Skip to main content

Obama lobby rules could benefit nonprofits, analyst says

  • Story Highlights
  • Analyst: Corporate lobbyists will not be only ones heard by Obama's transition staff
  • Transition team's ethics rules will give nonprofits stronger voice, analyst says
  • One of the rules: Federal lobbyists can't contribute to transition effort
  • Transition co-chairman: Ethics rules strictest "of any transition team in history"
  • Next Article in Politics »
From Abbie Boudreau and Scott Zamost
CNN Special Investigations Unit
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Corporate lobbyists may have to jockey for attention alongside smaller, grassroots organizations under new ethics rules issued by President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, one analyst says.

President-elect Obama's rules will mean nonprofits will have an easier time being heard, an analyst says.

President-elect Obama's rules will mean nonprofits will have an easier time being heard, an analyst says.

Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown University professor who teaches lobbyists-in-training, said nonprofit groups are likely to have a stronger voice under the restrictions that Obama's transition staff issued this week.

"Lobbyists for business will absolutely get meetings with staff for people on the Hill, just like they got meetings before, so their access will not be denied," Feldblum said. "Their positions will be heard, but now they won't be the only ones being heard."

The rules, which transition co-chairman John Podesta announced Tuesday, bar federal lobbyists from contributing to or raising money for the transition effort. Those who leave the transition team will be barred for a year from lobbying the incoming administration on matters related to their transition jobs, and current lobbyists who join the team are barred for 12 months from working in policy fields related to their lobbying work.

Podesta called the new policy "the strictest, the most far-reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history." They follow a pledge Obama made during his campaign, when he instituted similar rules for aides and vowed that lobbyists "will not drown out the voice of the American people."

Feldblum said lobbying is protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, and that the trade's ranks in Washington are unlikely to shrink. But she said corporate lobbyists "will have to share the stage with other people representing other points of view."

"I think that lobbyists for a broader range of the American public -- lobbyists for Catholic Charities USA, lobbyists for the Epilepsy Foundation, lobbyists for domestic violence groups -- people trying to bring those positions forward will have an easier time being heard," Feldblum said.

One practicing lobbyist told CNN he hopes the new rules will improve the public image of a trade that has become a "dirty word."

Michael Lewan, who has pleaded the case for some of the biggest U.S. corporations for 16 years, said a stricter regime Congress imposed on itself after the influence-peddling scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff "wasn't such a bad thing at all."

"We were all very upset when we found out we could no longer take Capitol Hill staffers to lunch," he said. "But you know what? At the end of the day, we all saved money and lost weight."

But seriously, Lewan said, both Obama and his Republican opponent, John McCain, blasted lobbyists on a near-daily basis during the presidential campaign, "and it's my hope that we can bring down that level of vilification by cooperating with the new administration."

All About First Amendment RightsPolitical LobbyistsBarack Obama

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print