Transition Team Announces Lobbyist Hiring Restrictions

Posted November 11, 2008 at 2:39pm

Updated 4:57 p.m.

After months of speculation, President-elect Obama’s transition team on Tuesday formally laid out its own hiring rules, barring lobbyists from working on any “fields of policy” in which they have lobbied during the past year.

The rules also prohibit people from lobbying the Obama administration for a year on any matters in which they worked while on the transition team.

During the presidential race, the Obama campaign said it would not hire registered lobbyists in any future administration unless they had taken a two-year leave of absence from lobbying issues on which they wanted to work.

At a press conference Tuesday after the transition rules were announced, transition team co-chairman John Podesta reiterated the two-year “lookback” for lobbyists who want to work in the future administration.

“One year for the transition, [a] two-year lookback for people going into service in government was appropriate,” he said.

Asked whether that policy would not exclude a lot of talented people, Podesta replied: “That’s a commitment the American people expect.”

Under the rules announced Tuesday, federal lobbyists are also prohibited from any lobbying while they are working for the transition.

“President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to change the way Washington works and curb the influence of lobbyists,” Podesta said. He called the transition hiring rules “the strictest and most far-reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history.”

The transition team is also implementing a strict gift ban similar to what now exists in Congress and will not allow lobbyists to financially contribute or raise money for the transition effort, Podesta said.

Podesta said about $5.2 million of the transition’s expected $12 million budget has been appropriated by Congress. The rest will be provided by individual contributions that would be capped at $5,000.

Along with lobbyists, neither political action committees nor corporations would be allowed to contribute to the transition, Podesta said. Lobbyists, he said, would most likely also be banned from contributing to the inauguration.

“I anticipate that the restrictions on financial contributions will — particularly the ones regarding federal lobbyists — will be maintained for the inauguration,” Podesta said. “I don’t want to leave any confusion about that point.”