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Obama Nominee Runs Into New Lobby Rules

POSTED: 01:03 PM ET, 01/23/2009 by Derek Kravitz


William J. Lynn III

President Barack Obama's strict new lobbying rules for cabinet members have put his administration in a difficult spot when it comes to one of its top nominees.

William J. Lynn III, a former Pentagon official under President Bill Clinton and Obama's choice for deputy secretary of the Defense Department, spent the better part of the past two years lobbying for defense contractor Raytheon, federal records show.

Obama's ethics rules state that ex-lobbyists in his administration cannot work on issues they lobbied on for two years:

"2. Revolving Door Ban All Appointees Entering Government. 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.

"3. Revolving Door Ban Lobbyists Entering Government. 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.

That rule complicates matters for Lynn. It also affects William V. Coor, the nominee for deputy secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, who has lobbied for the nonprofit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. But Coor has pledged not to work on any tobacco issues in his new job.

Lynn, however, lobbied the Pentagon on so many Raytheon projects -- acquisitions policy, space, intelligence and command and control, among others -- that it might be hard to find an area within the department that was untouched by his previous work.

(Lynn's biography, as released by Obama's transition team, said he "brings decades of experience and expertise in reforming government spending and making the tough choices necessary to ensure that American tax dollars are spent wisely.")

Lynn was thought to have "broad support in Congress" and had been considered a "shoo-in," according to The Associated Press.

But watchdog groups, the Republican National Committee and even Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee have expressed their reservations.

In a statement, Levin said:

"Given the President's new stricter rules requiring his appointees to recuse themselves from matters or issues on which they have lobbied, the Senate Armed Services Committee will need further information before proceeding with the nomination of William J. Lynn III to be Deputy Secretary of Defense. The committee will await the administration's assessment as to whether the new rules will preclude Mr. Lynn, who was a registered lobbyist for a defense contractor, from participating in key Department of Defense decisions, and if so, whether a waiver will be forthcoming and what the scope of the waiver will be."

Others on the committee thought it would be impossible for Lynn to be appointed without a clear-cut waiver.

"I have no reason to impugn Mr. Lynn's integrity, but it's a problem," Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-Mo.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Congressional Quarterly. "You can't just recuse yourself from huge programs at the Pentagon if you're going to do that job."

By Derek Kravitz |  January 23, 2009; 1:03 PM ET
Previous: 'War' on Terror's Sudden End, Following the TARP Money, Senators Call for Fraud Probes | Next: A Mysterious Blagojevich Insider Revealed and One Executive's $1M Office

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This guy, William J. Lynn III, cannot possibly be the only person who possesses the "expertise" the President is looking for?

Even, for ardent Democrats and supporters of the President, some of the nominees we are seeing in the new administration, do not conjure up the sense of change the President campaigned and won the election on. The least of which, not being the domination of former Clinton appointees and loyalists in this administration. Why is it that, the administration that came to be, based on the mantra of change, has become so addicted to with former Clinton appointees and loyalists of Hillary and Bill Clinton? Why is the President (those supposedly working for him), trying to put him in a difficult position, with some of these nominees, like William J Lynn III, with their heavy baggage?

Is this guy and other nominees like him, and whatever expertise they possess, so critical for the President to back pedal on the campaign promises he made -no lobbyists in his administration, and the "change Washington" mantra?

The former President George W. Bush senior lost re-election on the now, infamous remark, "Read my lips, no new taxes", during the campaign, only to raise taxes, when he was in office. Voters remember campaign pledges and promises.

This President worked extremely hard, against all odds, to win the election. Those who are now in the administration, who did not even support, let alone, campaign for the candidacy of this President, and may not realize how hard the battle was, PLEASE, DO NOT MAKE THE JOB, ANYMORE DIFFICULT FOR THIS PRESIDENT, THAN IT ALREADY IS, BY STACKING HIS CABINET WITH YOUR FELLOW CLINTON LOYALISTS AND THEIR BAGGAGE. THE LEAST THE PRESIDENT NEEDS, CONSIDERING THE CURRENT ECONOMIC CRISIS AND TWO WARS HE HAS TO MANAGE, IS PERSONNEL CONFIRMATION FIGHT WITH CONGRESS, ON NOMINEES LIKE WILLIAM J LYNN III. WE WANT THIS PRESIDENT TO SUCCEED, DO NOT MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM!

Posted by: ICA2101 | January 23, 2009 4:52 PM

I am very disappopinted the new president is having to waive his new ethics standards so soon. It makes me doubt his sincertity to change.

Posted by: MrMean | January 24, 2009 8:42 AM

Given that many of decisions made by the deputy secretary of Defense will be unscrutinized by the public for reasons of national security, it is especially important for whoever fills this position to be free from any perceived entanglements. That being said, the wording of the actual Presidential order would appear to me, as a non-lawyer, to be impossible for Mr. Lynn to legally sign.

"By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 301 of title 3, United States Code, and sections 3301 and 7301 of title 5, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Ethics Pledge. Every appointee in every executive agency appointed on or after January 20, 2009, shall sign, and upon signing shall be contractually committed to, the following pledge upon becoming an appointee:

"As a condition, and in consideration, of my employment in the United States Government in a position invested with the public trust, I commit myself to the following obligations, which I understand are binding on me and are enforceable under law:

"1. Lobbyist Gift Ban. I will not accept gifts from registered lobbyists or lobbying organizations for the duration of my service as an appointee.

"2. Revolving Door Ban All Appointees Entering Government. 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.

"3. Revolving Door Ban Lobbyists Entering Government. 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."

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | January 24, 2009 6:43 PM

I'm with the 3 previous posters on this fellow: is he really the only one qualified? Amongst my circle of friends, mostly liberal/progressives, we are cringing at some of the waffling and waivering (sic) that's going on. We want to believe that this is the staff's misguided doing but it reflects poorly on the President. And yes, there are bigger issues, but this seems like a bad step onto the slippery slope...that hopefully will not end like the end-of-term, 11th hour withdrawal of the similar Clinton ethics/lobbying exec order. If these one-offs continue, the legitimacy of what could be a truly transformative presidency will be in question. And drive many of us to seek real reform and change with a 3rd party. Sigh. Meet the new Boss, same as the old Boss.

Posted by: skybrew | January 27, 2009 11:47 AM

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