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An Edwards Promise That Few Have Kept

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
John Edwards vowed that if he becomes president "there will be no corporate lobbyists in the White House." If so, he would be the first president of modern times to be able to make that claim. President Bush has Edward W. Gillespie as a White House counselor and before he joined the White House he was registered as a lobbyist for 57 companies and associations.

Bush's former chief of staff Andrew Card was an auto industry lobbyist before he went to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Bush's first congressional liaison Nicholas Calio was a corporate lobbyist before he joined the White House as well. In fact, he was a corporate lobbyist before he joined the George H.W. Bush White House as well, also as congressional liaison.

The tendency is bipartisan. The Clinton White House had plenty of former corporate lobbyists including its former deputy chief of staff Steven Ricchetti and two of its congressional liaisons, Howard Paster and Patrick Griffin.

Jeffrey H. Birnbaum writes the K Street column on lobbying for The Post's In the Loop page.

By Washington Post editors  |  January 7, 2008; 8:21 PM ET
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I can't understand why people do not see what the Clintons are up to. I recall when Bill was running for office that he ran on the promise of health care for all Americans. That was about 14 years ago i think, so where is it? Yea Bill, it was so important that as soon as you got in the White House, you dumped the job on Hillary and who elected her to represent the voice of the American people in Congress? Oh, I see, so after you left office embarasing the nation to the world with your lies and scandals, you pack up and move to New York so that soon Hillary could run for Congress. Ok, it's a free country, so to speak, but in those many years she's been in Congress, where is the health care Hillary? Isn't is interesting that Kerry decided to back Obama righ before the S.C. primary with those millions of Black voters! The same old race card is being played. If you look into Obamas campaign problems/scandal in the past and his votes in Congress, where is the leadership?
John Edwards makes sense, is dedicated, the longest running for the job and will attempt to make a change and I am sure it scares lobbyists and powers that be. If you really want change, Edwards is the man.

Posted by: longrd52 | January 13, 2008 5:26 AM | Report abuse

Unity, Obama's mantra, and negotiation, Clinton's modus operandi, are wonderful things--if they are truly achieved and the price paid is honorable and worth it. Only John Edwards chooses to raise these issues. But, of course, John Edwards is virtually invisible to the main stream media. Happily his message is resonating with voters. Despite running against the big, big bucks of Obama and Clinton. He cannot win the nomination without fairer coverage from print and TV/radio conglomerates, but he is making the Obama and Clinton, the darlings of the press "narrative," squirm and give fuller meanings to their simplistic chant of "Change." Edwards should stay in the race to the end, forcing the media choices to alter their views (as they have already) in his direction.

Posted by: garyd63 | January 9, 2008 10:50 PM | Report abuse

This would be an entirely different race if all the candidates were required to take public campaign funding and forgo corporate contributions. Edwards has been the example among the top 4 candidates [in the polls]. That action shows he'll keep his promise about lobbyists in the government.

Once the Democratic Party thinks the issues through, Edwards will come out a winner on super Tuesday.

Posted by: st_denys | January 8, 2008 7:52 PM | Report abuse

This is an absolutely vital first step in getting the corrupting influence of "private" money out of the political process. John Edwards HAS shown his commitment to this throughout his political life. I'm a cynic...and I believe him!

With a nod toward the framers' insistance on allowing citizens to make donations in order to add their "two-bits" worth to the national discourse that is our campaign process, they never could have envisioned how foreign interest and "big money" corporate lobbyists have so thoroughly infected the process...the industrial revolution was almost a hundred years in the future when the Constitution was written. There WERE no corporations, it was a largely agrarian society. Had these incredibly prescient men seen it, they would have addressed the issue it's up to us!

Elections MUST be federally funded. Period. There's NO other way to do it without the inevitable corrupting power of special interest money seeking favors in return. Allow individual contributions with a one-time, stipulated ceiling and with every citzen counted equally. Otherwise, have elections funded according to stipulated levels of participation...from city clerk and school board members, right on up through the presidency. As the process advances, candidates who meet advancing criteria will qualify for the next level of participation with its state and federal funding. If a candidate doesn't meet the minimums, he or she is out! Eventually this winnowing process will provide candidates for the final campaign at every level.

An important aspect of this will be that each voter may only contribute to one candidate for each office at a time and may not hedge bets with donations across the board. One man, one vote...but ALSO one candidate, one choice. The voter may change preferences at any time at each advancing level, insuring that each candidate and/or office holder will have to continue to work to earn that vote and that contribution! In other words, the public will be in a continuing grading and supporting process and if a representative or aspiring representative doesn't perform...sayonara!

Special interest groups MAY endorse a candidate, but they may NOT buy ads or otherwise attempt to influence the process with money. Everything MUST be editorial rather than purchased exposure.

At each level, however, each qualifying candidate for each party...Republican, Democrat, or whatever...WILL be given a set and equal amount of federal and/or state money to spend as he or she sees fit...for purchased media, for staff salaries and expenses, etc...but once it's gone, it's gone...UNLESS he or she continues to qualify for funding at the next level. What this will do is encourage the voter to participate in the process...and it will mean that the donor controls the fate of the candidate/incumbant at every step in the process and will mean REAL participatory democracy through representation...exactly what the framers had in mind.

Bugs? Sure, but if we're intelligent enough to put men on the moon, harness the atom and invent the hula hoop, the joy buzzer and the dribble glass, we can surely smooth out the rough spots!

Posted by: PETETENNEY | January 8, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, this country will only listen to, see, and avail itself of the remarkable promise earnestly and credibly offered only by John Edwards if it is not swept up by the substantively copy-cat and otherwise content-lacking cult candidacy of Barack Obama. But, who wants to be swept up? Get him in a series of 1-on-1 debates, John, and show America who's who really!!

Posted by: HufferdCruzeiro | January 8, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

The country is thirsting for a politician that syas what he means and means what he says. Perhaps Edwards is the one that can do it...perhaps not. Corporate lobbyists are a cancer on good government and until the presidential candidates start to talk meaningfully about "reform" nothing is going to change. Since Obama started to gain in popularity the buzz word of the day is change. We don't want change...we want reform and it appears that this current batch of presidential wanabees will not affect neither change or reform.

Our constitution and soveriegnty are being erroded with each successive administration, the present administration being the worse. When moderates of both parties start to gather to discuss the problem you can rest assured there is a significant problem that needs to be addressed.

Posted by: rlbowolick | January 8, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

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