Archive for the ‘lobbyists’ Category

Rep. Murtha Dogged By Questions About Earmark Use, Ethics

March 24, 2009

Rep. John Murtha celebrated his 35th anniversary as a congressman by getting an early start on his next campaign, staging an invitation-only fundraising luncheon for dozens of lobbyists and defense contractors at the private Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va. 

AP

But last month’s event, with tickets starting at $1,400, was missing one longtime friend: Paul Magliocchetti, the founder of a lobbying firm that over the past two decades has been one of Murtha’s biggest sources of campaign donations. 

Magliocchetti was absent because of what had happened three months earlier. At 7:30 one evening shortly after Thanksgiving, the FBI raided his lobbying firm, carting off records of the firm’s political action committee and files of some of its lobbyists. 

The work of those lobbyists took them often to Murtha’s Capitol Hill office, as well as those of fellow Democrats Peter Visclosky of Indiana, Jim Moran of Virginia and others on the defense appropriations subcommittee that Murtha chairs. The FBI says the investigation is continuing, highlighting the close tie between special-interest spending provisions known as earmarks and the raising of campaign cash. 

For Murtha, Visclosky and Moran the practice has paved the way for their congressional careers. In 2007 and 2008, the three directed $137 million to defense contractors who were paying Magliocchetti’s PMA Group to get them government business. That kind of clout put the midsized 33-lobbyist firm into the big leagues, ranking it in the top 10 in billings among Washington lobbying shops. 

At the same time, the three lawmakers received huge amounts of political donations from PMA lobbyists and their clients. Murtha has collected $2.37 million in campaign contributions from PMA’s lobbyists and the companies it has represented since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money. Visclosky has collected $1.36 million; Moran, $997,348. 

Read the rest:
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2
009/03/23/rep-murtha-dogged-que
stions-earmark-use/

Michelle:
http://michellemalkin.com/2009
/03/24/dont-honor-john-murtha/

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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

What Became Of Obama’s ‘Hope?” Suddenly ‘Catastrophe’ Looms

February 6, 2009

Catastrophe, mind you. So much for the president who in his inaugural address two weeks earlier declared “we have chosen hope over fear.” Until, that is, you need fear to pass a bill.

And so much for the promise to banish the money changers and influence peddlers from the temple. An ostentatious executive order banning lobbyists was immediately followed by the nomination of at least a dozen current or former lobbyists to high position. Followed by a Treasury secretary who allegedly couldn’t understand the payroll tax provisions in his 1040. Followed by Tom Daschle, who had to fall on his sword according to the new Washington rule that no Cabinet can have more than one tax delinquent.
.
By Charles Krauhammer

The Daschle affair was more serious because his offense involved more than taxes. As Michael Kinsley once observed, in Washington the real scandal isn’t what’s illegal, but what’s legal. Not paying taxes is one thing. But what made this case intolerable was the perfectly legal dealings that amassed Daschle $5.2 million in just two years.

He’d been getting $1 million per year from a law firm. But he’s not a lawyer, nor a registered lobbyist. You don’t get paid this kind of money to instruct partners on the Senate markup process. You get it for picking up the phone and peddling influence.

At least Tim Geithner, the tax-challenged Treasury secretary, had been working for years as a humble international civil servant earning non-stratospheric wages. Daschle, who had made another cool million a year (plus chauffeur and Caddy) for unspecified services to a pal’s private equity firm, represented everything Obama said he’d come to Washington to upend.

And yet more damaging to Obama’s image than all the hypocrisies in the appointment process is his signature bill: the stimulus package. He inexplicably delegated the writing to Nancy Pelosi and the barons of the House. The product, which inevitably carries Obama’s name, was not just bad, not just flawed, but a legislative abomination.

It’s not just pages and pages of special-interest tax breaks, giveaways and protections, one of which would set off a ruinous Smoot-Hawley trade war. It’s not just the waste, such as the $88.6 million for new construction for Milwaukee Public Schools, which, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have shrinking enrollment, 15 vacant schools and, quite logically, no plans for new construction.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/
article/2009/02/05/AR2009020502766.html?hp
id=opinionsbox1

Obama Sorry For Daschle, Other Ethical Flaws; But Bigger Government Could Mean Worse

February 5, 2009

A United States president who admits a mistake is almost as rare as a Wall Street executive who refuses a bonus after losing money. When such humility strikes, it should be cheered to spur reform. But for a regretful Obama White House and a somewhat-rueful Wall Street, it’s still unclear what reforms lie ahead for each.

