A central component of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was his pledge to rid the executive branch of corporate lobbyists. Obama didn’t exactly follow through on that pledge, and his White House was crawling with lobbyists from day one.
Not that it mattered. The media were not very interested in following up. They just took Obama’s word for it, and by 2012 they were writing stories about how lobbyists were poised to make a comeback if Mitt Romney became president.
With Joe Biden poised to take office in 2021, reports suggest he plans to follow in Obama’s footsteps by hiring a bunch of corporate lobbyists in senior roles.
At least two former lobbyists who will assume top roles in the Biden administration previously served on Biden’s staff during the Obama administration. Steve Ricchetti, who served as then-Vice President Biden’s chief of staff, will join the White House as counselor to the president. Ricchetti founded his own lobbying firm in 2001 and worked on behalf of corporate clients such as AT&T, Eli Lily, and the American Bankers Association.
Ron Klain, who also served as then-Vice President Biden’s chief of staff, will take on the role of White House chief of staff in the Biden administration. Klain is a veteran of the K Street lobbying firm O’Melveny & Myers. His clients included U.S. Airways, AOL Time Warner, and ImClone, a pharmaceutical company whose CEO was convicted for fraud. Klain also lobbied on behalf of mortgage giant Fannie Mae in an effort to fight off stricter oversight from Congress.
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D., La.) will also join the Biden administration in a senior advisory role. The move was blasted by environmental groups that pointed out Richmond’s close ties to Big Oil. During his 10 years in Congress, for example, Richmond received more than $340,000 in donations from the oil and gas industry and frequently joined Republicans in voting against legislation opposed by the industry.
Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, will join the incoming administration as a deputy chief of staff. She is a cofounder of Precision Strategies, an “integrated strategy and marketing agency” that was recently hired by the American Investment Council, a lobbying group for private equity firms.
Old habits, as the saying goes, die hard.