Jewish World Review Feb. 13, 2004 / 21 Shevat, 5764
Kerry swings at Bush, hits Clinton
As John Kerry's primary victories increase, so too do his endorsements from
leading political figures. But there is one senior Democrat that might not
be so quick to jump on the bandwagon: Bill Clinton.
While attempting to paint the Bush administration as a breeding ground for
"revolving-door" special interests that loot the American treasury and
destroy democracy, he instead pointed the finger at senior members of
Clinton's White House staff-more than half of whom left the White House for
the lucrative world of lobbying the federal government. Though
unintentional-and largely unreported-he reminded the political world of the
revolving door that was the Clinton administration.
One of Kerry's biggest applause lines on the stump is an attack on the
"special interests" he sees behind every door at the White House: "We're
coming. You're going. And don't let the door hit you on the way out." And he
regularly vows in stump speeches that within the first hundred days of his
administration, he will sign an executive order to reinstate the five-year
ban on lobbying by former administration officials. He says the ban is
needed to prevent officials "like Bush's former campaign manager and FEMA
director" from "peddling influence."
Kerry's anti-corruption rhetoric is not a new theme; special interests are
not a new bogeyman for politicians. The last democrat to win the White House
made a similar effort. On his first day in office, Bill Clinton signed
Executive Order No.12834, which blocked administration officials from
lobbying former colleagues for five years from the time they left their
position. It was his first executive order, and it was intended to send a
message that his was an ethical and special interest-free administration.
But in a last-minute move-and without the fanfare of his first day's
executive order-Clinton rescinded EO No.12834, allowing members of his
outgoing administration to begin lobbying within one year, rather than the
five years he thought appropriate when he took office. In a statement, White
House Counsel, Beth Nolan, said, "The President believes that the Executive
Order has served its purpose," and that "the President has determined that
his senior appointees will no longer be subject to the requirements of the
Executive Order after January 20, 2001."
And what became of these senior appointees? Many are now involved in the
dreaded "peddling influence" business. Clinton's own FEMA director, James
Lee Witt, went on to lead James Lee Witt Associates, which provides
"strategic advisory services."
John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff, went on to become a
mega-lobbyist with PodestaMattoon before leading the liberal think tank
Center for American Progress. And Rodney Slater, Clinton's secretary of
Transportation, went on to become a partner with lobbying powerhouse Patton
Boggs. His bio leaves little doubt as to his value to the firm and its
clients: "Mr. Slater's focus is on many of the public policy and
transportation objectives that were set under his leadership." He left the
administration in January 2001, and joined Patton Boggs later that same
year. Under Kerry's proposal, and Clinton's original rule, he would be
forbidden from lobbying until 2006.
Witt, Podesta and Slater are not alone. According to a study released in
March 2003 by the Center for Public Integrity, 51 of 100 senior Clinton
administration officials went on to lobby the government or are employed by
firms which lobby the government.
Are these 51 the peddlers Kerry is looking to cleanse from the capital? He's
described such "revolving door" lobbyists as harmful to our democracy and
counter to the will of the people. Yet he is oddly silent on the role
Podesta and others play in the corruption he hopes to remove from the
nation's capital. Are they or are they not part of the special interest
cabal that's "on the way out?"
If Kerry is serious about the need to keep former administration's out of
the lobbyist pool for five years, then he doesn't have far to look: K Street
is well-populated with Clinton's staff, cabinet secretaries and regulatory
officials. None are included in Kerry's speeches. It is unlikely that will
change, giving credence to the idea that Kerry is not against all special
interests-just those who support the Bush administration.
JWR contributor Robert Stewart, a former Army intelligence analyst, is now a writer based in
Washington, D.C. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2003, Robert Stewart