NOVEMBER 20, 2008
He hasn’t even sworn in and Barack Obama has already broken a major campaign promise to avoid conflict of interest in his cabinet by excluding lobbyists and forbidding appointees from working in areas related to their previous job for two years.
Who could forget Obama’s infamously fiery campaign speeches directed at lobbyists—“you won’t find a job in my White House” and “you won’t run my White House!” There was also a detailed promise that appointees could not work on regulations and contracts related to their employment during the prior two years.
Well the president-elect’s new Health Secretary, former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle, certainly violates that policy since he’s a highly paid adviser to health industry clients at a major lobbying firm and a board member of a national health care provider and research institution.
Daschle’s appointment to run the Department of Health and Human Services couldn’t constitute a bigger violation of Obama’s own rules. Since losing reelection in 2004, the one-time Senate majority leader, has made a lucrative salary as a special public policy advisor to health industry giants at Alton & Bird.
The multi million-dollar lobbying firm, which represents pharmaceutical companies, health care providers, nursing homes and nursing trade groups, touts Daschle’s credentials as a veteran lawmaker knowledgeable on the inner workings of public policy.
Daschle also serves on the board of the Mayo Clinic, a huge and world-renowned health care provider and research institution that also receives lots of government grants.
Incidentally, Daschle’s wife (Linda) is also a prominent lobbyist with a lengthy list of corporate clients that may represent potential conflicts as well. In fact, Daschle raised concerns about subjecting her longtime business to confirmation scrutiny.
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