Obama breaks ethics promise, tags Vilsack for Ag

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Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel and Chris Frates report:

No political appointee, Obama’s transition team has declared, “will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years.”

Taylor Lincoln, of the government watchdog group Public Citizen, said Vilsack’s appointment effectively violates Obama’s pledge.

“As secretary of agriculture, he should have to recuse himself from situations affecting clients that he advised. If he advised really big agriculture clients that would be make it impractical to be the secretary of agriculture,” said Lincoln, editor of the group’s blog becoming44.org.

What’s the big deal? Ok, let’s talk dollars and cents:

From 2000 to 2006, Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, and his wife collected $42,782 in subsidies from the department he was tapped Wednesday to oversee.

Also, Vilsack is a partner at a lobbying law firm that trumpeted his advice to clients on agribusiness development and renewable energy – a job that appears to bump up against Obama’s promise to bar appointees from working on issues related to their employment for two years. 

So not only is Sen. Tom Vilsack’s appointment a huge disappointment for progressive food advocates, many of whom got their hopes up for the selection of a Secretary of Agriculture who isn’t beholden to big agribusiness (or even a true progressive like Michael Pollan) — it’s also a huge disappointment for anyone who opposes  conflicts of interest in government posts.

You know what they say. “The more things change … ”

Flickr photo by triansanderrors