Team Obama Hires Another Lobbyist, Ethics Be Damned

Article excerpt

Revolving-door lobbyist Steve Ricchetti, Vice President Bidens new top aide, exemplifies President Obamas farcical crackdown on lobbyists. Ricchetti and his K Street firm also embody another core trait of this administration: using big government and populist rhetoric to enrich politically connected companies.

Bailout recipients like General Motors and Fannie Mae have retained Ricchetti Inc. for lobbying, as have Obamacare beneficiaries like the American Hospital Association and drug companies. But the most illustrative example of Ricchettis lobbying and how it melds perfectly with the Obama administrations governing was his campaign to save the death tax.

Ricchetti founded the Coalition for Americas Priorities in 2005 and began a print and broadcast campaign in favor of preserving the estate tax, which Republicans were trying to permanently abolish.

The ads featured a Paris Hilton look-alike gushing over estate tax repeal. This helped frame the Democrats attacks on pro-repeal Republicans.

There is a big moral dimension, Ricchetti sermonized to the Christian Science Monitor in 2006, with lofty appeals to basic fairness and equity and hard work.

Media outlets covering this pro-death-tax campaign typically described Ricchetti as co-chair of the Coalition for Americas Priorities, and a former Clinton White House aide omitting that he was a corporate lobbyist being paid to save the death tax by the life insurance industry.

Life insurers profit from the death tax by selling estate planning products. Also, life insurance payouts, unlike inheritances, are not taxed.

The Association for Advanced Life Underwriting is a multimillion- dollar-a-year Washington lobby shop for the life insurance industry, and it was one of Ricchettis big funders in his push to preserve the death tax.

Top AALU lobbyist Marc Cadin gushed about Ricchettis efforts at a life insurance trade conference in 2007. [C]oming up with whats dubbed the Paris Hilton tax cut was sure political genius, National Underwriter quoted Cadin as saying. It provided [political cover] for politicians who want to be in the reform camp.

The Ricchetti familys moral crusade to save the life insurance industrys favorite tax goes back to 1999, when Steves brother Jeff was a lobbyist at the Podesta Group, the lobbying firm started by John Podesta, who was Obamas White House transition director. …