Steve Ricchetti, whose long list of lobbying clients included Fannie Mae, General Motors, the American Hospital Association and Eli Lilly, was tapped to be counselor to Vice President Biden. Ricchetti achieved this feat — getting around the ban on lobbyists serving in the administration — by using one of Washington’s most-honored traditions: the loophole. Just as Obama won the presidency, Ricchetti de-registered as a lobbyist for his various clients. But he remained president of the lobbying firm that continued to work for many of those same clients, as well as a few more, such as the American Bankers Association. Only in today’s Washington could a president circumvent his own ban on hiring lobbyists by hiring the head of a lobbying firm.
This isn’t really anything new. As Milbank notes: ”Earlier, Obama administration officials got around their self-imposed rule (which prevents a lobbyist from serving for two years) by granting waivers to people Obama sought to appoint, such as former Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn, who got a top job at the Pentagon.” There were dozens of other similar exceptions made.
So what makes this appointment different? Surely, the scope of Ricchetti’s lobbying, and Obama’s campaign criticism of Hillary Clinton for having Ricchetti as a top fundraiser.