President Obama admitted Tuesday he made mistakes after two of his cabinet nominees, Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer, were forced to bow out because of revelations over their nonpayment of taxes. But what kind of mistakes?

Christian Science Monitor
Editorial Board

One was clear. “There aren’t two sets of rules,” he told NBC News, “one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes.”

Still, how should Americans square that new-found lesson on double standards with the fact that another tax-dodging nominee, Tim Geithner, was made Treasury secretary? Or that Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State despite her husband being allowed to accept money for his foundation from foreign governments that also make deals with the top US diplomat?

And what of the White House vetting process or that two Obama nominees are former lobbyists or that the president backed Mr. Daschle to the end?

For a politician who promised a high bar of ethics and a new era of responsibility, this president still has far to go to understand why it is so easy for many in Washington to claim immunity or a sense of entitlement not available or accepted by other Americans.

When the Senate salutes one of its own, Republican Ted Stevens, despite his felony conviction, or the House leaves Democrat Charles Rangel as head of its tax-writing committee despite his avoidance of taxes, such lapses of common sense erode faith in government.

It also makes people wary of bigger government with new programs such as universal healthcare. The more power that Washington commands, the more temptation there is for exploitation by special interests and revolving-door politicians. Daschle, for instance, was slated to head up healthcare reform even though he used his Senate tenure to advise that industry and make millions.

Read the rest:
http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0205
/p08s01-comv.html

Obama’s Ethics Reform Promise Faces Early Test

February 3, 2009

During almost two years on the campaign trail, Barack Obama vowed to slay the demons of Washington, bar lobbyists from his administration and usher in what he would later call in his Inaugural Address a “new era of responsibility.” What he did not talk much about were the asterisks.

By Peter Baker
The New York Times

The exceptions that went unmentioned now include a pair of cabinet nominees who did not pay all of their taxes. Then there is the lobbyist for a military contractor who is now slated to become the No. 2 official in the Pentagon. And there are the others brought into government from the influence industry even if not formally registered as lobbyists.

President Obama said Monday that he was “absolutely” standing behind former Senator Tom Daschle, his nominee for health and human services secretary, and Mr. Daschle, who met late in the day with leading senators in an effort to keep his confirmation on track, said he had “no excuse” and wanted to “deeply apologize” for his failure to pay $128,000 in federal taxes.

But the episode has already shown how, when faced with the perennial clash between campaign rhetoric and Washington reality, Mr. Obama has proved willing to compromise.

Every four or eight years a new president arrives in town, declares his determination to cleanse a dirty process and invariably winds up trying to reconcile the clear ideals of electioneering with the muddy business of governing. Mr. Obama on his first day in office imposed perhaps the toughest ethics rules of any president in modern times, and since then he and his advisers have been trying to explain why they do not cover this case or that case.

“This is a big problem for Obama, especially because it was such a major, major promise,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “He harped on it, time after time, and he created a sense of expectation around the country. This is exactly why people are skeptical of politicians, because change we can believe in is not the same thing as business as usual.”

And so in these opening days of the administration, the Obama team finds itself being criticized by bloggers on the left and the right, mocked by television comics and questioned by reporters about whether Mr. Obama is really changing the way Washington works or just changing which political party works it.

Related:
Barack Obama: Credibility Lost?

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/
us/politics/03lobby.html?_r=1&hp

US President Barack Obama, seen here on January 29, 2009, sits ... 
US President Barack Obama, seen here on January 29, 2009, sits alongside Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Obama’s new rules have loopholes

February 2, 2009

President Obama’s first moves earned him triumphant headlines: “Obama Freezes Pay, Toughens Ethics and Lobbying Rules,” and “Obama sets new course.”

But some of his biggest accomplishments are twinned with the word “but”: Lobbyists are banned, but exceptions can and will be made; orders on ending torture and secret prisons contain loopholes and provisos.

