A spokeswoman for the Podesta Group, Missi Tessier, confirmed that Griffis also signed the pledge. “But he is under few, if any, restrictions,” she said, noting that Griffis planned to focus on public relations work.
The Obama administration has drawn a clear distinction between registered lobbyists and those who do public relations or other types of issue advocacy. It’s a difference that many on K Street say makes little sense and actually causes more work to move out of the sunlight of lobbying disclosures and into the shadows.
But a White House spokesman said his boss has done more than any president before him to slow the revolving door.
“From the first day of his Administration when he signed an Executive Order instituting unprecedented reforms to just a few weeks ago when we released our 2 millionth White House visitor record, this President has taken historic steps to reduce the impact of corrosive influence of money in politics,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in an email to Roll Call. “Our goal has been to reduce the influence of special interests in Washington — which we’ve done more than any Administration in history.”
Officials are not permitted to accept gifts from lobbyists, for example. And people who have been registered lobbyists in the past two years cannot join the Obama administration without a waiver. But that policy has come under attack recently after Steve Ricchetti, a longtime K Street lobbyist who had deregistered in recent years but still ran his shop, Ricchetti Inc., joined Vice President Joseph Biden’s staff.
“The pledge is more a PR thing than anything else,” one K Street executive said. “When you need to get around it, you get around it. It’s a joke, and everyone knows it’s a joke.”
But Holman of Public Citizen isn’t laughing.
“From all my years of studying the revolving door, I’ve never seen an administration take the revolving-door restrictions so seriously,” he said. “They’ve got records. They’ve got pledge agreements signed by employees. They’re tracking this. And they’re sticking to it, much to the disdain of K Street.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.