Maybe President Obama really is serious about making his White House inhospitable to lobbyists. One of them even got scolded by name for trying to spy on an administration conference call with reporters Thursday.

The call was set up for the press but, information being power, at least one lobbyist was dying to hear for herself what the OMB had to say. Unfortunately for her, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was on the case.

The OMB hosted a half-dozen telephone briefings with the press to take questions -- on background, naturally, as "senior OMB officials" -- on the details of the budget outline the president issued Thursday.

Before the healthcare and education call got underway, though, an OMB staffer called out for Sharon Cohen. Cohen, as it happens, is a veteran healthcare lobbyist who works for the Podesta Group. (Sadly, because of The Hill agreed to those attribution ground rules -- but mostly because it didn't get its notes written fast enough -- readers will have to settle for a "reenactment" of the incident).

Basically, it went like this:

Is Sharon Cohen on the line? [silence] Good. You're a lobbyist. This call is for media only. If there are any other lobbyists listening in, hang up. If we find out you were on this call, we'll be very angry and we'll cut your budget.


The Hill emailed Cohen for her side of the story but she didn't respond right away, which is probably understandable. Also, it's instructive to point out that this sort of thing happens all the time on these conference calls. Usually, either the hosts don't notice or don't care and the lobbyists almost never pipe up with questions or statements.

-Jeffrey Young