By Christina Bellantoni
The Washington Times

Call it the fine print, an exception, a waiver, but there have been caveats to many of Mr. Obama’s first actions.

The lobbying issue has drawn the most ire, especially since Mr. Obama spent so much time blasting lobbyists on the campaign trail.

“Change we can believe in, as long as we pay attention to the disappointing asterisk on the word ‘change,’ ” complained Rachel Maddow, a liberal talk-show host for MSNBC.

Miss Maddow on Friday night blasted Mr. Obama for having former lobbyists in his administration, saying that his campaign-trail promise that lobbyists would not run his White House “sounded great; too great to be entirely true, it turns out.”

White House aides suggest the criticism is nonsense, since even transition officials warned months ago there would be exceptions to lobbying bans for people they consider exceptionally talented. Others point out that so many people leave government to earn money with consulting and lobbying that it would be tough to staff any administration without needing to bend the rules.

But Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, ripped into the new administration for so quickly bending the lobbying rules.

“He got the good headlines, and their intentions were really good, but carving out so many exceptions is silly. They should stop pretending they are following the rule when they are not,” she said. “They say they have a policy of no lobbyists, and yet every day we hear about a new lobbyist.”

Nearly two dozen executive-branch hires, all the way up to Cabinet level, have been registered federal lobbyists, with the most-prominent being Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and William Lynn, the No. 2 man at the Pentagon.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/feb/
02/early-obama-loopholes-are-drawing-fire/

Obama Tending Toward Swampland Salesman on Bipartisanship, Transparency, Ethical Government

January 29, 2009

President Obama is quickly becoming a swamp land salesman.  We’d liken him to a used car salesman but everyone in The Motor City is already unhappy with him.

On bipartisanship, the president is clear. He wants it.  So he allowed the House of Representatives, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to write a stimulus bill.  Then the president went to Capitol Hill to make the pitch for bipartisanship.

Too late.

The president even apparently said to reluctant Republicans, “I won.”

Nancy Pelosi apparently claimed the higher ground, saying, “We won.”

Republicans actually thought they’d be part of the legislative process.

Not one Republican voted for the Obama stimulus.

“That’s just not the way it works,” one Republican told us.

Then there is the oath on transparency.  Followed by an oath in the White House without any news media writers or reporters.  “We would have needed a bigger room, ” one White House aide said.  Call me: I can point out the bigger rooms.

And on lobbyists and ethics in government the president has already asked for several exemptions, including for his Treasury Secretary that forgot to pay his taxes and now supervises the IRS and for his nominee as Deputy Secretary of Defense, William Lynn, a lobbyist.

But we are early in this presidency and there is plenty of time left to learn….

Related:
 Obama’s Bipartisanship Lost In Nancy Pelosi’s Office; Now President Tries Senate GOP For Help with Recovery Bill

Obama finds room for lobbyists with “exceptions” to his own ethics rules

Obama’s Open Records Pledge Tested

Obama Offered Republicans ‘Input’ On Stimulus: But “Oh My God” Is Response To Pelosi Bill

Obama finds room for lobbyists with “exceptions” to his own ethics rules

January 29, 2009

Campbell Brown at CNN is asking why President Obama keeps asking for “exceptions” to his own well publicized ethics rules.

Both the left and the right, Republicans and Democrats can agree on ethics and good, clean government.

Why is Obama lying to us on this subject?

“Unfortunately, we are again asking the president to explain why exactly he announced, with great fanfare, new ethics rules if he had no intention of abiding by them,” says Campbell Brown.

CNN:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/0
1/28/campbell.brown.ethics/index.html

***************

President Obama promised during his campaign that lobbyists “won’t find a job in my White House.”

So far, though, at least a dozen former lobbyists have found top jobs in his administration, according to an analysis done by Republican sources and corroborated by Politico.

By Kenneth P. Vogel, Mike Allen
Politico

Related:
Geithner, An Exception to a Rule, To Issue New Lobbying Rules; President Already Wants Exception To That?

