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20 novembre 2008 4 20 /11 /novembre /2008 13:01

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Obama manœuvre avec les lobbyistes

Adèle Smith, à New York
17/11/2008 | Mise à jour : 10:39 | Commentaires  3 .

Barack Obama a imposé des règles plus strictes pour réduire le poids des groupes d'influence à la Maison-Blanche, mais leur omniprésence rend sa tâche difficile.
 
Deux mois avant d'entrer à la Maison-Blanche, Barack Obama tente de concilier promesses de campagne et réalité à Washington. Il s'était engagé à bannir les lobbyistes, déclarant en mars 2007 : « Dans un an, nous aurons la chance de dire à tous les lobbyistes que les jours où ils dictaient l'agenda de la Maison-Blanche sont finis. » Il n'a pas perdu de temps. Une semaine après son élection, le chef de son cabinet de transition, John Podesta, annonçait de nouvelles règles jugées les plus restrictives jamais vues à Washington pour éviter les conflits d'intérêt.

Ainsi, plus question de contribuer financièrement à la formation de l'équipe de transition si on est officiellement enregistré comme lobbyiste, soit environ 16 000 personnes officiant sur K Street et Pennsylvania Avenue à deux pas de la Maison-Blanche.

Cette équipe, en partie composée, comptera au total 450 personnes et son budget est évalué à 12 millions de dollars. Interdiction également pour ces employés de travailler sur des dossiers, où il pourrait y avoir conflit d'intérêt avec l'activité professionnelle de leur conjoint ou même d'un partenaire récent en affaires. Plus question pour eux de travailler au sein de l'équipe de transition dans des domaines dans lesquels ils auraient fait eux-mêmes du lobbying pendant les douze derniers mois, ni en sens inverse, de faire du lobby auprès de Washington durant une période de douze mois après le 20 janvier, dans un domaine dans lequel ils auront travaillé pendant cette période de transition.

Ces deux dernières conditions indiquent cependant un assouplissement dicté par la réalité. Nombre de candidats déjà recrutés font en effet partie de l'ancienne Administration Clinton, qui ont repris des activités dans le secteur privé pendant les années Bush, en faisant pour certains du lobbying comme le veut la tradition à Washington.


Une interprétation variable

Samedi, le New York Times dressait une liste de plus d'une douzaine de personnes à la limite des nouvelles règles. Certains membres de l'équipe de transition ont fait du lobbying juste avant la limite des douze mois, d'autres sont en congé sabbatique dans des entreprises du secteur dans lequel ils travaillent dans l'équipe de transition. Politico a mentionné deux fonctionnaires ayant eu des liens avec le géant du crédit immobilier Fannie Mae à l'origine de la tourmente financière. Même l'avocat en charge de ces problèmes de conflit d'intérêt, Christopher Lu, est dans une position délicate, avec une épouse qui défend les droits de grosses entreprises face à la législation fédérale en matière d'environnement, et un frère avocat influent chez Fannie Mae.

En cas de problème, tout dépendra de la notion d'éthique, sujette à interprétation variable. Mais Barack Obama est prévoyant. Il vient de nommer l'ancien avocat de Bill Clinton pendant sa procédure d'impeachment, Greg Craig, au poste extrêmement influent de conseiller de la Maison-Blanche, en charge de toutes les questions juridiques.


Ex-Lobbyists Have Key Obama Roles

Some Members of Team Shaping New Administration Had Recent K Street Ties

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 15, 2008; A03

Barack Obama campaigned on a pledge to change Washington, vowing to upend the K Street lobbying culture he encountered when he joined the U.S. Senate.

But more than a dozen members of President-elect Obama's fast-growing transition team have worked as federally registered lobbyists within the past four years. They include former lobbyists for the nation's trial lawyers association, mortgage giant Fannie Mae, drug companies such as Amgen, high-tech firms such as Microsoft, labor unions and the liberal advocacy group Center for American Progress.

Mark Gitenstein, one of the 12 transition board members who will play a significant role in shaping the Obama administration, worked on million-dollar lobbying contracts with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and promoted legislation for giant defense contractors Boeing and General Dynamics. Until this fall, he was registered to petition Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission on behalf of AT&T, Merrill Lynch, KPMG, Ernst & Young and others.

