Spousal ties with lobbyists will test Obamas ethics code

December 15th, 2008 - 2:24 pm ICT by ANI  

Barack Obama

New York, Dec 15 (ANI): The ethics code that President elect Barack Obama has imposed on his transition team, especially the hard line against lobbyists will be tested when his new team having spousal ties with those lobbyists comes into place.

Linda Hall Daschle is one of the most important aviation lobbyists in town. Daschle is also the wife of Tom Daschle, whom President-elect Barack Obama has chosen to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Tom Downey is the founder and chairman of a lobbying firm with dozens of clients, including several with interests in energy policy. Downey is also the husband of Carol M. Browner, Obamas likely choice to be the next White House energy czar.

Obamas selection of Mr. Daschle and Ms. Browner to high-level positions illustrates a potential loophole in his pledge of keeping special interests at a distance, The New York Times reported.

The ethics code that Obama imposed on his transition team disqualifies people from working on any matters they lobbied about within the past year, and currently registered federal lobbyists are barred from playing a significant role regardless of the issues they lobby about.

But Obamas embrace of Daschle and his presumed choice of Browner suggest that he will take a softer line on lobbying by the spouses of the officials in his administration.

In a town where influencing the government is a main industry, Thomas Susman, an expert on ethics rules who is also a lobbyist for the American Bar Association, said issues surrounding spousal lobbying presented a particular ethical challenge.

In the presidential campaign, Obama railed against influence-peddling in Washington and pledged to hold his administration to a higher standard.

Stephanie Cutter, the transition spokeswoman, said Obamas team was writing ethics rules for an Obama Administration that will meet every commitment made during the campaign.

To prevent conflicts of interests, Cutter added, administration officials will recuse themselves from any issue involving a spouse, and spouses will be banned from lobbying relevant agencies.

The business dealings of family members created a headache for Obamas team even before the election.

After Obama selected Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. as his vice-presidential nominee, Republicans pounced on the fact that Bidens son, R. Hunter Biden, was a lobbyist. He quit his firm in September, the paper reported. (ANI)

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