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Promises Made: Lobbyists’ influence

/ Source: staff and news service reports

Throughout the campaign, Barack Obama made many promises to the American people. has chosen 14 of these to explain, explore, and track. See if the new president keeps his word, and vote on his progress during the first 100 days.

Obama’s words: "We will not take a dime from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACs. We're going to change how Washington works. They will not fund my party. They will not run our White House. And they will not drown out the voice of the American people when I'm president of the United States of America."

The issue: Throughout the campaign, President Barack Obama criticized opponent John McCain’s supposed ties to Washington lobbyists. One attack ad claimed that the Republican had close relationships with more than 170 lobbyists, insisting that the nation “just can’t afford more of the same.”

As a candidate, Obama eschewed contributions from lobbyists and political action committees, and over the summer of 2008, he asked the Democratic National Committee to do the same.

“I never promoted Fannie Mae. In fact, Sen. McCain's campaign chairman's firm was a lobbyist on behalf of Fannie Mae, not me,” said Obama during an October debate. “We're going to have to change the culture in Washington so that lobbyists and special interests aren't driving the process and your voices aren't being drowned out.”

Following through: In his first full day in the Oval Office, Obama made this announcement: “As of today, lobbyists will be subject to stricter limits than under any other administration in history. If you are a lobbyist entering my administration, you will not be able to work on matters you lobbied on or in the agencies you lobbied during the previous two years. When you leave government, you will not be able to lobby my administration for as long as I am president.”

But eyebrows were raised when he chose William Lynn, the top lobbyist for Raytheon Co., for deputy secretary of defense. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said that the new rules included provisions for waivers in a case of public interest. He was confirmed by Senate, 93-4, on Feb. 11.

And a subsequent investigation by the National Journal's Julie Kosterlitz found that out of 267 Obama nominees and appointees, at least 30 — or about 11 percent — were registered lobbyists at some point during the past five years.

Among them are some top officials: Attorney General Eric Holder; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; and Ron Klain, the vice president's chief of staff.

But on March 20, Obama moved to limit the influence of lobbyists on the $787 billion stimulus package. "This plan cannot and will not be an excuse for waste and abuse," he declared.

Obama said his administration would post on the Internet all requests by lobbyists who want to talk to any member of his administration about particular stimulus projects.

All requests must be in writing, and details from meetings between Obama's administration and lobbyists about stimulus projects also will be posted online, the president said.