Gitenstein has blue-chip credentials for the volunteer role on the Obama team. He was chief Democratic counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee during confirmation hearings for controversial Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork; was a close adviser to Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s White House bid; and served as counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But his presence is also a reminder that Obama's campaign pledge to keep his distance from the Washington lobbying culture may be tougher to fulfill than he anticipated.

"Nothing is going to change," said Lanny Davis, a former special counsel to President Bill Clinton who did lobbying work for a range of companies after leaving the White House.

"From George Washington to George W. Bush, there has been a role for the lobbyist that is perfectly appropriate and good for democracy. The notion that there is something wrong per se with lobbying is ridiculous. But I favor more transparency and disclosure -- online, in real time, for all lobbyists."

The number of former lobbyists involved in Obama's transition thus far is small compared with the past two transition teams, but they occupy several key positions. They include Biden's incoming chief of staff, Ron Klain, who was signed up to lobby for Fannie Mae until 2005, and transition co-chair John Podesta, who lobbied for the Center for American Progress until 2006.

After serving as a top aide to Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, Klain represented a company facing asbestos-exposure lawsuits, the embattled drugmaker ImClone and two companies trying to win support for large mergers. His completed his last lobbying assignment, helping Fannie Mae with "regulatory issues," in late 2004.

Obama's formal policy during the campaign indicated that there may be some role for lobbyists in his administration, though his rhetoric did not always convey that. In a 2007 speech, he said he was "running to tell the lobbyists in Washington that their days of setting the agenda are over. They have not funded my campaign. They won't work in my White House."

A few days later, he changed the phrasing to say that lobbyists "are not going to dominate my White House."

Among the first acts of Obama's transition effort was the release of a formal policy on lobbyists, which Podesta described as "the strictest and most far-reaching . . . of any transition in history."

The rules ban lobbyists from donating to the transition effort and lobbying during the transition period. Once Obama is sworn in, his advisers must wait a year before attempting to lobby the administration on any transition issues they handled.

The code also says that "if someone has lobbied in the last 12 months, they are prohibited from working in the fields of policy on which they lobbied."

That one could be tricky for at least two transition team members. Gitenstein lobbied Congress on a broad spectrum of subjects such as "legal reform" during the past year, according to disclosure reports. As a senior advisory board member, his work could touch on a range of topics that would pose problems for him.

Another senior staff member, Patrick Gaspard, recently de-registered as a lobbyist on health-care issues for the Service Employees International Union. He is the transition team's associate personnel director.

Transition officials declined requests to make Gaspard and Gitenstein available for interviews but said both are adhering to the ethics code.

"Patrick and Mark have jobs on the campaign that are general in nature, but per the unprecedented ethics policy laid out earlier this week they will recuse themselves from the fields of policy or agencies they lobbied in the previous 12 months," said Dan Pfeiffer, the communications director.

Efforts to control influence-peddling go back decades. In the wake of Watergate, Congress passed criminal penalties for senior presidential appointees who, after leaving their posts, lobbied their former colleagues within a year. The law was strengthened in 1988 to cover a wider range of government officials.

During the 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton pledged to toughen the one-year lobbying ban. Hours after his swearing-in, he enacted a five-year ban in an executive order that covered about 1,000 appointees. But in 2000, just before leaving office, he lifted the five-year ban, citing bleak job prospects for many aides in the face of a Republican takeover. Podesta, then the White House chief of staff, drafted Clinton's revocation.

Past president-elects have had differing approaches to the transition period, which presents a unique opportunity for lobbyists to shape government in ways that could help their clients and enhance their own business. President Bush's policy demanded that transition workers avoid conflicts of interest, according to Michael Toner, who was chief counsel to the 2000 transition team.

Toner said excluding lobbyists altogether never struck him as advisable.

"Campaign rhetoric is one thing," he said. "You've got to have serious people who know the inner workings of government."

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

 


In Transition, Ties to Lobbying

November 15, 2008

By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama has imposed stricter conflict-of-interest restrictions on his White House transition team than any president before him. But a list of transition team members that his office made public on Friday includes a complicated tangle of ties to private influence-seekers.

Among the full roster of about 150 staff members being assigned to government agencies between now and Inauguration Day are dozens of former lobbyists and some who were registered as recently as this year. Many more are executives and partners at firms that pay lobbyists, and former government officials who work as consultants or advisers to those seeking influence.

