Meredith Attwell Baker, one of two Republicans on the Federal Communications Commission, was not on Comcast’s payroll when she voted to approve its controversial acquisition of NBC Universal, the television powerhouse. But she soon will be. Four months after she endorsed the deal — chastising the F.C.C. for delaying its approval and imposing too many conditions on the merger — she has been hired to be NBC’s top Washington lobbyist.
Ms. Baker’s swift shift from regulator to lobbyist for the regulated will only add to Americans’ cynicism about their government. The fact that it is legal and that she is just one of many doesn’t make it better. Over a third of the 120 lawmakers who left Congress after the last election have taken lobbying jobs, according to a report by the Center for Responsive Politics. Former F.C.C. Chairman Kevin Martin joined the lobbying firm Patton Boggs soon after he stepped down in 2009.
President Obama was right to bar from his administration anyone who had lobbied an executive agency in the preceding two years, though he handed out far too many waivers. He is right to bar departing members from lobbying the executive branch so long as he is in office. But such cooling-off periods — like those barring former lawmakers from immediately lobbying their former colleagues — are easily evaded. In the case of Ms. Baker, she can still lobby Congress, and there is no ban on her overseeing a shop of lobbyists working the F.C.C.
Congress should expand the definition of lobbying beyond face-to-face encounters to any effort to influence government decisions for their clients. It should also set tight caps on what former officials, including former lawmakers, can earn from lobbying before they must register as lobbyists. Americans don’t need any more reasons to mistrust Washington.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/13/opini … ntemail1=y
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