David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Obama, says he's proud of the fact "there hasn't been a major scandal" during the administration's six years in office.
Axelrod was responding to a question from the audience about the so-called Washington revolving door between lobbyists and the White House during a discussion of his recent book at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.
"I don't think that's true," Axelrod said to a questioner, specifically citing Mark Leibovich's book This Town on officials in the Obama administration entering the revolving door after Obama had promised to discourage such practices in his 2008 presidential campaign.
"I think that in the administration itself and the White House, I don't think that's true. I mean there are exceptions, there have been a few exceptions but the rule has basically been that there has been a ban on the revolving door and these two year strictures against such revolving door."
In his 2013 book, This Town, Leibovich writes about the president's 2008 promise and the debate which ensued over keeping lobbyists out the administration. Beside listing what he calls "unholy triplet" of three Obama officials heading to the private sector (Geoff Morrell to BP, Peter Orszag to Citigroup, and Jake Siewert to Goldman Sachs), he notes a new "stubborn truth" of Obama's Washington.
"One of the stubborn truths of Obama-era Washington is that everyone is now, in effect, a special interest, a free agent, performing any number of services, in any number of settings. It goes well beyond the technical classification of "registered lobbyists." Self-pimping has become the prevailing social and business imperative.
Axelrod added that the absence of a major a scandal in six years was proof of the Obama administration's ethics.
"And I'm proud of the fact that basically you have had an administration in this place for six years in which there hasn't been a major scandal. And I think that says a lot about the ethical strictures of this administration."
Axelrod said his inability to take other clients when he left the White House in 2011 to help with the president's re-election campaign proves the strict policies against the revolving door the Obama administration had in place.
"I know when I left there were some pretty strict strictures about who I could--I
didn't take any other clients but the re-election campaign when I left in 2011 because if I had, I could not have initiated a call to anyone in the White House," said Axelrod. "If I had a client who had any interests before the administration. That didn't exist before. You know, has it been pristine, has there been any sort of shadying anywhere, I can't say that is the case, that it's been pristine. But has it been lightyears better than it has before? Absolutely. "
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at email@example.com.
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