After campaigning on promises to end the influence of lobbyists in the White House, Mr. Obama has imposed rules that bar officials on his transition team from handling any issues in areas of policy where they have lobbied over the last 12 months or from seeking to influence the same agencies for the next 12 months.

The rules also bar officials from working on matters where family members or recent business associates may have a direct conflict of interest. In cases where there is even an “appearance of conflict,” officials must seek a waiver from the transition’s executive director, an Obama Senate aide and law school classmate, Christopher Lu.

At least one official initially involved in the transition appears to have been reassigned because of concern about his lobbying or legal work. Henry Rivera, a former Democratic commissioner on the Federal Communication Commission who was involved in planning for the agency’s transition, has dropped out of that role because he had represented clients on communications policy in the last year, the newsletter Communications Daily reported Friday.

Instead, on the list that was made public on Friday, Mr. Rivera was listed on the team handling science, technology, space and the arts. The rules permit people who have lobbied in one area to join an Obama transition team in another. (With Mr. Rivera is Jim Kohlenberger, executive director of an advocacy group for Internet companies.)

Representatives of the transition team declined to comment on the assignment, and Mr. Rivera did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Transition officials said that their policy went further than any previous White House to avoid self-dealing or influence-trading in the formation of the new administration, and that in the modern Washington it would be foolish to try to eliminate anyone who had worked in public policy for a private interest — or who had a family member in that business — from contributing to the transition.

Stephanie Cutter, a transition spokeswoman, said in a written statement that the transition team reflected what she called Mr. Obama’s “commitment to change the way Washington does business and curb the influence of lobbyists on our government.”

“While these rules disqualify many well-qualified professionals from participating in the transition as a result, they also put in place the right safeguards to prevent any potential conflicts of interest,” Ms. Cutter said.

Some appear to skirt the edges of the ban on working in areas of the transition where they have recently lobbied. Handling some Interior Department issues is Keith Harper, who lobbied earlier this year for Native American tribes. Overseeing the Consumer Products Safety Commission is Pamela Gilbert, a former executive director of the agency who as recently as two years ago lobbied for a consumer advocacy group. Within the last year she has lobbied for the company Barr Laboratories, for an investor group, and for an antitrust enforcement group.

Among the group handling the Justice Department and civil rights areas of the transition is Theodore Shaw, a litigator for an arm of the N.A.A.C.P. He has registered as a lobbyist for the group in the past, but N.A.A.C.P. officials say he has not lobbied in the past 12 months.

David J. Hayes, part of the 12-member group overseeing the transition and co-head of the team handling the areas of energy and natural resources, is the chairman of the environmental practice at the law and lobbying firm Latham & Watkins. He was personally registered as a lobbyist as recently as 2006, for clients including San Diego Gas and Electric.

Sally Katzen, another member of the supervisory group who is also on teams for the office of the president and government operations, was registered last year to lobby for the pharmaceutical company Amgen on Medicare reimbursements. Louisa Terrell, another member of the top working group, is on leave from the public policy office of the Internet company Yahoo! Tom Wheeler, another of the 12, is on leave from a firm that invests in technology companies and before 2004 lobbied for the cable television and wireless industries.

John L. White, a former Clinton official charged with overseeing the new Defense Department, is a partner in a firm that invests in defense contractors. Michael Warren, charged with overseeing Treasury, is chief operating officer of a firm that lobbies for clients including the U.S.-India Business Council.

Several of the officials have ties to Fannie Mae, the government-backed mortgage firm whose implosion this fall contributed to the financial meltdown. Thomas Donilon, overseeing the State Department, is a partner in the law and lobbying firm O’Melveny and Myers who until three years ago lobbied for Fannie Mae. Wendy R. Sherman, the other official charged with reviewing the State Department, once headed Fannie Mae’s charitable foundation.

Even Mr. Lu, the transition’s executive director charged with policing potential conflicts of interests, may have his own appearance problems. His wife, Kathryn Thomson, is a lawyer who represents corporate clients dealing with federal environmental regulations, while his older brother, Curtis Lu, is a top lawyer for Fannie Mae. (Such family connections may not be disqualifying conflicts depending on the nature of the transition job, ethics lawyers said.)

Mr. Lu has his work cut out for him in deciding which apparent conflicts may be of real concern, said Robert Walker, a Washington lawyer and former staff director of the Senate Ethics Committee. “I don’t think it is the brightest of bright lines, and there is going to be a lot of time spent thinking about just where that line is,” Mr. Walker said.

