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Obama, Daschle, And The Perils Of Washington Insider-dom

I'm a huge Tom Daschle fan. I thought he was the only person other than Rahm who should have been in the conversation for chief of staff. And I think he'd make a great White House healthcare czar, if that's the direction Team Obama is headed.

Still, this nugget from today's New York Times piece about the $700 billion bailout illustrates how complicated it can be to bring a former lawmaker into your administration, particularly once you've committed to ambitious ethical guidelines:

The first wave of lobbying came in early October when Mr. Paulson announced the plan to buy troubled mortgage-related assets from banks. The Treasury said it would hire several outside firms to handle the purchases, and would dispense with federal contracting rules.

Law and lobbying firms that specialize in government contracting fired off dispatches to clients and potential clients explaining opportunities in the new program. Capitalizing on the surge of interest, several large firms, including Patton Boggs; Akin Gump; P & L Gates; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; and Alston & Bird, have set up financial rescue shops.

Alston & Bird, for example, highlights its two biggest stars--former Senator Bob Dole and former Senator Tom Daschle. Mr. Dole “knows Hank Paulson very well” and has been “very helpful” with the financial rescue groups, said David E. Brown, an Alston & Bird partner involved in its effort.

“And of course, Senator Daschle is national co-chair of the Obama campaign,” Mr. Brown added, noting that because Mr. Daschle is not a registered lobbyist, his involvement is limited to “high level advisory and strategic advice.”

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting Daschle has done anything untoward. Just that the atmospherics can be a little tricky at moments like this.

--Noam Scheiber