Eight Years Later: Obama's Broken Promise on the Revolving Door

By Carney, Timothy P. | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, January 12, 2016 | Go to article overview

Eight Years Later: Obama's Broken Promise on the Revolving Door


Carney, Timothy P., Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


Undergirding his pledges to "remake America," in specific areas - - foreign policy, the economy, healthcare, banking and more -- Barack Obama promised systemic change. He promised to fix the way Washington works.

He promised to unrig the game.

If President Obama were interested in honest self-criticism in his final State of the Union address, he would admit that he failed on this central promise. In fact, Obama totally abandoned the idea, if he ever believed in it at all.

"As people have looked away in disillusionment and frustration," Obama said in announcing his presidential run in 2007, "we know what's filled the void: the cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests who've turned our government into a game only they can afford to play."

He was right. "They write the checks," he continued, "and you get stuck with the bills, they get the access while you get to write a letter, they think they own this government, but we're here today to take it back."

Candidate Obama promised to "stop" the revolving door, through which industry hands regulate and subsidize their own industry, and regulators get rich from the companies they once oversaw.

On his first day in office, Obama issued an executive order that purported to do that. In his first State of the Union, Obama claimed he had succeeded. "We have excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs."

But this was a lie. By that point, dozens of lobbyists were in policymaking jobs, including a Raytheon lobbyist as deputy secretary of Defense, a Goldman Sachs lobbyist as Treasury chief of staff, a lobbyist for the Swiss Bankers' Association as general counsel at the IRS and four lobbyists in his cabinet.

Since then it's gotten worse, with the revolving door spinning both ways -- Obama hiring lobbyists, and Obama appointees monetizing their policymaking experience. Obama's Budget Chief, Peter Orzsag, left for Citibank, his general counsel, Greg Craig, left for Goldman Sachs and his deputy chief of staff, Mona Sutphen, left for Swiss bank UBS. Obama's energy efficiency czar Cathy Zoi cashed out to a George Soros-run investment firm specializing in green energy.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew worked at a K Street lobbying firm and at Citigroup.

Obama picked David Stevens to run the Federal Housing Authority (which subsidizes mortgage lenders), and then Stevens left for the Mortgage Bankers Association.

For Obama's first term, the chief of staff at the Export-Import Bank of the United States -- which mostly subsidizes Boeing -- was Kevin Varney. Varney is now a VP at Boeing.

If government officials had set out to grease their own personal revolving door spins and enrich themselves in the private sector, they couldn't have done better than Obama's two signature laws: Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill. …

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