The media has been abuzz the last few days with President Barack Obama’s apparent misstep about his pre-election promise to get rid of lobbyists in his administration. The minor media furor has been caused by the President by hiring over a dozen lobbyists to fill certain key jobs in his administration. Has the MSM jumped to a negative conclusion about these appointments and in turn found a way to cast a glaring light on the fledgling administration that is filled with more bombast rather than fact?
Let’s begin by making a clear distinction between what is known a public sector lobbyist (not for profit) and those lobbyists with deep pockets who wine and dine DC government elites (for profit lobbyists) in the hope of swaying legislation and/or garnering votes for lucrative government legislation or contracts.
Perhaps the newly appointed Obama lobbyists and their backgrounds should also be examined and vetted by the press; a press all too eager to spin the idea that President Obama and his staff are re-canting their pre-election promises regarding lobbyists and their place in his government.
Take for example nominee Tom Vilsack who lobbied on behalf of the National Education Association. Mr. Vilsack is at once Republican and a Catholic and yet he seems to defy the common labels that have been assigned to his politics and his religion. He has supported abortion rights and he had also voted to extend unemployment benefits in 2004. An advocate that supported teacher raises and merit pay, Mr. Vilsack advocated for an education revolution. Perhaps this man is the kind of lobbyist who was and is a principled man and will serve our country and our needs well?
William Corr is a man who lobbied on behalf of an organization that is anti-tobacco for kids as well as adults. Mr. Corr also directed four private, non-profit community-run organizations whose primary concerns were health care centers in rural areas.
Melody Barnes lobbied on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Council on Civil Rights, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Constitution Society. The MSM seems to have missed that these organizations are all oriented towards the rights of others and do not necessarily raise a red flag of concern about the nominee’s basic sense of justice.
Nominee Cecilia Munoz worked on behalf of La Raza, an advocacy group concerned primarily with advocacy issues sensitive to the Latino community. Patrick Gaspard is another example of a not-for-profit lobbyist who lobbied on behalf of the Service Employees International Union, an organization that seeks to protect the rights of typically underpaid and under-valued service employees. And nominee Michael Strautmantis, lobbied on behalf of the American Association of Justice for four years.
The rest of the nominees may have represented for-profit firms before their nominations, but it is also imprudent to assume that the nominees past associations with “for-profit” entities is an automatic indictment of their characters, their abilities and their desires to serve as public employees, is somehow twisted and presumptuous. To merely dismiss all lobbyists as money, grubbing ingrates paints all lobbyists as disreputable and in turn, and in turn tars President Obama’s with that same brush and label he and his nominees as people who practice questionable ethics and would preclude them from carrying out their respective job duties. And in that indictment about these lobbyists raises concerns about Barack Obama and his vow to change what’s wrong in American government.