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Bring in the lobbyists

But if Democratic lobbyists can help the administration engage with Republicans and pass laws that help get Americans back to work, the electorate will reward the president with a second term and not punish him for breaking a campaign pledge.  American voters stand behind Presidents who do a good job and ignore smaller transgressions – just ask Bill Clinton.

Bringing lobbyists into the administration would bring an influx of people that have experience working across the aisle.  After all, most effective lobbyists in Washington, either Democratic or Republican, have good contacts in both the political parties and know how to leverage those contacts.  To the party purists, this political pragmatism may be distasteful.  But I don’t see why people should apologize for being good at their jobs or working across the aisle.  And I don’t see why that should preclude people from working for the Obama administration, either.

Working across party lines isn’t the only skill set that Democratic lobbyists have which could benefit the White House.  While many Democrats leave the public sector for better pay, we mustn’t forget that they got those jobs because businesses and advocacy organizations coveted their connections, political acumen, skills and ability to get things done.  Hence, industry and the private sector have sought to benefit from talented Democrats, while the Obama administration has not.  This also means that rather than supporting the President’s goals, some sagacious Democratic lobbyists are being paid to oppose the administration’s priorities.  This doesn’t make sense, especially since so many of these Democrats want to work for Obama.

An administration is also only as strong as the parts that make up its whole.  Having very few people in the White House and in key executive branch positions with knowledge of how the private sector interacts with government is problematic.  Every Democratic lobbyist I know believes they could be a better White House staffer not in spite of their lobbying, but because they understand what makes the private sector function.

The backdoor into the administration for Democratic lobbyists is to “cleanse” themselves by going to work on Capitol Hill for two years.  In other words, work two years in Congress and suddenly your lobbyist past can be expunged freeing you up to get a job in the administration.  This logic is flawed (and what does it say about Capitol Hill?).

The whole reason that Sen. Barack Obama campaigned against allowing lobbyists into the administration was because under President George W. Bush, some Republican lobbyists abused their offices and did the biddings of their former –- and future — employers.  They may not have broken any laws, but they certainly didn’t act in the spirit of the law or on the American people’s behalf.  However, most Republican lobbyists did behave ethically during their service in the public sector.  In other words, the problem isn’t former lobbyists in government, but former lobbyists who act unethically.  There is a difference.

Like all Democrats, I want President Barack Obama to get reelected.  Not allowing many of the most talented Democrats in Washington into the administration simply because they are lobbyists means going to battle with Republicans in 2012 with one arm tied behind our backs.  Being a Chicagoan, like our President, I prefer to fight with both hands.

Gary C. Meltz is a former Democratic Hill staffer who now works at Dezenhall Resources, a public relations firm in Washington, D.C. The author is not, nor has ever been, a lobbyist.

Tags Barack Obama Bill Clinton

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