Thursday, January 22, 2009

Campaign Volunteers Turned Lobbyists?

Gary Andres of the conservative journal The Weekly Standard accuses Barack Obama of going back on his campaign promise to rein in lobbyists.

But the new president's vision to build and sustain electoral capital earned last November includes a sardonic twist. Obama won in part by promising to end the power of lobbyists in Washington. So it's a little ironic that a candidate who prevailed by decrying the evils of the advocacy world hopes to bolster his presidency by deploying an army of his own lobbyists.

Andres is speaking of the Obama administration taking its massive e-mail, donor and volunteer list from the campaign and using it as an advocacy arm called "Organizing for America." Described in The Washington Post as composed of 13 million email addresses, 4 million contributors, and 2 million active volunteers, the organization is being referred to informally as "Barack Obama 2.0."

I don't buy Andres' comparison of Obama's volunteer activists to the traditional sophisticated, highly-paid K Street lobbyists that both Obama and McCain railed against in the campaign. Neither does Ezra Klein of The American Prospect.

It's a bit strange -- or, at the least, sort of weirdly literal -- to liken millions of citizen activists interested in e-mailing their congressmen in order to push various issues to DC's collection of highly-paid political mercenaries. It's sort of like saying that lobbyists and voters are both human beings, and Obama says all human beings deserve respect, doesn't he?

--Ballard Burgher

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