UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 27, 2009

OBAMA EXEMPTS MAJOR DEFENSE LOBBYIST FROM HIS OWN ETHICS RULES

Project on Government Oversight - We applaud President Obama's commitment to improving transparency and ethics throughout the federal government, and we are quite pleased that he wasted no time in issuing Executive Orders on the revolving door, the Freedom Of Information Act, and other issues near and dear to us.

So it comes as an unpleasant surprise to learn that the President already wants to make an exception for William J. Lynn III, his nominee for Deputy Secretary of Defense. One of the President's Executive Orders requires his appointees to recuse themselves from working on issues on which they have lobbied in the past two years. But as recently as 2008, Lynn was listed as part of a lobbying team for Raytheon, working on issues such as the DOD appropriations bill, acquisition policy, missile defense, and more.

The Obama administration has asked for a waiver, since Lynn cannot possibly recuse himself from these issues and still be effective at his job. But allowing a top defense industry lobbyist like Lynn to work on these issues as Deputy Secretary of Defense presents a clear conflict of interest, and it undermines the spirit of reform embodied in the Executive Orders.

Boston Globe - A former Raytheon Co. lobbyist nominated to be deputy defense secretary has agreed to sell his stock in the military contractor and similar holdings, but won't be forced to step back from decisions related to his former employer, the Pentagon said.

Instead, William J. Lynn III's dealings at the Defense Department would be subject to ethics reviews for one year, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said. Lynn was a registered lobbyist until last July and is now the Waltham-based defense contractor's vice president for government operations and strategy.

Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the Democratic chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said Thursday that he would delay considering Lynn's nomination until the White House provides more information on why he was given a waiver from Obama's new ethics rules.

The action seemed to satisfy Levin, who said he would support the nomination. . .

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