Facepalm Ratings Guide= Even if there's no conflict of interest, appearances matter.
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By JOE NEWMAN
For a guy who likes to talk about keeping lobbyists out of his administration, President Barack Obama sure doesn't mind making some notable exceptions.
Now comes the latest dust-up involving Vice President Joe Biden's hiring of Steve Ricchetti to be a senior advisor. That's the same Steve Ricchetti whom the Obama campaign in 2008 attacked for being a lobbyist/bundler for then Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Listening to the administration spin the hire is pretty funny. Ricchetti hasn't personally lobbied since 2008. What was he doing instead? He was running his, um, lobbying(!) firm.
Obama has taken legitimate and laudable steps to slow the revolving door between lobbying firms and the White House and reduce private interests' disproportionate influence on executive branch policymakers. The restrictions he passed upon taking office were unprecedented, and intended to reduce industry influence peddling.
But then there are those waivers and exceptions. Those are fine by us if they're used to bring public interest lobbyists into the fold. Not so much when they're granted to, say, a lobbyist for a top defense contractor.
Look, lobbying, per se, isn't a bad thing. There's a place in our democracy for it—citizens, and that includes those paid to represent special interests, have a right to directly petition their elected leaders.
But one only has to look to Jack Abramoff to see how the system can be corrupted when lobbyists with access to piles of cash are able to buy influence through gifts, perks, campaign contributions and in the worst cases—bribes.
President Obama was right to want to distance himself from their influence. But if you're going to talk the talk, you've got to expect to some flak when you (or your vice president) bend your own rules. Sorry, Mr. President, the buck stops with you—you and Vice President Biden earned four facepalms.