President-elect Barack Obama campaigned against special interests, refusing to take contributions from lobbyists and political action committees, and vowed an end of partisan politics. But will an Obama administration continue to eschew lobbyists and partisanship?
Covington & Burling partner Robert Kelner, who chairs the firm’s election and political law practice group, says he does not think any apparent effort to exclude lobbyists from the political process will last very long. Kelner sees lobbyists playing an active role in the Obama administration.
“But it will be interesting to watch how the President-elect strikes the balance between his campaign promises to exclude lobbyists from the process on the one hand, and the central role that lobbyists play in Washington on the other,” Kelner says.
With the selection of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Illinois) as the White House Chief of Staff, President-elect Obama immediately drew ire from conservatives. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House Republican leader, said in a statement: “This is an ironic choice for a president-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil and govern from the center.”
Kelner says President-elect Obama has set a high standard. “It will require a real and unprecedented hat trick for him both to advance his ideological agenda while somehow doing so in a fashion that does not require the sort of partisan sniping and competition that has been the hallmark of our politics from colonial days to the present,” Kelner says.