Just like that, Mr. Obama’s staff signaled a willingness to put aside support for the reimportation of prescription medicines at lower prices and by doing so solidified a compact with an industry the president had vilified on the campaign trail. Central to Mr. Obama’s drive to remake the nation’s health care system was an unlikely collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry that forced unappealing trade-offs.
- Republicans see the deal as hypocritical. “He said it was going to be the most open and honest and transparent administration ever and lobbyists won’t be drafting the bills,” said Representative Michael C. Burgess of Texas, a Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee examining the deal. “Then when it came time, the door closed, the lobbyists came in and the bills were written.”
- “Republicans trumpeting these e-mails is like a fox complaining someone else raided the chicken coop,” said Robert Reich, who was labor secretary under President Bill Clinton. “Sad to say, it’s called politics in an era when big corporations have an effective veto over major legislation affecting them and when the G.O.P. is usually the beneficiary.”
- If the negotiations resembled deal-making by past presidents, what distinguished them was that Mr. Obama had strongly rejected business as usual. During his campaign, he singled out the power of the pharmaceutical industry and its chief lobbyist, former Representative Billy Tauzin, a Democrat-turned-Republican from Louisiana.
Filmmakers and farmers, gun makers and real estate agents, and people in dozens of other industries say the rules under consideration by the Obama administration would choke off their ability to have a mutually beneficial dialogue with government officials. As a result, they say, public policy would be made in a vacuum, and federal rules would be more unrealistic and unworkable.
- Federal employees could no longer accept “gifts of free attendance” at the many seminars, receptions and other social gatherings held by registered lobbyists and lobbying organizations as a matter of course in Washington.
- The ethics office, which is now weighing the response to the proposal it made last September, said lobbyists had used these gatherings not only to discuss business with federal employees, but also to “foster a social bond that may be of greater use in the long run.”
- The problem, it said, is “not the brazen quid pro quo, but rather the cultivation of familiarity and access that a lobbyist may use in the future to obtain a more sympathetic hearing for clients.”
- The American League of Lobbyists, a trade group, denounced the proposal as excessive, and leaders of other groups branded it as demeaning and dismissive of the role that industry experts can play in formulating sound public policy.
- The Motion Picture Association of America, the trade group for major Hollywood studios, strenuously objected to a suggestion by the ethics office that movie screenings were social events where lobbyists built good will, thus enhancing their influence with federal employees.
- Ronald L. Phipps, former president of the National Association of Realtors, said the restrictions would “perpetuate the problem of the Beltway bubble,” isolating regulators from the industries they regulate.
- Under current rules, federal employees can accept free invitations to certain “widely attended gatherings,” and they often do so. Under the proposal, they could no longer accept such “gifts” from registered lobbyists and lobbying organizations.
- Mr. Obama promised to run the most ethical and transparent administration in history. While berating lobbyists in public, the administration has worked with them in private. White House officials have often met with lobbyists at coffee shops near the White House, so the meetings do not show up in White House visitor logs. Despite a pledge not to take money from registered federal lobbyists, Mr. Obama has relied on people active in the lobbying industry to raise millions of dollars for his re-election bid.
- watchdog groups like the Project on Government Oversight, the Government Accountability Project and Common Cause welcomed the proposal, saying it would help break up the cozy relationships between federal regulators and regulated industries.