Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Washington Post Gets Really Tough With Obama

Of course I'm joking! The Post has published a faithfully-in-the-tank fable about how Obama's team acted to "keep its distance" from lobbyists.

"Obama backtracks on no-lobbyists pledge" would have been closer to the truth. For Obama campaigned for president vowing not to let lobbyists work in the White House. But after pointed questions on how he could do such a thing, Obama changed his absolute no-lobbyists vow to one of not letting lobbyists "dominate" in the White House.

And in the above-linked WaPo story, Obama further went back on his promise to the public: Lobbyists can work in his administration, they just can't be officially hired to work on issues they lobbied for. The reality is lobbyists and their connections cross every which way.

Obama's transition chief, John P. Podesta, is a prime example of the interlocking nature of lobbying. From the WaPo story:

"I've heard the other complaint, which is we're leaving all these experts on the side. . . . We're leaving all the people who know everything out in the cold," Podesta said. "And so be it." He said a similar ban was likely to be in effect for the actual administration, including an extension of the lobbyist ban to two years.

But Podesta himself has been a lobbyist, according to a biography by the New York Times: "He was a partner with his brother, Tony, in a prominent Washington lobbying shop."

That's all the space the NYT deems fit on the subject, not even deigning to name the lobbying shop. It's the eponymous "The Podesta Group". On its site, the group says it represents "corporations and trade associations as well as local governments and nonprofits."

The firm doesn't shy away from the lobbyist label. It even touted a Politico article dubbing it a "powerhouse lobbying firm".

To recap: First Obama says lobbyists won't work in his White House. Then he changes his pledge and says they won't "dominate." Then Obama hires as his transition chief a veteran of a powerhouse lobbying firm, and allows lobbyists to openly work in the White House, as long as they're not officially working in areas they've lobbied about.

It's a nice fig leaf -- it hides something that everyone knows is really there.

And topping it off, a gullible (or worse) WaPo reporter uncritically swallows the story and gushes about Obama keeping his distance from those lobbyists. And of course, nowhere does the WaPo article mention Podesta's own lobbying background.

I hope, probably naively, to see the Post do better in giving Obama critical coverage. But this is an abysmal start.

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