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Hot Job After Working for Obama: 'Unlobbyist'

Officials call themselves advisers to stay clear of lobbying rules
President Obama walks away from a podium in Washington on Aug. 9, 2013
President Obama walks away from a podium in Washington on Aug. 9, 2013Photograph by Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The Obama administration is Washington’s most fertile incubator for influence peddlers. Or political fixers. Or industry association representatives. Whatever you call them, don’t call them lobbyists. Five years after the president issued an executive order barring his former appointees from lobbying the executive branch, dozens of administration officials who’ve left to take jobs representing corporate interests are getting around the ban by not registering as lobbyists, instead branding themselves as consultants or policy advisers.

“The influence industry is moving underground,” says Sarah Bryner, research director of the Center for Responsive Politics. The group counts 46 former Obama officials who have registered with the federal government as lobbyists. An additional 86 are what it calls “unlobbyists,” who use their connections in Congress and the White House to press for changes in laws and federal policy but who aren’t registered. “We still have many people leaving government and taking jobs that in the past would have resulted in them registering,” Bryner says. Now they are “skirting the disclosure requirements.”