Obama warns lobbyists: by Joy Ryder
'Pay your fair share or else'
Oct. 31, 2011, Washington, DC — President Obama today warned Washington lobbyists to pay their fair share toward his reelection campaign or risk losing White House influence.
"The multibillion dollar corporations that lobbyists represent have not been paying their fair share," Obama said just before boarding his $1.1 million luxury Canadian bus on another taxpayer-funded campaign trip to promote his American jobs bill. "Meanwhile, school teachers and other union workers have been paying part of every paycheck to help me and other Democrats win elections and reelections across this great nation. I expect big companies to step up to the plate, or I'm not letting them out of the dugout."
Obama said he was scrapping "unwieldly and outdated rules" that have governed the way lobbyists, influence peddlers and bundlers interract with his administration.
"My staff should be commended for the creative ways they have devised for me, technically speaking, to live up to my campaign promise to keep lobbyists out of the White House," he said. "My staff has really gone the extra mile. But it's time for fundamental change, and so we're going to take down the hurdles that have made it difficult for upstanding citizens and fine corporations to contribute toward the cause of restoring America."
Lobbyist Liaison Officer Dee Nya Liszt said the first hurdle to be removed will be a requirement that bundlers and lobbyists meet administration officials away from the White House, such as in restaurants and coffee shops in the capital.
"Under this restriction we were able to bring in only about $5 million from 15 different bundlers who raise money from corporations and special interest groups for the president," Liszt said. "We're confident that contributions will skyrocket now that corporations and organizations who need special consideration can access the White House directly."
"Bundler" is the term coined by the administration to describe an Obama supporter who behaves as a lobbyist but who has not registered as a lobbyist with Congress and, therefore, is not technically a lobbyist. The White House had determined that accepting money from bundlers was not a violation of the president's pledge not to take money from lobbyists.
"We will welcome lobbyists and other special interest groups who share common goals with our great leader just as we welcome the contributions of any other American who wishes to pledge funds to his reelection campaign," Liszt said. "And we will do so with the transparency that President Obama promised. We think most Americans will regard this change as transparent because they will see right through it."
White House Personnel Director C. Kretts said the president's previous hiring policy made it difficult for him to put former lobbyists to work in the administration.
"The president promised in 2008 that he would not hire lobbyists in his administration," he said. "But he never said anything about ex-lobbyists, so what I had to do was deregister more than 40 ex-lobbyists before we could hire them. Now we can hire lobbyists without waiting for the onerous deregistration process to be completed."
White House Information Technology Chief Downe Lohder said he wasn't sure whether the policy change will simplify his job of maintaining and regularly "cleaning up" personal email accounts used by administration officials to correspond with lobbyists and bundlers.
"All of the president's men have not been permitted to use their office email accounts to correspond with lobbyists," he said. "Those emails are automatically saved and could be used by the president's political enemies to discredit him. So I had to constantly monitor the personal email accounts of every single employee who needed to correspond with a lobbyist or bundler, and then I would have to erase permanently all those emails. I'm hoping the president's new pledge to deal with lobbyists directly will enable his people to use their regular office email accounts."