President-elect Barack Obama appointed a defense contractor’s lobbyist, William J. Lynn III, this morning to become the No. 2 official at the Defense Department.
Don’t get me wrong, I voted for Obama, but didn’t he pledge to stay away from lobbyists? Thoughts?
President-elect Barack Obama, who campaigned on lessening lobbyist influence in government, has chosen a defense expert who is currently a vice president and lobbyist for one of the country’s biggest defense contractors to be his deputy secretary of defense.
Obama’s transition office announced that William Lynn, an undersecretary of defense in President Bill Clinton’s second term, has been nominated as Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ deputy.
Lynn is currently a senior vice president at Raytheon, which has billions of dollars in Defense Department contracts and is the maker of the Army’s Patriot Missile system and the Tomahawk missile used by the Navy. The company is also developing a global positioning satellite communication system with the Air Force.
As deputy secretary, Lynn would be involved in the process of budgeting and acquisitions, in addition to running the day-to-day operations of the Defense Department.
Obama’s transition office acknowledged that appointing a lobbyist did not, on the face of it, seem in line with the president-elect’s ethics stance but that Lynn’s qualifications and the recommendations that came from both Republicans and Democrats made him the top candidate.
“Because Mr. Lynn came so highly recommended from experts across the political spectrum, the president-elect felt it was critical that he fill this position,” said Obama transition spokesman Tommy Vietor.
Vietor said Lynn and the transition team would create guidelines that would fit the ethics standards of the new administration.
From the Associated Press:
William J. Lynn III, Obama’s choice for deputy defense secretary, is a former Pentagon official who now is senior vice president for government operations at Raytheon Co. Lynn hasn’t been a registered lobbyist since July, meaning he can’t personally lobby Congress or the White House.
In the first three months of 2008, his lobbying team reported spending $1.15 million to influence issues including missiles, sensors and radar, advanced technology programs and intelligence funding.
Obama has vowed that no political appointees in his administration would be permitted to work on areas that “directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years.” Although Lynn heads Raytheon’s division for government operations and strategy and was personally registered as a Raytheon lobbyist until July — both within that two-year period — Obama plans to give him the job.
“We are aware that Mr. Lynn lobbied for Raytheon, and are working with Mr. Lynn to craft a role for him that is consistent with the President-elect’s high standards while balancing the need to fill this critical national security position,” Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
Vietor declined to comment further on whether Lynn would have to remove himself from involvement on any issues.
Some government watchdogs questioned the revolving-door aspect of Lynn’s appointment even while acknowledging his qualifications.
“He left public service and went into lobbying for one of the largest defense contractors in the nation. And that’s the part that’s troubling,” said Bill Buzenberg, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity. “Even if he’s completely above board and ethical, it raises questions about his loyalty.”
During his presidential campaign, Obama took pains to tell voters he wouldn’t tolerate influence-peddling.
“I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over,” Obama said in November 2007 in Des Moines, Iowa. “I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists and won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president.”