The Washington Post

The Obama White House has been caught listening to lobbyists!

There are lobbyists visiting the White House.  This is a story only because candidate Barack Obama piously pledged during his campaign in 2008 that there wouldn’t be. I don't think he was deceitful then, and I don't think it is a big deal now. It just exemplifies another way we have paid for Obama's on-the-job training on issues both big and small.  Obama was elected not knowing how economic or energy policy worked. How was he supposed to understand how policymakers communicated with the world they shape?

In Washington today, if you are part of an effort to advocate for a  specific policy or government action, for the most part, people in government that you need to see will see you in furtherance of them doing a good job. To be as effective as possible, a policymaker needs to hear from just about anyone who might be affected by a decision. Sometimes the impact is intended, sometimes it's not, but either way, the policymakers need to know about it.

Lobbyists are the representatives of the affected parties and are in the best position to explain all the consequences of a particular action. Giving a fair hearing to all the affected parties before a decision is made, a rule is written or a bill passed is a good way to avoid mistakes. Honest, sincere government employees, even at the White House, are smart enough to discount the biases of one visitor from the next. Being forthright about being fair and keeping an open door are better than pretending that no one talked to you about his take on a particular decision.

In the case of the lobbyist ban, naive campaign rhetoric becomes hypocrisy, leading to furtive actions that a candidate running for reelection seeks to deny or cover up, making a small problem a big one. Obama's so-called ban on lobbyists has created a black market for information, convoluted explanations of why people meet, avoidance of useful facts and, in some instances, probably willful noncompliance with registration laws in order to avoid the scarlet "L" and to proceed with normal meetings.

I'm sure the Obama White House has had to rewrite the definition of the word “lobbyist” several times to be in phony compliance with its rule about not meeting with lobbyists for Solyndra. I joke that I'm not a lobbyist, I'm a “government process engineer."  A GPE, if that makes you feel better!  

In an honest world, a candidate running for office would pledge to meet with anybody who has useful information, whether that person called himself a lobbyist or not. Instead, voters will hear parsing, contorted reasoning and outright lies from Obama and company in a self-defeating effort to keep the president’s halo from sagging even more.  

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.


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