Ethics May Be Overrated

Daschle appointment indicates retreat on Obama campaign commitments

The appointment of former Sen. Tom Daschle as Secretary of the Health and Human Services administration belies a campaign promise that "no political appointees in an Obama administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years.”

The campaign promise was an essential component of a theme featuring change in how D.C. politics would operate. Since retiring from the Senate four years ago, however, Daschle has served as a director of Minnesota's Mayo Health Clinic and as a lobbyist for health care firms that are directly influenced by federal policy.

The swift retreat from a promise not to appoint people who have a vested interest in private firms doing business with government interests highlights the fact that despite promises of change, President-elect Obama has been stacking his administration with Washington insiders and power brokers.

To adhere to the Obama administration's stringent campaign promises, Tom Daschle would be required to recuse himself from a wide swath of policy matters that would affect former clients as a lobbyist for the firm Alston & Bird, according to The New York Times.  The new administration seems to be realizing the inherent conflict between self-interested behavior and political experience that is shared by career people who migrate freely between the public and private spheres.

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