The people involved in the transition teams assigned to each federal department and agency have begun meeting with their current staff to collect information on budgets, pending issues and personnel matters. For now, the advisers assigned to each agency report back to the central 12-person working group, which coordinates the efforts.

The vast majority involved are second-tier officials of the Clinton administration, eager to help another Democrat take control of the White House. With the exception of a few academics, almost all of them spent the intervening years in the private sector, usually capitalizing on the connections and expertise they developed in the Clinton years.

For example, Sandy Berger, the Clinton national security adviser, founded Stonebridge International, a consulting and lobbying firm focused on helping clients resolve government issues here and overseas.

Mr. Berger took with him Mr. Warren, the former executive director of the president’s economic council who became chief operating officer of Stonebridge and has now become a major contributor to the transition in the pivotal areas of the Treasury Department and economic policy. Although not a registered lobbyist, Mr. Warren helped manage Stonebridge while it lobbied the government for clients including the U.S.-India Business Council within the last year as well as Dynergy International, Airbus and Conoco in earlier years. (More of Stonebridge’s business involves using government expertise and connections to help corporate clients abroad.)

Some transition officials now work at firms that do business with the agencies they are examining. John O. Brennan, a former Central Intelligence Agency official working on its transition, is president and chief executive of the Analysis Corporation, an intelligence contractor.

On the NASA review board, Lori Garver is now president of a strategic consulting company, Capital Space LLC, and previously worked for the aerospace company DFI International.

Among the transition officials charged with reviewing the Securities and Exchange Commission — likely to come under significant scrutiny amid the financial meltdown — is Mozelle Thompson, who runs a legal and policy consulting business for companies including Facebook.com. One name on the transition list comes unencumbered by potential conflicts but instead by bad luck. Jami Miscik, leading a review of American intelligence agencies, was the head of intelligence analysis at the Central Intelligence Agency during its biggest embarrassment: the botched assessments about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Then she moved on to become a senior official managing risks in emerging markets for the investment bank Lehman Brothers, until its collapse this fall.

Kitty Bennett, Mark T. Mazzetti and Barclay Walsh contributed reporting for this article.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 17, 2008
An article on Saturday about President-elect Barack Obama’s transition advisers and their ties to private interests misidentified the official reviewing candidates for the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and misstated his occupation. The adviser is James E. Johnson of the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton — not James A. Johnson, the former chief executive of the mortgage giant Fannie Mae.

 


D'anciens membres de l'administration Clinton pressentis par Barack Obama


LE MONDE | 18.11.08 | 14h42  •  Mis à jour le 18.11.08 | 14h42
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDANTE

Il a suffi que Barack Obama mentionne, dimanche 16 novembre, pendant son premier entretien télévisé depuis l'élection présidentielle, qu'il lisait "un livre récent" sur les cent premiers jours de Franklin Roosevelt pour que le public se précipite. Quel était donc ce titre que lisait le président élu et qui pourrait peut-être donner des indices sur les choix de l'homme qui doit entrer en fonctions dans 63 jours ?
 
La chaîne CNN ayant désigné le FDR : The First Hundred Days (FDR : les cent premiers jours) du professeur anglais Anthony Badger, la demande a été immédiate, au point que l'éditeur a ordonné une réimpression. Interrogé à Cambridge, M. Badger a rappelé que Roosevelt, en arrivant au pouvoir en 1933 au milieu de la grande dépression, avait réussi à faire passer seize réformes en cent jours. "Mais surtout, a-t-il dit, il a ramené la confiance chez les Américains."

Deux semaines après l'élection "historique" du 4 novembre, l'engouement pour Barack Obama ne faiblit pas. 24,5 millions de téléspectateurs ont suivi l'entretien qu'il a accordé au magazine 60 minutes de CBS, un record d'audience pour l'émission depuis 1999. Tout le pays s'intéresse au choix de la nouvelle école - privée - dans laquelle vont être inscrites les deux filles du président, ainsi qu'à l'éventuelle installation de sa belle-mère à la Maison Blanche, pas encore tout à fait décidée. Du côté des nominations, 77 % des Américains lui font confiance pour faire "le bon choix", selon un sondage CNN-Opinion Research.

