Not surprisingly, POGO is extremely excited about the Ethics Commitment by Executive Branch Personnel Executive Order that includes two-year revolving door bans for appointees leaving AND entering the government. But given this principle, our previous concerns about Deputy of Defense Secretary Nominee William J. Lynn III are only exacerbated. As we said in our press release:
It is because we believe so strongly in the positive impact that such a change will have that we urge the President to withdraw his nomination of William J. Lynn III as Deputy Secretary of Defense. President Obama should not compromise his standards and the effectiveness of the Department of Defense by allowing a top defense industry lobbyist to receive a waiver from these standards. The defense industry is in a class of its own among all of the industries that have had a pervasive stranglehold on public policy to advance their own financial interests.
But we're excited to see that Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) has postponed a committee vote on Lynn's nomination until questions about his lobbying history have been resolved. Sen. Levin's statement:
Given the President's new stricter rules requiring his appointees to recuse themselves from matters or issues on which they have lobbied, the Senate Armed Services Committee will need further information before proceeding with the nomination of William J. Lynn III to be Deputy Secretary of Defense. The committee will await the administration's assessment as to whether the new rules will preclude Mr. Lynn, who was a registered lobbyist for a defense contractor, from participating in key Department of Defense decisions, and if so, whether a waiver will be forthcoming.
It's also worth considering whether the waiver provision applies to Lynn. President Obama’s Executive Order limits ethics waivers to specific cases when the restriction is inconsistent with the Pledge’s purpose or when it is in the public interest to grant the waiver--with public interest being defined as including (but not being limited to) "exigent circumstances relating to national security or to the economy." Although that list in not all inclusive, we question the urgent nature and the minimal contacts that would justify a public interest waiver.
POGO suggests that the committee also make an assessment of their own, and might we suggest that their assessment include asking questions taking off from where Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) left off?
-- Mandy Smithberger and Scott Amey