On Transparency, Lobbyists, So Far President Obama Is “All Talk”

Obama aides did not challenge the the list of lobbyists appointed to administration jobs, but they stressed that former lobbyists comprise a fraction of the more than 8,000 employees who will be hired by the new administration. And they pointed out that before Obama made his campaign-trail promise, he issued a more complete – and more nuanced – policy on former lobbyists.

Formalized in a recent presidential executive order, it forbids executive branch employees from working in an agency, or on a program, for which they have lobbied in the last two years.

Yet in the past few days, a number of exceptions have been granted, with the administration conceding at least two waivers and that a handful of other appointees will recuse themselves from dealing with matters on which they lobbied within the two-year window.

“It would be more honest if they admitted they made a mistake and came up with a narrower rule,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Obviously, they can’t live with the rule, which is why they keep waving the magic wand and making exceptions. They’re saying one thing and doing another. It’s why the public is skeptical about politicians.”

But another watchdog, Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center, praised Obama’s rules as “a good starting place” and urged patience in judging their efficacy.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/politic
o/20090128/pl_politico/18128

Geithner, An Exception to a Rule, To Issue New Lobbying Rules; President Already Wants Exception To That?

January 27, 2009

“Here we are making an exception to the rule and I, for one, think it’s not the time to make an exception.”

Those words were spoken by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga, about the new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Four senators aligned with the Democrats voted against Geithner. “He made some serious failures in judgment,” said Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin. “I bode him no ill will personally . . . but how can Mr. Geithner speak with any credibility or authority?”

Now Mr. Timothy Geithner will order new rules to prevent lobbyists from doing certain things in the U.S. government.

But President Obama has already asked for an exception to his own rules on lobbyists with his appointment of William Lynn to the number two post at the pentagon….

Related (On William Lynn)…

On Transparency, Lobbyists, So Far President Obama Is “All Talk”

Obama Nominee For Pentagon Job Violates His Own Anti-Lobbyists Rule

This is an undated photo provided by the U.S. Department of ... 
This is an undated photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense of William J. Lynn then Under Secretary of Defense. President-elect Barack Obama appointed William J. Lynn III, a defense contractor’s lobbyist, Thursday Jan. 8, 2009 to become the No. 2 official at the Defense Department, a choice that appeared to break with his self-imposed rules to keep lobbyists at arm’s length. Lynn, former Raytheon lobbyist nominated to be deputy defense secretary despite President Barack Obama’s ban on hiring lobbyists, will sell his stock in the military contracting firm.(AP Photo/DOD, File)

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By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer

Under orders to move quickly on the faltering economy, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is expected to unveil new rules Tuesday to limit special-interest influence involving the $700 billion financial rescue program.

The new rules are designed to crack down on lobbyist influence over the rescue program, according to an administration official with knowledge of the changes.

This official, who spoke to The Associated Press on grounds of anonymity because the new rules had not yet been announced, said that they went farther than restrictions the Bush administration imposed.

The new rules will restrict the contact officials can have with lobbyists….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090127/ap_o
n_go_ca_st_pe/treasury_secretary

Obama’s Stand on Lobbyists, Transparency Void During Economic Stimulus Planning?

January 25, 2009

Lobbyists are everywhere.  Say it isn’t so.

Barack Obama has almost guranteed a White House and government free of the pervasive influence of lobbyists and totally “transparent” to allow open knowledge, debate and decision making.

But lobbyists are all over the economic stimulus planning and to make sure they get what they want the process has become even more secretive….

You decide…..

******

By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, Associated Press

President Barack Obama‘s ban on earmarks in the $825 billion economic stimulus bill doesn’t mean interest groups, lobbyists and lawmakers won’t be able to funnel money to pet projects.

They’re just working around it — and perhaps inadvertently making the process more secretive.

The projects run the gamut: a Metrolink station that needs building in Placentia, Calif.; a stretch of beach in Sandy Hook, N.J., that could really use some more sand; a water park in Miami.

There are thousands of projects like those that once would have been gotten money upfront but now are left to scramble for dollars at the back end of the process as “ready to go” jobs eligible for the stimulus plan.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090125/ap_o
n_go_co/the_influence_game_stimulus_lobbying

Related:
On Transparency, Lobbyists, So Far President Obama Is “All Talk”