Josh Gerstein with this year’s most important piece on lobbying:
The vow of a novice Chicago senator to freeze out lobbyists and nail shut the revolving door was no throwaway line in Barack Obama’s stump speech. It was central to the narrative animating his 2008 campaign: a promise of wholesale change to business as usual in Washington. His presidency would be different.
Eight years later, here’s how different it looks: The top lobbyist for the private health insurance industry that continues to battle aspects of Obamacare is a former Health and Human Services official who played a powerful role in implementing the legislation. The head of the software industry’s lobbying group is a former Obama White House appointee who oversaw the negotiation and enforcement of the intellectual property rules essential to that business. And an Obama aide deeply involved in crafting the White House’s broadband Internet policy now serves as the chief lawyer for the telecom industry group seeking to legally overturn those same rules.
All presidents back away from some of their most dramatic campaign promises. But seven years into Obama’s presidency, the revolving door shuttling officials out of his administration is spinning at a rapid clip, and Obama has seen his campaign promise founder against the deeply ingrained culture of selling government expertise in Washington. “They were overpromising on something they could never deliver,” said Melanie Sloan, former executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “It’s worse than doing nothing.”