Obama Nominee Runs Into New Lobby Rules
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
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