Key Obama Consultant Also Key Corporate Consultant

David Plouffe, Barack Obama, Anita Dunn / AP

David Plouffe, Barack Obama, Anita Dunn / AP


Few people better exemplify President Obama’s failure to stem the influence of corporate lobbyists in Washington than Anita Dunn.

The veteran corporate “consultant” and former White House communications director is one of the closest advisers to the president’s reelection campaign, the New York Times reported over the weekend.

[Dunn] and her colleagues at SKDKnickerbocker, a communications firm, have built a growing list of blue-chip companies — food manufacturers, a military contractor, the New York Stock Exchange and the Canadian company developing the Keystone XL pipeline — willing to pay handsomely for help in winning over federal regulators or landing government contracts. Some clients and lobbyists who have teamed up with SKDK say they benefit from the firm’s ability to provide information about the Obama administration’s views. …

Ms. Dunn’s dual roles show the limits of Mr. Obama’s attempts to change the culture of Washington. Even as he pledged to curb the influence of special interests in the capital and has restricted the role of lobbyists in his administration, the president and his top aides continue to rely on political operatives like Ms. Dunn who also represent clients seeking to influence public policy. …

Ms. Dunn regularly attends closed-door political strategy briefings with top Obama aides; White House records show she has visited more than 100 times since leaving her communications job. She is now serving as a paid adviser to the Democratic National Committee.

Because she is not formally registered as a lobbyist, Dunn is able to get around the nominal ethics restrictions imposed by Obama.

As a candidate in 2007, Obama said he was “in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over.”

The nonpartisan fact-checking website, PolitiFact, rated this the president’s “biggest broken promise.”

The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney has thoroughly documented the extent to which lobbyists have been welcomed into key roles within the Obama administration.

Democratic aides are none too pleased with the Times’ revelations about Dunn, reports James Warren at the Daily Beast.

“It smells,” said one Obama campaign official. He asked for anonymity, as did at least three other White House and campaign aides, as well as one close personal friend of the president who responded to disclosures by The New York Times.

A White House aide conceded being “pissed off” by the story, expressing concern that Mitt Romney could use it to ridicule Obama’s pledges to change Washington’s political culture. He cited several other consultants working on the reelection campaign and said, “You don’t hear stories about them so obviously exploiting their access.”

A campaign aide said: “The timing is terrible. I bet it comes up in the debate [Monday] as a question of Obama ethics. I think she is well over the line.”

A former high-ranking Clinton administration official told Warren he “cannot imagine anyone with that kind of ongoing practice being allowed to be a regular participant in White House meetings under Clinton—or any other president.”

The situation was even more problematic, the aide said, because Dunn “is obviously profiteering massively and quickly from perceived access—firm doubling to 60 employees since she came back from the White House in 2009!”

Dunn is a self-professed fan of the communist mass murderer Mao Zedong.

Interestingly, Dunn did not appear to accompany the president to Florida for Monday night’s foreign policy debate, per a recent White House pool report.