Obama has kept a number of promises over the first few weeks, some of which I was particularly pleased to see. One that hes broken however that pisses me off a bit is the one about curtailing lobbyist influence. I remember Obama taking McCain to task several times on this issue during the campaign, and was very pleased to see it, in particular in relation to healthcare. However, I'm less pleased to see fractures appearing in this promise. I know that there are people out there who want to defend everything Obama does, because anyone who attacks him on one point "must therefore be a Republican on all other points". Well, I'm not, and I think Obama has done a number of good things over the first 2 months of his administration. This one however, and the manner in which it is being spun, reeks of political damage limitation. On his first day in office, he signed an Executive Order which was largely aligned with the promise he had made (see link above). BUT...there was a get out of jail free card hidden in the XO, termed a "Waiver" in the language used (Section 3 of the XO) Executive Order - Ethics Commitments Essentially the waiver says the administration can appoint anyone if blocking their appointment would be inconsistent with the purposes of the restriction, or not in the public interest. That's a pretty damn wide waiver. Anyone with an ounce of common sense could drive a coach and horses right through the middle of it without touching the sides. And it appears that the waiver is being used. William J. Lynn, a former Raytheon lobbyist, was appointed Deputy Defense Secretary (with a waiver). Jocelyn Frye, who is now director of policy and projects in the Office of the First Lady, previously lobbied for National Partnership for Women and Families (with a waiver). Cecilia Muñoz, now director of intergovernmental affairs in the Executive Office of the President, and the administration's principal liaison to the Hispanic community, formerly lobbied for National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization (with a waiver). More worrying even than these are the stories that some lobbyists are getting in through the back door (i.e. without a waiver of any kind), if they simply "recuse" themselves (i.e. promise not to get involved with stuff they've been lobbying about). I've included some links to stories related to both these points below. Obama finds room for lobbyists - Kenneth P. Vogel and Mike Allen - Politico.com Political Punch: President's Nominee for Trade Rep, a Lobbyist in 2008, to Take Advantage of Loophole in Anti-Lobbyist Regs National Journal Magazine - Former Lobbyists Join Obama TheHill.com - Lobbyists slipping into Obama administration Likely Justice Department nominee faces ethics hurdle - Los Angeles Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/10/us/politics/10frye.html?_r=1 Now, it may be that this is a storm in a teacup (as we say in England). However, my issue is with lack of transparency. A promise was made during the election campaign, and it is being deliberately circumvented. Even worse, this maneuver is being given a veneer of legitimacy by the use of White House Counsels to certify that hirings are in the public interest. This is not the change we needed. This, in my view, is the same shit as before, just done with a bit more guile. I don't particularly have a problem with hiring lobbyists - in fact I think Obama was a bit naive to think he could do without them, but then again he hasn't been an elected politician for very long so I can perhaps excuse that to a point. What I do have a problem with is him changing his mind (or someone else changing it for him) and then trying to limit the damage by coming up with plausible rationales rather than just being honest about it. Maybe it wasn't him being naive. Maybe it was me for hoping that we'd actually have a politician who would stick to his promises or be honest about why he couldn't. But I can't help remembering that he said we should hold him accountable. And before the Republicans pile on, let's remember this didn't start with Obama. That would be a bit pot/kettle.