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GOP nominee Mitt Romney has pledged to create 12 million jobs if elected president. Republican lobbyists have their eyes on just a handful of positions in the executive branch should he prevail.
Lobbyists expect the revolving door from K Street to the White House to once again spin freely if Romney is elected. Several members of the GOP influence set already appear poised to take plum spots come January if the Romneys move into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
“Folks that have been out in the wilderness will be in the catbird seat in a Romney administration,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks lobbying and money in elections.
The Romney presidential campaign declined to comment on any hiring restrictions the former Massachusetts governor might impose on lobbyists, but K Street sources and government watchdogs agree a Romney administration — like his campaign and transition teams — would not be hostile to corporate lobbyists.
For example, Joel Kaplan, who is Facebook’s vice president for U.S. public policy, is leading the vice presidential transition, or “readiness” effort, for Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). And Republican K Streeters say campaign officials have privately given assurances that their résumés will be welcome.
That’s in contrast to policies President Barack Obama put in place in an executive order signed on the first day of his administration. Obama prohibited most federal registered lobbyists from joining his government, and he imposed new post-employment restrictions on his aides heading to influence jobs.
Even many K Street Democrats and progressive activists have criticized Obama’s ban for keeping good job candidates from serving in agencies while being a mostly symbolic gesture to limit the influence of corporate interests on officials. Obama also has granted waivers to some registered lobbyists, and he has brought on unregistered government relations professionals.
As a result, some lobbyists have branded Obama a hypocrite and complained that the president’s ban encouraged advocates to deregister, helping push lobbying into the shadows outside the realm of public disclosures.
“I don’t think the rule really does the job of keeping out the people who have the connections with the special interests,” said Joan Claybrook, former president of the liberal group Public Citizen. “As to the lobbyists for public interest organizations, those are the people who have had their finger in the dike and kept corporate America from decimating health, environmental and consumer regulatory programs — which Obama supports.”
She said Obama lost out on qualified appointees by keeping such individuals out of his administration.