[Guest post by DRJ]
Barack Obama objected to the influence of lobbyists in Washington as a Presidential candidate. For instance, during the Democratic primary in August 2007, Obama admonished Hillary Clinton for not admitting the threat lobbyists posed to her 1993 healthcare initiative:
“I disagree with the notion that lobbyists don’t have disproportionate influence. Look the insurance and the drug companies spent $1 billion in lobbying over the last 10 years. Now, Hillary, you were talking earlier about the efforts you made back in 1993. Well, you can’t tell me that that money did not have a difference. They are not spending that just because they are contributing to the public interest. They have an agenda.“
Then in May 2008, during the general election, Obama skewered John McCain because he “can’t see or won’t acknowledge what’s obvious to all of us here today — that lobbyists aren’t just part of the system in Washington, they’re part of the problem.”
Now, today, Obama’s best hope to pass healthcare reform may be those very lobbyists he used to condemn his opponents:
“A strong force, perhaps as powerful in Congress as President Barack Obama, is keeping the drive for health care going even as lawmakers seem hopelessly at odds.
The drug industry, the American Medical Association, hospital groups and the insurance lobby are all saying Congress must make major changes this year. Television ads paid for by drug companies and insurers continued to emphasize the benefits of a health care overhaul — not the groups’ objections to some of the proposals.”
Summing up: Obama opposes lobbyists, except when they support his agenda.
UPDATE 7/26/2009: “In a significant change, the Obama administration will now allow lobbyists to meet and have telephonic discussions with government officials regarding economic recovery projects.” Now it’s the stimulus. Can healthcare be far behind?