Former Obama Officials Leave Public Office and Land Cushy Lobbying Jobs
High level officials in the Obama Administration are cashing in big at firms and businesses capitalizing on their expertise.
Since leaving the White House in 2016, some of President Obama’s top officials–from the Secretary of Homeland Security to the Attorney General–have taken up lucrative positions with government contractors and lobbying firms.
Former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson now serves on the board of Lockheed Martin–a defense contractor that does $35 billion worth of business with the government in a single year. Most of this business is contracted with DHS, his old office. He’s making nearly $300,000 a year in his new position.
Melody Barnes, Obama’s former Domestic Policy Council director, is now on the board of Booz Allen Hamilton, a top-notch management consulting firm. Booz Allen is currently under criminal investigation for miscalculated billing in its government contracts, and received $63 million worth of contracts for work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement over the past two years. Her new salary is $210,000 a year.
Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, returned to his old position at Covington and Burling in 2015, a law firm focused on banking. Holder, described by Rolling Stone in 2015 as a “Wall Street Double Agent,” did not prosecute Wall Street executives associated with the 2008 financial crisis. The firm reportedly kept his 11th-floor office empty, eagerly awaiting his return, and welcomed him back with a $2.5 million a year paycheck.
These are only some of the most notable players who went through the revolving door.
The Bottom Line: Closing the revolving door is an important element of anti-corruption reform. It’s impossible to expect elected and appointed officials to work in the best interest of the people when they are considering their next job move with special interests.
Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate Backs Bad Policy for Campaign Contributions
A secret recording reveals a Georgia gubernatorial candidate (and the current Lt. Gov.) supported an education bill he thought was bad policy just to thwart his gubernatorial opponent.
Georgia’s Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is running for governor and won the Republican gubernatorial primary back in May, was caught on tape admitting that he helped pass a bill he didn’t actually support–just to keep $3 million from flowing into his opponents coffers.
The bill raised tax credits from $58 million to $100 million for those who donated money to scholarship organizations for private schools. Last year, the Georgia Senate Education Committee stalled a similar bill as they pushed to lower the tax credit, arguing that it drained funds from public schools. Cagle also disagreed with the policy, but he used his leadership in the state senate to circumvent the committee and make it law anyway. The reason?
“It ain’t about public policy. It’s about [expletive] politics,” Cagle said. “There’s a group that was getting ready to put $3 million behind Hunter Hill [his opponent].” The group Cagle referenced was the Walton Family Foundation, which favors charter schools and tax credit programs, like this one.
The bill passed in May in large part because of his support.
The Bottom Line: Cagle’s support of a “bad policy” bill highlights the toxic impact of special interests buying policy. The first consideration of elected officials should be their constituents, not special interests and mega-donors.
Facebook Shines (Some) Light on Dark Money Spent Ahead of Supreme Court Confirmation
Facebook’s new archived ads reveals some huge ad-spending ahead of the Supreme Court confirmation.
In an effort to increase transparency, Facebook created a political ads archive allowing users to track who’s paying for the ads on their newsfeed, and the records are already revealing an intense ad-spend battle ahead of a contentious Supreme Court confirmation.
Before Brett Kavanaugh was even announced as the nominee, conservative groups pledged $1.4 million in red states with a Democrat up for re-election to encourage support of the nominee. Liberal groups are doing the same thing, especially with Republican senators in Alaska and Maine, aiming for the opposite outcome.
Each side’s tactics are apparent thanks to Facebook’s new archive, which highlights how much they’ve spent and what kind of voters they’re targeting. The Judicial Crisis Network promoted almost two dozen ads on Facebook, spending between $41,600 and $160,192 on each, and Demand Justice has similarly spent between $28,900 and $135,465 on theirs. The ads have already reached millions of people, and these are the numbers (so far) for just two of the advocacy groups involved in the Supreme Court fight.
The Bottom Line: Regardless of Facebook’s push for transparency, the money trail stops there because both groups are 501(c)4’s. This means the organizations don’t have to disclose their donors.
New CA Legislation Lets Special Interests Pour More Money into Campaigns
Last week, a bill came to the state legislative floor in California that would require more campaign finance disclosures, in return for an ostensibly nonexistent cap on political contributions.
In the name of transparency, California legislators introduced a bill last week that would require candidates to file financial disclosures more often and in a more timely manner. But there’s a catch: The bill also hikes up the limits placed on political contributions by allowing political leaders (like the Speaker and majority and minority leaders) in the state legislature to start their own “legislative caucus committee.” If you feel like this bill contradicts itself, you’re not alone.
These proposed “legislative caucus committees” would have the same limits as political parties, meaning that donations are capped at $36,500 a year from one source. The problem is that $36,500 could be given to each “legislative caucus committee” established under that one party–multiplying the amount of influence a big donor has. Not only that, but the contribution cap only applies to money going directly to a candidate, not for “other expenses” the committee may have.
The Bottom Line: This bill exacerbates the issue of politicians focusing too much on fundraising over their duties as public officials. By creating legislative caucus committees, these politicians essentially become fundraisers for each other and make themselves vulnerable to more influence from big donors.
That’s all for this week, folks. If you have a corruption story you’d like to see covered here, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org