Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obama Picks Defense Lobbyist as Pentagon No. 2

On January 8, President-elect Barack Obama appointed William J. Lynn III, senior vice president of government operations at Raytheon Co., to become the No. 2 official at the Defense Department.

Many establishment news outlets noted that that the choice of Lynn for deputy defense secretary breaks with Obama's campaign promises of 'Change' by keeping Washington lobbyists out of his administration.

The 55 year old Lynn is also a former Pentagon comptroller and Senate staffer. He was a registered lobbyist for Raytheon from 2003 through June 2008, according to the Obama transition team.

The Associated Press reported on January 8, in the first three months of 2008, Lynn's lobbying team reported spending $1.15 million to influence Defense Department issues including missiles, sensors and radar, advanced technology programs and intelligence funding.

AP also noted that Obama has vowed that no political appointees in his administration would be permitted to work on areas that "directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years."

From Obama's Web site,
No political appointees in an Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration.
On January 15, writing in the Wall Street Journal, Pentagon reporter August Cole noted that against a backdrop of mounting budget pressure, the deputy secretary of defense will be a key player in tackling some of the toughest questions about how to equip the U.S. military and for what kinds of wars. The outcome of these debates will be crucial to the defense industry.

Cole continued, "Like other contractors, Raytheon has some important programs up for review this year, including its role on a multibillion dollar Navy destroyer program that employs about 2,000 of the company’s workers."

Some government watchdogs have questioned the revolving-door aspect of Lynn's appointment.

AP notes:
[Lynn] left public service and went into lobbying for one of the largest defense contractors in the nation. And that's the part that's troubling," said Bill Buzenberg, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity. "Even if he's completely above board and ethical, it raises questions about his loyalty."

During his presidential campaign, Obama took pains to tell voters he wouldn't tolerate influence-peddling.

"I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over," Obama said in November 2007 in Des Moines, Iowa. "I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists and won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president."

It will be difficult for Lynn to avoid defense issues related to Raytheon, said James Thurber, who teaches lobbying at American University.

"I think it's impossible in our system not to have people that have been in the advocacy system," he said. "They're the people who know the issues and have the expertise." The key is for the administration to disclose those connections and avoid financial conflicts, he said.

Lynn has been a well known lobbyist in Washington at Raytheon for years. His responsibilities include "company liaison with the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, as well as state and local government relations," according to his corporate biography on Raytheon's Web site.
Lynn has been an officer with Waltham, Raytheon since 2005.

Raytheon, with 2007 sales of $21.3 billion, specializes in worldwide defense and homeland security-related sales.

AP: Obama picks lobbyist as Pentagon No. 2
WSJ: Nominee Is Questioned About Pentagon’s Revolving Door
Raytheon William J. Lynn Bio
Barack Obama Web Site: Ethics

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Big Money Behind Geithner

Writing in Accuracy in Media, a news watchdog site, Cliff Kincaid asks "A guy who can’t figure out his own taxes is supposed to fix the economy?
This is the absurd rationale being offered by media figures such as Andrea Mitchell of NBC News for confirming Timothy Geithner as Obama’s Treasury Secretary after it was disclosed that he was a serial tax evader. He did his own taxes for a couple years and got into trouble, Mitchell chuckled. And everybody can relate to that, right? Mitchell is the one who deserves to be laughed at. This guy is supposed to be so smart we can entrust him with managing the entire U.S. economy? She must be kidding. Does she seriously expect us to believe that?
Kincaid notes that anybody watching this bizarre spectacle unfold has to suspect there is something more to the story. Who is behind Geithner and why does Obama want him? This is where the media fear to tread. Major media companies such as GE (parent of NBC News) and the Washington Post Company have their own connections to Geithner through their own officials and board members. They have a conflict of interest that will never be reported by the news organizations themselves.
Based on what Obama has said about Geithner, and what the media have repeated ad nauseam, we are supposed to believe that he made some mistakes that were typical of an employee who had worked for an international organization, the International Monetary Fund. But this doesn’t hold up because he admits he was told by the IMF about the procedures and necessity of paying those taxes. So the failure to pay these taxes looks like a case of tax cheating. If it wasn’t cheating, then he didn’t understand the tax code or didn’t pay enough attention to get it done right. This doesn’t seem like a proper credential for the post of Treasury Secretary, with jurisdiction over the IRS.

There has to be something more to the rationale for confirming somebody who is this much of a conniver or this dumb to the post. What is it?

It doesn’t take much digging. For anybody in the dark about this, please consult and closely study his bio. Geithner is a wheeler-dealer for powerful special interests.

If you examine the nature of the “Group of Thirty,” an affiliation which appears at the bottom of his biography, right after his Council on Foreign Relations membership, you will quickly learn that the President of the New York Federal Reserve Bank is an associate of the governor of the Chinese central bank through this mysterious organization of bankers and other top current and former officials from various countries. You will notice that other Obama nominees and associates are members, including Paul Volcker and Lawrence Summers.

You will also learn that this organization has been funded by―surprise―some of the same financial institutions getting federal bailout money. These include American International Group, Goldman Sachs and Citi, among others. Because it has a website and publishes an annual report, all of this seems open and above board. But the fine print reveals that some of the meetings are by “invitation only.”
Read it.

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