Ex-lobbyist won’t need a waiver to work for Vice President Biden

A former lobbyist hired by Vice President Biden over the weekend will not need an ethics waiver to serve in the Obama administration.

Steve Ricchetti, of lobby firm Ricchetti Inc., was hired as a counselor to the vice president. A well-known Democratic lobbyist and experienced party hand, Ricchetti has not been listed as a lobbyist by his firm since the end of 2008, according to lobbying disclosure records. 

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President Obama has made it a point that his administration doesn't hire lobbyists, but some K Streeters have made it into the administration thanks to a waiver process for those who have lobbied in the two years prior to their appointment. 

Hired in 2012, Ricchetti would be well clear of that two-year window and would not require a waiver to serve in Biden’s office, according to experts interviewed by The Hill. 

“As long as you're off being a registered lobbyist for two years, you're clear,” said Kenneth Gross, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. “He is good to go under the executive order.”

The Republican National Committee took a swipe at the president for Ricchetti’s hiring Monday, calling him "the most recent lobbyist welcomed into the Obama White House.”

A deputy chief of staff to former President Clinton, Ricchetti was also a senior adviser to the presidential campaigns of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004 and now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2008. Ricchetti also has been an active lobbyist since leaving the Clinton White House.

At Ricchetti Inc., he lobbied for major trade groups and companies like the American Hospital Association, AT&T, Eli Lilly and Co. and General Motors, according to records.

But by the end of 2008, Ricchetti Inc. began to file several reports indicating that Ricchetti was no longer registered to lobby for many of its clients, even amending some of their 2008 filings later in 2010.

Given that he deregistered in 2008, Richetti will not need a waiver, because his lobbying happened more than two years prior to his appointment.

“He would not require a special waiver as a lobbyist because he filed his termination papers,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. 

Biden’s office also said Ricchetti would not need a waiver.

Since 2008, Ricchetti advised clients on public policy, communications strategy and grassroots efforts, but did not act as a lobbyist with the federal government on behalf of any client, according to an aide to the vice president. 

Holman doesn’t see any issue with Ricchetti being hired by Biden, as long as the new aide abides by Obama’s executive order.

“My understanding is that he would have to recuse himself from any official matters that could affect his former clients,” Holman said. “The important thing is that he recuses himself from any conflict of interest situation. That is the whole crux of the ethics pledge.”

Holman was referring to a provision in the executive order that the administration’s political appointees pledge not to “for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.”

Ricchetti will recuse himself with respect to matters that involve his former employer or former clients, according to the vice president’s aide.