Here at the Caribou on Pennsylvania Avenue, and a few other nearby coffee shops, White House officials have met hundreds of times over the last 18 months with prominent K Street lobbyists — members of the same industry that President Obama has derided for what he calls its “outsized influence” in the capital.
On the agenda over espressos and lattes, according to more than a dozen lobbyists and political operatives who have taken part in the sessions, have been front-burner issues like Wall Street regulation, health care rules, federal stimulus money, energy policy and climate control — and their impact on the lobbyists’ corporate clients.
But because the discussions are not taking place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they are not subject to disclosure on the visitors’ log that the White House releases as part of its pledge to be the “most transparent presidential administration in history.”
I'd be interested to know whether Caribou provides the means of negotiations in addition to the benign backdrop for these meetings. "I take it that two sugars is what it would take for you to be sweet on this deal? Three sugars? Well, I'm not sure the president is prepared to go there! Will you go Splenda?"
And, when the administration isn't violating the spirit of his lobbying reforms by circumventing the transparent visitors logs the president has been so lauded for, it's violating the letter of Obama's lobbying rules:
Consumer Watchdog, a liberal nonprofit, used FOIA to obtain e-mails between White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer Andrew McLaughlin and his former colleagues at Google. McLaughlin was Google's head of global public policy and government affairs, up until he joined the White House.
Despite the job title, McLaughlin wasn't a registered lobbyist. Still, ethics rules created by an Obama executive order prohibit McLaughlin from "participat[ing] in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to" Google. But the e-mails show McLaughlin has been involved with formulating policy that directly affects Google, regularly trading e-mails with Google's "evangelist," and lobbyist.
The topic of net neutrality -- where the Obama administration and Google share a pro-regulation position that would profit Google -- appears repeatedly in McLaughlin-Google e-mails.
Read the whole thing, by Tim Carney, for more on how business gets done at the White House. Sit back and have a coffee while you read, just like a lobbyist!