One of the biggest concerns among progressives has been the power of lobbyists in influencing lawmakers with hefty campaign contributions. Former President Barack Obama's first executive order stopped the so-called "revolving door" from lobbyists entering government and government staffers entering the lobbying world after being in the White House. That was eliminated under former President Donald Trump.
In fact, in Trump's final days in office, he revoked his own order that required government appointees to sign a pledge saying they won't lobby the agencies they worked for. It would last for five years after leaving the administration position.
But Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL) took issue with lobbyists being hired by the government during a Thursday hearing with U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. Gaetz claimed that he has an issue with people serving as political consultants working for the government.
"It sounds like there's no special vetting for lobbyists or political consultants," said Gaetz. "What about partisan committee staff. Their job is to insure that one party or another preserves or, you know, captures the majority, that legislative proposals are successful or not successful. No prohibition against the department hiring them, is there?"
"As I understand it, every administration, including the one preceding this one, have hired people who have been committee staff. I don't think there's a statutory limitation," said Garland. "If the House of Representatives and the Senate think that partisan or —"
Gaetz claimed it was how Preet Bharara got his job at the DOJ, though it's unclear what he meant. According to his biography, Bharara served U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for seven years, and was then fired by Trump despite previously being asked to stay on. He then worked with Sen. Chuck Schumer to investigate the firings. Prior to working for the DOJ he served as the assistant United States Attorney in Manhattan. It's unclear where Gaetz got his information, but Bharara isn't a lobbyist nor was he one before 2009.
"So, I'll say again, the hiring in the public integrity section is a career hire made under the civil service. It's not made --" Garland said before Gaetz cut him off.
"I'm worried about their prior career. What I think is if someone has been a political operative to then put them in charge of election crimes, it's kind of like having the fox guard the henhouse, don't you think?" asked Gaetz.
"If you think that, that would be a perfect example of something the House should pass a statute barring people from particular professions from working in the Justice Department," said Garland.
See the exchange below:
Garland to Gaetz: if you don't like something - pass a law www.youtube.com