Obama administration eases restrictions on lobbyists for stimulus money
Rather than holding their ground, the Obama administration has decided to revise the restriction that did not allow lobbyists to meet with government officials to discuss potential uses for the Federal stimulus money they have been allocated. Under the guidelines prior to this revision, lobbyists were forced to put their contacts with holder’s of stimulus money in writing, telephone calls and in-person visits were restricted.
The revision, released by Peter Orszag, was issued late Friday (late Friday should always set off alarm bells because it essentially says “we are extremely embarrassed about this but we are going to put it out late Friday and hope it is dead by Monday or severely weakened.”)
You can read the new guidelines in their entirety here.
This backtrack is another example of the Obama administration’s mode of operation. They simply wait until the story is far removed from the headlines and carry out whatever option is the most politically expedient. They have done the same thing with the promise of withdrawing troops from Iraq and they have done the same thing including lobbyists in the administration.
If these new, more lenient guidelines released by Orszag were the guidelines that were on the table the time the stimulus package went up for a vote in Congress, the vote on the stimulus package may have had a different outcome in Congress.
The reason this story will be able to fly under the radar is because of the issues of little consequence that have risen to the top of the weekend’s news cycle. All of the stories from the Professor Gates story to the health care battle that is looming will give this story cover.
But it is important to stop and notice when considering how the Obama administration plans to move ahead and make promises about health care…etc. that they go back on their word for the sake of political expediency again and again.
What may seem like a simple tweaking of the language in the way the stimulus money is handled, is actually earthshattering because it has taken the taxpayer dollars used to fund the stimulus package and channeled them directly to K Street.
It is interesting to note that the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) led the charge on to get the White House to ease the lobbyist restrictions. So rather than follow the will of the American public, who were very vocal about keeping special interests away from the stimulus money, the Obama administration has decided to appease perhaps the most liberal organization in the country.