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Another big White House job for a lobbyist

October 11, 2010 - Mike Maneval
National Security Adviser James Jones is stepping down, and President Barack Obama has selected for the position a figure who has been assisting the president on a voluntary basis on security policy and staffing of the State Department since the 2008 election, and served in a Democrat's Department of State in the past. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of Obama's choice is what he did between these stints.

Thomas Donilon, who served in the State Department under President Bill Clinton, spent the eight years between these public posts lobbying, most notably for mortgage firm Fannie Mae, but also for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, reported on Sunday. Officials within the Obama administration have been quick to point out that Donilon doesn't need a waiver to comply with Obama's tougher rules on hiring lobbyists, because his lobbying clients were not connected to the national security field in any serious way.

But while Donilon's lobbying past may not indicate any direct conflicts of interest looming, it still raises serious questions about his judgment. Donilon helped spearhead an effort by Fannie Mae to resist mortgage-industry reforms including better oversight and better funding for investigations and enforcement of existing regulations. Had Donilon and his allies in this project not succeeded, the problems spreading throughout the housing sector may have been identified sooner, affording everyone a better window of opportunity to assess potential solutions to a problem that wouldn't have grown as large or challenging.


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