly denied doing anything illegal. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

**FILE** A Nov. 5, 2008 file photo shows Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich at a news conference in Chicago.

And Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, the influential chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee — who would be in charge of Mr. Obama’s tax plan — is being investigated for, among other things, failure to pay his taxes and helping a wealthy donor to a center named in his honor to obtain a tax loophole in return for a large contribution to the facility.

Last week, Republican campaign committees unleashed a barrage of press releases promoting a flood of press stories about the Democrats’ latest troubles with headlines that read “Did Obama team have contact with Ill. governor?”; “Rangel’s troubles create a problem for the Democrats”; and “Democrats’ web of corruption continues to grow.”

Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., smiles as he leaves the House of ... 
Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., smiles as he leaves the House of Representatives where majority Democrats, in the face of strong GOP opposition, passed a $14 billion emergency loan for struggling U.S. automakers, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The smell of a partywide scandal “might be building, though it’s not there yet,” said Jennifer Duffy, senior political analyst at the Cook Political Report. “But Democrats

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/dec/14/democrats-scandals-play-into-gop-hands/