A few days back, some Swampland commenters asked if Bill Lynn, the former Raytheon lobbyist appointed by Barack Obama to a top Pentagon job, really was “uniquely qualified” for the job, as Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs has argued in justifying Lynn’s waiver from the new Obama ethics policy.
Today TIME’s national security correspondent Mark Thompson takes a look at the question on Time.com and comes to a pretty unambiguous conclusion:
[T]he idea that Lynn is “uniquely qualified” — the White House’s language — for the post is simply bogus. The phrase doesn’t mean merely good or talented — it means that Lynn, of all the possible candidates for the position, is the only person who could fill it.
“While Lynn may be well qualified, it is absurd to argue that he is uniquely qualified,” says Danielle Brian, head of the non-profit Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group in Washington. “There are plenty of people with far greater business management experience than that of a lobbyist.” Nonetheless, Lynn, who pledged to “maintain the highest ethical standards” during his confirmation hearing January 15, appears headed for Senate confirmation; to ease some Senators’ concerns, he has promised to sell all his Raytheon stock and have his dealings at the Pentagon for the first year subject to an ethics review.
Beyond saying “very limited number,” Gibbs has declined to specify how many lobbyists will be granted waivers to the new Obama ethics policy, which covers thousands of appointed positions. (A handful? A dozen? 50?) In the meantime, National Journal has done some reporting here, and identified three more lobbyists–current and former–expecting waivers:
Expectations are that three other lobbyists or former lobbyists will be nominated for political positions: Richard Verma, a lobbyist for Steptoe & Johnson, is rumored to be in line for the post of assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the State Department; Mark Patterson, who was a lobbyist for Goldman Sachs until April 11, 2008, is being considered for a top job at the Treasury Department; and Mark Gitenstein, who took a leave from Mayer Brown last summer, is said to be Obama’s choice to head the Justice Department’s Office of Policy -Development.