Obama Team Rejects Human Rights Expert Because He Lobbied for Human Rights

Thursday, April 23, 2009
Tom Malinowski

President Barack Obama’s “no lobbyists” rule for his administration has prevented a leading human rights expert from becoming the State Department’s top human rights official. Tom Malinowski, the Washington, DC, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, has worked to end suffering in Darfur and Burma (Myanmar), and has spoken out against the use of torture by the Bush administration. But what killed his chances of being the next assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor was the fact that he was a registered lobbyist.

President Obama’s anti-lobbyist rule bans anyone who was a registered lobbyist from working for any executive agency they had lobbied in the past two years or in any other agency on an issue they had lobbied on in that time. To date, the White House has allowed three exceptions to the rule: William J. Lynn, a Raytheon lobbyist who became deputy defense secretary; Cecilia Muñoz of the National Council of La Raza, who is now White House director of intergovernmental affairs; and Jocelyn Frye of the National Partnership for Women and Families, who is now Michelle Obama’s policy director.
The rule does not apply to those appointees who were lobbyists outside of Washington. Examples include Joe Szabo, a longtime railroad union lobbyist in Illinois who was selected to run the Federal Railway Administration, and Ron Kirk, a Texas-based lobbyist now serving as US Trade Representative.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Nonprofit Groups Seeking Exceptions to Lobby Rule (by Peter Baker, New York Times)


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