Looking back at the early years of the Obama era, one cannot help but be amused at the apparent earnestness with which the former president declared war on special interests, the "revolving door," and excessive wealth. Knowing what we know now, it is easy to forget Obama's pledge to ban lobbyists from his administration, or the time he righteously declared, "At a certain point you’ve made enough money."
Since leaving the White House, Obama has been cashing six-figure checks for giving speeches to Wall Street firms, and recently signed a "high eight-figure deal" with Netflix. Many of Obama's former White House colleagues have followed his lead. They have apparently decided that the best way to #resist Donald Trump, whose presidency most Democrats consider to be the greatest threat to America since the Civil War, is by shilling for corporate behemoths and defending sex criminals.
Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, whom Obama once commended for scraping by on his "relatively modest" salary of $172,000 a year, is presumably taking home an even fatter wad at his current gig as chief communications officer for President Trump's favorite restaurant, McDonald's. Gibbs' successor, Jay Carney, is also doing just fine as the senior vice president of global affairs for Amazon. Carney's successor, Josh Earnest, is the chief communications officer for United Airlines. Obama's former trade representative, Michael Froman, recently became a vice chairman at Mastercard, where he will oversee the company's "Center for Inclusive Growth."
Former White House adviser David Plouffe, who left his role at Uber in 2017 after being fined for illegally lobbying Chicago mayor (and former White House chief of staff) Rahm Emanuel, heads the policy and advocacy team at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Speaking of Uber, its public policy advisory board included two Obama alumni, former transportation secretary Ray LaHood, and Melody Barnes, former director of the Domestic Policy Council. Barnes also sits on the board of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, meanwhile, joined the board of Lockheed Martin earlier this year, a gig that includes a (not atypical) annual compensation package of nearly $300,000.
Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, recently became a Netflix board member. Mary Schapiro, who served as securities and exchange commissioner from 2009 to 2014, sits on the board of Morgan Stanley, and advises Wall Street firms on regulatory matters in her role as vice chair at the Promontory Financial Group.
Timothy Geithner, Obama's treasury secretary, has been taking a lot of heat following a Washington Post report on the predatory lending practices of Mariner Finance, an entity owned by the private equity firm Warburg Pincus, of which Geithner is president. Geithner's successor, Jack Lew, has also entered the world of private equity, joining the firm Lindsay Goldberg as a partner in 2017. It is not known whether either former secretary has ever killed anyone by injecting them with cancer like Mitt Romney did.
Eric Holder, Obama's attorney general from 2009 to 2015, has also lobbied on behalf of Uber, and is considered a frontrunner for the 2020 vice presidential nomination, according to recent works of neoliberal fan fiction. He is currently a partner at Covington and Burling. (Holder's erstwhile colleague, former assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer, is also a partner.) Holder's post-administration gig has drawn the ire of liberals still seething about his refusal to prosecute aggressively Wall Street firms in the wake of the financial crisis. Best of luck in 2020!
The Swamp being The Swamp, a number of former Obama officials have been caught up in the various federal investigations into the Trump campaign's potential collusion with Russia. Greg Craig, who served as White House counsel from 2009 to 2010, was ousted from his fancy law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, after it was revealed that Craig oversaw the firm's work for the Russian-backed former president of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych, who was also one of Paul Manafort's shadiest clients. Former Skadden attorney Alex van der Zwaan has already pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about the firm's relationship with Yanukovych.
Kathryn Ruemmler, who held the White House counsel gig from 2011 to 2014, is representing George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman with ties to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Nader, who is now a cooperating witness in Robert Mueller's investigation, is under scrutiny for his role in facilitating a meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince, and a Russian banker with ties to Vladimir Putin. Nader was briefly imprisoned in Prague after being convicted on 10 counts of sexually abusing underage boys between 1999 and 2002. He was previously nabbed by Washington, D.C., authorities on child pornography charges in 1985 (the charges were ultimately dropped) and again in 1991 when he was convicted and served a six-month sentence on similar charges.
Vive la résistance!