President-Elect Acts to Drive the Lobbyists out of Washington
Doyle, Leonard, The Independent (London, England)
Strict new rules on the backroom deal-makers New administration hopes to combat 'undue influence'
THE LEADER of Barack Obama's transition team has delivered some bad news to the hordes of lobbyists plying their trade in the fancy restaurants and faceless offices along Pennsylvania Avenue: they are not welcome.
John Podesta, the transition chief, has revealed a set of draconian new regulations aimed at curbing the excessive influence of lobbyists, as Mr Obama promised in his campaign. They are to be denied their role of greasing the wheels of the new administration's transition to power by paying for office space and staff between now and the inauguration on 20 January.
Mr Podesta unveiled "the strictest, the most far-reaching ethics rules of any transition team", and declared "that the undue influence of Washington lobbyists and the revolving door of Washington ceases to exist".
The White House and the Capitol are the two most impressive buildings in Washington but power is really along Pennsylvania Avenue and K Street, where the top-tier lobbyists arrange access to decision-makers and cut backroom deals for special interest groups.
Now, in the dying days of the Bush administration, an unprecedented frenzy is under way as Washington's legal and lobbying establishment tries to get its hands on some of the $700bn (470bn) financial rescue package for clients before a deadline of tomorrow.
One of the top firms is Alston & Bird, which boasts the former Republican presidential contender and senator Bob Dole on its books. But Democrats are no slouches either. The national co-chair of Mr Obama's election campaign, former Senator Tom Daschle, also works for Alston & Bird though not, we are assured, as a registered lobbyist. Instead he brings "high level advisory and strategic advice" to the company.
To cope with the crush of lobbyists at its doors, the Treasury Department hired Jeb Mason, a 32-year old Texan who wears cowboy boots and hat. A former White House aide of the political adviser Karl Rove, he is the point of call for the hired guns of the banking, insurance and credit card companies lining up to get some of the taxpayers' billions. …