Obama talk on lobbyists belies a more complex relationship 

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama referred to last week's Supreme Court decision striking down restrictions on corporate political advertisements, saying, "I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests."

The comment jibes with Obama's populist tone, but it clashes with his actual fundraising numbers. Obama, for instance, raised $14.8 million from Wall Street (the "Securities and Investment" industry as the Center for Responsive Politics defines it) -- more than any politician in history. Obama's $995,000 from employees and executives at investment bank giant Goldman Sachs is the most a politician has raised from a single company since the 2001 campaign finance reform law.

Similarly, Obama set the record for raising money from the health insurance industry ($1.4 million) and the pharmaceutical industry ($2.1 million).

Obama also claimed "we've excluded lobbyists from policy-making jobs." The claim reflects an executive order Obama issued on his first day in office to restrict recent lobbyists, but it is belied by the dozens of former lobbyists currently serving in his administration, including in policy-making jobs.

For instance, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was a lobbyist for the National Education Association in March of 2008. He is exempted from Obama's ethics rules because his Cabinet job is not relevant to his recent lobbying work

In the field agriculture, two former lobbyists --Monsanto's Michael Taylor and CropLife America's Isi Siddiqui -- have been named to policy-making jobs. Their lobbying stints, however, were outside the two-year window covered by the executive order.

William J. Lynn, a lobbyist for leading defense contractor Raytheon received a waiver from Obama in order to serve as deputy secretary of defense.

Treasury Department Chief of Staff Mark Patterson, on the other hand, has not received a waiver although he was a Goldman Sachs lobbyist as late as April 2008, lobbying on issue areas such as monetary policy, tax policy, and financial policy.

At least 16 former registered lobbyists serve in the Obama administration.

Timothy P. Carney, The Examiner's lobbying editor, can be reached at tcarney@washingtonexaminer.com.

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