Valerie Jarrett is the latest administration official to get a waiver from President Obama's vaunted tough ethic rules - in this case so she can lead the U.S. government's efforts to bring the Olympics to Chicago, where she has a plethora of political friends and financial interests.
"Tapping Jarrett, a longtime Chicago friend and a top adviser who was cleared by administration ethics lawyers to lead the effort, put the Obama administration’s imprimatur on what had been a mostly unofficial push by Obama’s Chicago inner circle to bring the games to its hometown," Kenneth Vogel writes at Politico.
Jarrett is also a longtime friend of Mayor Daley, taking on assignments from him that included the CHA and the CTA, where she did the mayor's bidding.
"Jarrett had been vice chair of Chicago 2016, the $49 million nonprofit enterprise created in 2006 to lead the city’s bid. The group maintains deep ties to some of Obama’s closest backers, who are among its top officials and major financiers," Vogel writes.
Under normal circumstances, that would put Jarrett afoul of Obama's touted ethics rules. But the Obama administration has shown no compunction about simply waiving through those it wants exempt from the rules, rendering them virtually non-existent.
The White House defended the waiver in a blog post made on a Friday night, which is what they do in Washington with something they want receiving the least publicity possible.
"The President promised during the campaign that staff would not work on contracts or regulations directly related to their former employers," the post says. "We have captured that promise in Paragraph 2 of our revolving door rules, which applies to non-lobbyists. Valerie previously served as Vice Chair of Chicago 2016, the non-profit entity responsible for the Chicago bid.
"Although Chicago 2016 was not her 'former employer' in traditional terms, the term 'former employer' in the President's Order encompasses entities that appointees served as directors or officers, as Valerie did here. (To be clear, Valerie was not a lobbyist for Chicago 2016, and this waiver has nothing to do with lobbying.) We decided that a waiver of Paragraph 2 was in the public interest in order to help bring the Olympics back to the United States."
Undoubtedly, though, the Obama administration is working more keenly for the Chicago bid, which would benefit political and business interests in the city at taxpayer expense, than if the International Olympic Committee were considering some other American city.
"Any president would have an interest in helping an American city win an Olympic bid," Vogel writes. "But none has been as closely associated with an Olympic proposal as Obama, and the emerging effort by the White House is unusually pointed in its attempt to wrap the campaign around the president and his appealing image abroad."
And Jarrett is just the beginning of the cozy, entangled Olympic stew. David Axelord's old PR firm "has been paid 'a nominal amount of money' by Chicago 2016 to do 'communication management [and] communication planning,' said former Axelrod partner Eric Sedler," Vogel reports.
Despite the Jarrett waiver, ABC News reports that the Obama administration "appears to now be pursuing a new course for administration officials who lobbied or worked for interested private firms. Instead, these officials are signing letters of recusal detailing issue areas where they will not work so as to avoid conflicts of interest. An example: former Goldman Sachs lobbyist Mark Patterson, who now serves as the chief of staff for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. ABC News has been requesting copies of these letters of recusal since February, to no avail."