It looks like William J. Lynn III will be the first challenge to Obama’s tough new restrictions on the revolving door culture in Washington.
As part of the executive orders President Obama issued Wednesday, all appointees in the Obama Administration will be forced to sign a pledge including the following language:
I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts….
If I was a registered lobbyist within the 2 years before the date of my appointment, in addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 2, I will not for a period of 2 years after the date of my appointment:
(a) participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment;
(b) participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls; or
(c) seek or accept employment with any executive agency that I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment.
The good government group Project on Government Oversight (POGO) is wondering how Lynn, who was the chief financial officer for the Department of Defense late in the Clinton Administration and has been nominated by Obama to become Deputy Secretary of Defense, is going to sign that pledge. Lynn was most recently the senior vice president for government operations at Raytheon, a massive defense contractor. Here’s a tip: anytime you see the words “vice president for government operations” or “vice president for government relations,” that’s code for “top lobbyist.” And indeed, POGO points to the Senate lobbying database, which shows Lynn was a registered lobbyist as recently as July 2008, pushing Raytheon’s agenda on the department he will help run if he is confirmed.
Apparently the Obama team knows of Lynn’s background as an influence-peddler and doesn’t seem to mind. From an AP article earlier this month:
[Obama’s] transition team, which voluntarily disclosed Lynn’s lobbying activities, said Lynn’s talents made him worth the apparent exception to the spirit of Obama’s anti-lobbyists policy. It said it will work with Lynn to maintain Obama’s high ethics standards.
“Because Mr. Lynn came so highly recommended from experts across the political spectrum, the president-elect felt it was critical that he fill this position,” Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
Mandy Smithberger, the national security investigator at POGO, is certain an exception to the new rules will have to be made for Lynn. “Many people, including us, are concerned about how he could do his job if he can’t be involved in anything that he lobbied on, especially because he’s supposed to help manage budgets and all of these things that his lobbying forms clearly state that he worked on,” she says. “I don’t know how he could be effective in that position.”
Smithberger suspects a waiver to the rules will have to be issued, raising questions of when, why, and how frequently waivers will be allowed. A call to the White House press office was not returned.