Former Lobbyist Could Still Do Business with Raytheon from Pentagon
Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 9:54 pm
Even though there’s a new administration in Washington promising broad ethics reforms, it looks like the old way of doing things may still be alive and well in President Obama’s Defense Department.
If appointed, Obama’s nominee for deputy secretary of defense, former Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn, wouldn’t have to recuse himself from decisions involving Raytheon–despite Obama’s stringent new ethics rules, The Associated Press reported Saturday.
A former Raytheon Co. lobbyist, who is nominated to be deputy defense secretary, has agreed to sell his stock in the military contractor and similar holdings but will not be forced to step back from decisions related to his former employer, the Defense Department said Friday.
Instead, William J. Lynn’s dealings at the Pentagon will be subject to ethics reviews for one year, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.
Ethics reviews? Allowing Lynn to do business with his former employer would make a mockery of President-elect Obama’s new ethics rules for his administration.
On his first day in office, Obama signed an executive order to slow the “revolving door” between lobbying and government work, drawing widespread praise for taking a tough stance against influence-peddling.
Under these new rules, lobbyists hired fresh off K Street would be subject to severe restrictions during their first two years on the job. They would be barred not only from making any decisions about their former clients, but also from working on any of their old lobbying issues, as well as from seeking employment with any federal agency they lobbied.
The rules appear to disqualify Lynn on all three counts. According to Raytheon’s 2008 first-quarter lobbying disclosure form, available at OpenSecrets.org, Lynn — who, according to his company bio, was Raytheon’s senior vice president of government operations and strategy from August 2002 until last week – lobbied on the FY09 Defense Appropriations Bill and other key defense and intelligence legislation for “provisions related to acquisition policy, force protection, military space and intelligence, command and control, simulation and training, self-defense systems and decoys, missile defense, sensors and radars, missiles, munitions and artillery, and advanced technology programs.” Doesn’t leave much out, does it? If Lynn had to recuse himself from all those areas, his first two years in office wouldn’t be very busy.
The same lobbying disclosure form shows that Lynn’s team lobbied the Department of Defense, where he now hopes to work–which would be another no-no if Obama’s rules applied to Lynn.
Allowing Lynn to take over the No. 2 spot at the Pentagon invites conflicts of interest, both real and perceived. The deputy secretary of defense is the department’s chief operating officer – which includes overseeing acquisitions. If he gets the job, he’ll pretty much have to do business with Raytheon.
Raytheon received $11.62 billion in federal contracts in 2007 (the last year for which complete records are available) with billions more going to Raytheon’s subsidiaries and strategic partners, according to OMB Watch’s database, FedSpending.org–not a bad return on its lobbying investment that year, which OpenSecrets.org pegs at $6.58 million.
So, how did our president reconcile his tough ethics standards with doing what he wanted? He didn’t. Instead, Obama wrote Lynn a special permission slip to exempt him the new revolving door ban. And with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin’s (D-Mich.) announcement that he is dropping his hold on Lynn’s nomination, the path is now clear for Lynn’s confirmation.
Of course, Lynn deserves the benefit of the doubt — he hasn’t taken office and he hasn’t done anything unethical. Presumably, the Obama administration will be vigilant to make sure it stays that way, considering all the negative press this appointment has generated.
But putting a lobbyist for a major defense contractor at the helm of the Defense Department’s acquisitions operation is hardly change we can believe in.
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