Saturday, October 29, 2011

Politics as Usual?

As many of our readers will recall, in 2008 Senator Obama ran on a theme of "hope and change," which included a promise to desist from practicing politics as usual.  

Understandably, that excited the President's supporters and was probably a significant factor in the high level of energy, emotional support, precinct-level work and contributions evidenced by his followers.

However, the actual performance of that promise may have been compromised, as disclosed by a recent New York Times article (see

Here are a few excerpts from that article, relating to contributors to the President's 2012 re-election campaign and various "bundlers" of contributions:

At least 15 of Mr. Obama’s “bundlers” — supporters who contribute their own money to his campaign and solicit it from others — are involved in lobbying for Washington consulting shops or private companies. They have raised more than $5 million so far for the campaign.

Because the bundlers are not registered as lobbyists with the Senate, the Obama campaign has managed to avoid running afoul of its self-imposed ban on taking money from lobbyists.

But registered or not, the bundlers are in many ways indistinguishable from people who fit the technical definition of a lobbyist. They glide easily through the corridors of power in Washington, with a number of them hosting Mr. Obama at fund-raisers while also visiting the White House on policy matters and official business.

. . . 

While none of the bundlers is currently registered as a federal lobbyist, at least four of them have been in the past. And a number of the bundlers work for prominent lobbying and law firms . . . 

Perhaps even more indicative of the continued strength of political realities is the fact that, as reported by the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News, (see

More than two years after President Obama took office vowing to banish “special interests” from his administration, nearly 200 of his biggest donors have landed plum government jobs and advisory posts, won federal contracts worth millions of dollars for their business interests or attended numerous elite White House meetings and social events

Nearly 80 percent of those who collected more than $500,000 for Obama took “key administration posts,” as defined by the White House. 

More than half the ambassador nominees who were bundlers raised more than half a million.

Here are some graphic expressions of the findings:

While it's certainly true that other Administrations have behaved similarly, it's worthwhile to note that while both the Bush (2) and Obama administrations have appointed about the same number of bundlers, Obama reached that figure in two years, while it took Bush eight years.

My reaction, then, is not that I'm surprised, or even particularly bothered, by the fact that, at least in this area, "politics as usual" continues to apply.  It's simply that it's difficult to reconcile behavior with rhetoric.

Or, to put it more simply, no voter likes sanctimony, particularly when it's false. 

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