WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama, who said lobbyists would not run his White House, signaled Tuesday that lobbyists could serve in his transition so long as their activities do not involve areas of policy they have tried to influence in the past year.
John Podesta, a top transition aide to Obama, said federal lobbyists will be prohibited from any lobbying while they are at work on the transition.
The transition office said in a statement, "if someone has lobbied in the last 12 months, they are prohibited from working in the fields of policy on which they lobbied."
"President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to change the way Washington works and curb the influence of lobbyists," said Podesta in the transition team statement.
"During the campaign, federal lobbyists could not contribute to or raise money for the campaign...the president-elect is taking those commitments even further by announcing the strictest, and most far reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history."
The new rules also call for "a gift ban that is aggressive in reducing the influence of special interests" and an end to transition contributions from federal lobbyists.
In an off-camera briefing Tuesday, Podesta was asked whether potential staff expertise may be lost as the team adheres to these new rules.
He replied, "So be it," reiterating Obama's commitment have the "toughest" rules to "stop the revolving door" in Washington politics.
More leeway than suggested?
While Podesta is calling the guidelines the toughest ever imposed by a presidential transition, they seem to give lobbyists somewhat more leeway than Obama suggested during his presidential campaign.
In a speech last November in Spartanburg, S.C., Obama said: "I have done more to take on lobbyists than any other candidate in this race...I don't take a dime of their money, and when I am president, they won't find a job in my White House."
At other times, he said lobbyists would not "run" his White House.
Obama's campaign Web site said: "No political appointees in an Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration."
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