[StBernard] Surprise, Surprise . Ex-Lobbyist to Get Key Obama Administration Post

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Aug 11 20:00:24 EDT 2009

Surprise, Surprise . Ex-Lobbyist to Get Key Obama Administration Post
August 10, 2009 03:07 PM ET | Peter Roff | Permanent Link | Print
By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Back when he was just a candidate for president, and before he knew how
difficult running the country actually was, Barack Obama sought to distance
himself from George W. Bush and John McCain by promising that America would
not see any lobbyists working in his White House.

As talked about on the campaign trail by Obama, by Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid of Nevada, by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, and other
leading Democrats, "lobbyist" was used as a code word for corruptor of
innocent politicians, a person who perverts the democratic ideal and all
around bad guy (or gal, as the case may be). And, having firmly established
a connection between lobbyists, graft, and sundry political corruption, they
were happy to beat the GOP about the head and neck on the subject for days
and weeks at a time.

It's not surprising that people expected the Obama administration to be a
lobbyist free zone. It is certainly the image the administration desired to
project, at least going in. But, whether or not Obama meant to keep that
particular promise or if he was just engaged in political posturing, the
fact is his administration-like every other-is replete with individuals who,
at one time or another, earned a living representing the interests and
opinions of paying clients and organizations to elected officials,
Washington regulators, and the bureaucracy. But having set the standard, it
is more than fair to hold the president to it.

So it is a little bit trouble to learn that Neil MacBride, a former lobbyist
who currently serves as a U.S. associate deputy attorney general, has been
nominated by the president to be the next U.S. attorney for the Eastern
District of Virginia, given its proximity to Washington, D.C., one of the
most important prosecutorial positions in the U.S. government.

As the Washington Post noted last Thursday, "The position has grown
increasingly visible in recent years, as the Alexandria office has handled
some of the nation's highest-profile terrorism and national security cases."
And here's the kicker: According to law enforcement officials cited by the
Post, the Alexandria, Va.-based U.S. attorney's office that MacBride has
been nominated to head is competing with the U.S. attorney's office in New
York City "for the opportunity to prosecute Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the
self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and his
accused co-conspirators."

MacBride's credentials, at first glance, are as thin as his political
connections are strong. In addition to his current job at the Department of
Justice, he was, at one time, vice president of the Business Software
Alliance, a computer industry trade association, where he served as a
registered lobbyist working the Senate on issues such as copyright
enforcement and cybersecurity. He is also a former longtime aide to Joe
Biden, currently the vice president of the United States.

Now the White House says MacBride did not need a presidential waiver to
secure his new appointment because his lobbying work ended in 2007, outside
the two-year window created by the Obama executive order that barred
lobbyists from working in his administration. Nevertheless, the idea that a
former industry hired gun could be appointed to one of the most important
prosecutorial posts in the entire U.S. government is unsettling, or at least
should be to those who think lobbyists are the scourge of the democratic
process. It's just one more example of how, in Obama's Washington, the
rubber doesn't always meet the road.

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