The Obama Project
President-elect Barack Obama and his transition advisers are creating a permanent, nonprofit entity, which they intend to use not only to seed supporters into high-paying lobbying jobs in Washington, but also to employ those supporters who cannot qualify for jobs in the Obama administration.
According to an aide working on the Obama transition, the campaign is aware of some senior staffers and others who probably could not be hired by the Executive Office of the President or by senior Cabinet level offices, so the “Obama/Biden Transition Project,” as the nonprofit is called, will allow the campaign to retain talent and pay it at competitive salaries.
The “Project” is a 501(c)4 tax-exempt organization, with no limits on the contributions it can receive and no requirements to divulge the names of individuals or organizations that give it money. Such a structure has not been used before for transitions.
“To my knowledge, it’s never been done, and people should be asking why the Obama people chose to do it this way,” says a longtime Washington Republican, who has been involved in transitions for the Reagan and Bush campaign teams.
Traditionally, the victorious campaign has set up inaugural funds, as well as funds to deal with legal costs and other expenses to close down the campaign. Others have set up quasi-corporate offices to deal with transition issues. In 2000, with the election in doubt, the Bush-Cheney team set up a private transition office in McLean, Virginia. Ultimately, the federal government, headed by the Government Services Administration, covers the cost of the transition staff, providing it with office space and all equipment.
According to an Obama campaign staffer who has is being retained for the transition and inauguration planning, the “Project” is intended not only to identify personnel for the Obama administration, but to then send those Project employees who know all the senior staff in the various Cabinet departments and federal agencies out into the corporate and lobbying community to leverage those contacts.
“It’s taking the old ‘K Street Project’ that Republicans had and doing it twice as fast and on steroids,” explains the aide. “So, if you have a Project aide working on Commerce Department transition, that Project aide will be more likely to get a senior lobbying job because of all those connections at Commerce. That former Project aide will also be able raise more money for Democrats in this town and help others with jobs and such.”
As well, the nonprofit may also serve as a haven for Obama supporters and campaign loyalists who for one reason or another can’t be employed by the administration or in the federal government. “There are some people who have been with us from the beginning who are clearly political liabilities or who won’t be able to qualify for a job, say, because they can’t get a security clearance,” says another aide, who was unaware of the unique Obama transition project’s tax status.
Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s closest advisers who serves on the board of the “Project,” has been named as a possible White House senior adviser or even as Cabinet secretary for Housing and Urban Development, but her longtime ties to the Daley political machine in Chicago, as well as potential scandals from her role in housing projects, may make her unconfirmable.
“The transition project will be a perfect place for her,” says
one longtime Obama fundraiser. “She can raise millions, be a power
player in Washington, help shape the Obama administration and not
have to worry about accountability.”
Calls From Cantor
House Republican Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) quickly cut the legs out from under one of his longtime allies by undermining House Republican conference chair Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) among House Republicans and forcing Putnam to step aside from the leadership race.
Cantor spent the days leading up to November 4 calling fellow Republican House members to apologize for the ugly way the votes on the Paulson-Pelosi federal economic “recovery plan” were handled, thereby hurting a number of House members in tight races. Cantor, according to those who got the call, didn’t take all the blame for the botched votes of late September and early October. At the time, instead of congratulating Republican House members for their principled votes against the massive $800 billion bailout, he claimed their opposition was nothing more than a reaction to the vitriolic floor speech made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“He said the bailout bill and the votes were a mistake,” said a House member who received a call. “He was apologetic about it, but he also claimed the problem was with the communications coming out of the conference. He indirectly blaming Putnam, who was standing beside him during all those press conferences.”
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H/T to National Review Online