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Obama Agency-Vetting To Begin Next Week

Look for President-elect Barack Obama's FCC transition team members to start showing up at the commission and other government agencies as early as Monday, Nov. 17, but don't look for anyone who has lobbied the FCC in the past year.

John Podesta, co-chairman of the Obama transition team, said in a press conference that government agency review teams would be named by the end of this week, and that they would start vetting agencies as early as the following Monday.

He said the agency review teams would be going over more than 100 agencies, departments and commissions “to provide the President-elect, Vice President-elect, cabinet and subcabinet officials once selected, and key advisers with the information needed to make strategic policy, budgetary and personnel decisions prior to the inauguration.”

Podesta said that the the administration is focused on the fact that the DTV transition will be an "early challenge," but said that "obviously the FCC continues to operate." He would not comment on any transition team members who might be involved with monitoring that, but added, "I have no doubt that the President-elect will put his own stamp on the FCC."

Podesta said in the press conference that there would be tough ethics rules regarding the participation of federally registered lobbyists in the transition and governing process, saying that federal lobbyists could not contribute to or raise money for that transition effort. He said it would be the most open and transparent transition, though for what was described as "space reasons," no TV cameras or still cameras were allowed into the press conference Tuesday in Washington on the transition.

Anyone on the transition team who has lobbied in the past 12 months can't work in the policy fields on which they had lobbied, he said, and will have to cease lobbying during their service on the transition. He said it would be a two-year "look-back" period for people being named to posts in the government. One of Obama's pledges was to stop the revolving door between government and lobbyists.

Podesta said there would be an emphasis on Washington people on the transition team, but that the government appointees would come from "all across the country," and from both business and government.

Podesta called them the strictest lobbying rules that have ever applied. He also said the list of transition team members will be listed before they are deployed to their respective agencies. They will have to sign an ethics code and it will be enforced, he said.

To the arguemnt that the lobbyist restrictions might be leaving some expertise "out in the cold," Podesta said: "So be it," adding they were sticking with the President-elect's pledge about removing the "undue influence" of lobbyists in Washington.

Podesta, co-chairman of the Obama transition team, told reporters Tuesday that the overall transition team would employ 450 people at a budget of $12 million, with offices in both Chicago and Washington.

Following are the new ethics rules:

·         Federal Lobbyists cannot contribute financially to the transition.

·         Federal lobbyists are prohibited from any lobbying during their work with the transition.

·         If someone has lobbied in the last 12 months, they are prohibited from working in the fields of policy on which they lobbied.

·         If someone becomes a lobbyist after working on the Transition, they are prohibited from lobbying the Administration  for 12 months  on  matters on which they worked.

·         A gift ban that is aggressive in reducing the influence of special interests.