Thursday, January 22, 2009

Closing the Lobby

President Obama instituted some pretty strong changes in the rules for lobbyists in his administration.

The lobbying rules announced yesterday aim to end what has become a way of life in Washington, where those serving in an administration collect chits that are quickly cashed in once they depart government. Under the new rules, presidential appointees who leave office will not be allowed to lobby any federal agency as long as Obama remains in office.

“It’s not about advantaging yourself. It’s not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients. It’s not about advancing an ideological agenda or the special interests of any organization,” Obama told Cabinet members and senior staff at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. “Public service is, simply and absolutely, about advancing the interests of Americans.”

The disclosure rules turn existing law on its head, requiring the government to err on the side of releasing information, not on the side of keeping documents and records secret.

“The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is over now,” Obama declared.

That’s a noble ambition, and I can think of a few people who might pause before applying for a job with the administration based on these restrictions. But then I suppose they should probably re-think why they’re in public service in the first place.