Jusqu'à présent, M. Obama s'est entouré d'un nombre élevé d'anciens membres de l'administration Clinton, alors qu'il avait promis une rupture. Greg Craig, l'un des conseillers diplomatiques, a été choisi pour diriger le bureau juridique de la Maison Blanche. Il était l'un des avocats de Bill Clinton pendant les procédures d'"impeachment" (destitution) qui n'avaient pas abouti en 1998.

La diplomate Mona Sutphen est nommée chef de cabinet adjoint. C'est elle qui avait organisé l'entretien d'embauche de Monica Lewinsky, la jeune stagiaire dont les relations avec le président Clinton allaient par la suite faire scandale, à la mission américaine à New York, à la demande de John Podesta, aujourd'hui l'un des chefs de l'équipe de transition (qui compte déjà 450 personnes).

Hillary Clinton aurait été pressentie pour faire partie du cabinet. La rumeur a couru la semaine dernière, après un déplacement de Mme Clinton à Chicago, qu'elle s'intéressait au département d'Etat. Elle n'a pas été démentie. L'offre est, semble-t-il, assortie de conditions. Il faudrait que Bill Clinton satisfasse aux exigences de transparence financière imposées aux futurs membres de l'administration et à leurs conjoints. L'ex-président était lundi au Koweït, pour une conférence sponsorisée par la banque nationale koweïtienne (ce genre d'interventions lui a rapporté 10 millions de dollars en 2007). Il a estimé que son épouse ferait "une excellente secrétaire d'Etat". Mais l'équipe Obama voudrait qu'il divulgue les noms des donateurs de sa fondation et de ceux qui ont financé la bibliothèque présidentielle de l'Arkansas.

Signe de l'état de grâce dont bénéficie M. Obama, l'hypothèse d'avoir Mme Clinton - une démocrate qui a voté pour la guerre en Irak - en charge des affaires étrangères n'a été critiquée qu'à demi-mots. Elle qui l'avait traité de naïf quand il proposait de négocier "sans conditions" avec les Iraniens, deviendrait celle qui préparerait une éventuelle rencontre avec Téhéran. Une grande partie de la classe politique a été prise à contre-pied par ce geste. Dans sa chronique du New York Times, Maureen Dowd, farouche critique du couple Clinton, a fini par expliquer qu'en fait M. Obama pratique bien le "changement" puisque Bill et Hillary n'auraient jamais eu la grandeur d'esprit de partager le pouvoir avec leurs rivaux.

Le président élu a rencontré un autre concurrent des primaires, le gouverneur du Nouveau Mexique Bill Richardson, qui serait aussi en lice pour les affaires étrangères. Et lundi, c'est avec l'ancien candidat républicain John McCain qu'il a parlé pendant 45 minutes. Les deux hommes se sont promis de "lancer une nouvelle ère de réformes", et de travailler ensemble sur des sujets tels que la réforme de l'immigration et la fermeture de Guantanamo. Au Sénat, M. McCain pourrait être un allié précieux qui permettrait d'isoler les républicains les plus conservateurs. Dans son interview, M. Obama a confirmé qu'il prendrait au moins un républicain dans son équipe. Le nom de Robert Gates, qui resterait à la défense, a souvent été prononcé, mais selon certaines sources il n'est pas convaincu d'avoir envie d'être en première ligne pour fermer Guantanamo.

Corine Lesnes

Une trop longue période de transition pour un pays en crise

Encore 63 jours d'ici au 20 janvier. Les milieux diplomatiques et financiers se demandent comment le président élu Barack Obama va pouvoir continuer à se tenir à l'écart des décisions, alors que le pays est en crise. Les politologues leur rappellent que la période de transition correspond à un certain nombre de rites, et notamment la proclamation des résultats par les grands électeurs de chaque Etat. La période de transition a déjà été raccourcie au début du XXe siècle. Jusqu'en 1933, et l'élection de Roosevelt, la date d'entrée en fonctions du président - élu en novembre - était le 4 mars. En 1933, alors que le président Hoover était très impopulaire, et que le pays était plongé dans la dépression, la Constitution a été amendée d'un 20e amendement. Celui-ci a raccourci la transition et fixé au 3 janvier la date de la première réunion du nouveau Congrès et au 20 janvier la date de la passation de pouvoirs entre le président sortant et son successeur. - (Corresp.)

Article paru dans l'édition du 19.11.08

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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