Obama has made a big deal about not hiring lobbyists, and so we've made a big deal about shooting down his overblown rhetoric on this score (for instance, here's our spreadsheet of more than 40 ex-lobbyists in the administration). But the real problem, when it comes to potential impropriety and undue influence, is when government officials cash out to industry or K Street -- there's the risk that they were serving their future employers in their government job, and there's the unfair access it gives their private employer and clients.
Today, I learned of another Obama administration official to cash out to K Street: Grant Leslie of the Agriculture Department is now at Glover Park Group, (which has also just poached a Banking Committee staffer, as I blogged earlier). Here's the Glover Park Group's write-up on her Democratic bonafides:
[Grant] a leading Washington strategist, most recently a Senior Advisor to Secretary Tom Vilsack at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has joined the firm as a Vice President in its Government Affairs practice.
While at the Department of Agriculture, Grant focused on energy, climate, and rural development issues while also overseeing the political nomination process for the Agency. She was an integral part of the Obama transition team, serving as the team leader for Secretary Vilsack’s confirmation in the Senate.
Prior to her engagement at the Department of Agriculture and Obama transition team, she worked in Senator Ken Salazar’s office for four years, most recently as his Legislative Director. Specifically, she was in charge of developing and overseeing the Senator’s entire legislative agenda as well as his Senate floor activities and also oversaw and coordinated the Senator’s actions on the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Energy and Natural Resources; and Finance.
Grant also served on the staff of former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD). As part of Senator Daschle’s legislative team, she focused on range of issues, including agriculture, rural development, trade and transportation.
Ken Salazar is now secretary of the Interior, and Daschle, famously, is a close confidant of the President. Vilsack, her old boss at Ag, was himself recently a K Street lobbyist.
Presuming Leslie, as a "Senior Advisor" to the Secretary, counts as an "appointee," she is prohibited by Obama's executive order from lobbying any senior executive branch officials.
The other Obama alumnus I've noticed on K Street is Oscar Ramirez who went from the Labor Department to the Podesta Group.