Lobbyists, the Revolving Door at the DoD, American Influence in Iraq & A Potential Flu Pandemic?

Today's Transparency Recap starts out with an interesting piece from OpenSecrets' Capital Eye newslog. Once again, Sen. John McCain is being questioned for his associations with lobbyists. Former Sen. Phil Gramm is the co-chair of McCain's 2008 bid for the presidency. Gramm recently left K Street in an effort to adhere to McCain's new campaign regulations -- that campaign members choose between lobbying and working on the campaign. And although Gramm left K Street quite willingly, critics still cite issues with McCain's allegiance to him:

"But now McCain faces a host of questions about why he's relying on someone who has seemingly taken one too many spins through the revolving door between the public and private sectors."

OpenSecrets provides interesting information on Gramm's close connections to banking and securities and investment industries and the potential fiscal issues that many attribute to a deregulation bill that he passed while in the Senate. While worries are surely warranted, it must also be noted that all three presidential candidates receive donations from the financial/insurance/real estate industries (with the two Democratic nominees topping the charts).

And Ellen Miller at the Sunlight Foundation covers a new report by the Government Accountability Office that claims that "… defense contractors employed over 86,000 former [Department of Defense] employees who had left the agency since 2001." While not a newly recognized problem, Miller's piece shows that conflicts of interest are still being overlooked. Perhaps the most worrisome facts were found when the GAO discovered that some individuals were working on projects that they once had jurisdiction over while at the DOD.

OMB Watch takes on regulatory policy and midnight regulations. What's a midnight regulation, you ask? A White House memo that was recently sent around; it asked all agencies that intend to finalize new policies to propose them before June 1, 2008. According to OMB Watch, the White House Chief of Staff,

". . . issued the memo under the guise of reversing "the historical tendency of administrations to increase regulatory activity in their final months" -- commonly known as midnight regulations. In reality, the memo may simply change when the clock strikes midnight in order to insulate potentially controversial rules from disapproval by a new administration."

Moving onward, the CREW blog reports on another former Congressional aide who is being charged with conspiracy to fraud the House:

"John Albaugh is accused of accepting meals, sports and concert tickets, and other perks from lobbyists in exchange for official favors, according to charges outlined in a criminal information filed in federal court on Friday."

While Sen. Barack Obama claims he'll withdraw troops within 16 months of assuming office, ABC News' The Blotter reports that the U.S. government is currently making plans that might extend U.S. presence -- and influence -- in Iraq:

"Contracting documents show the Pentagon and State Department are looking to hire "mentors" for Iraqi government officials, security personnel to protect Iraqi judges, linguists, and food service for a new U.S.-run prison, according to the Washington Post's Walter Pincus. The contracts run for a year, and offer up to four subsequent "option years," if the U.S. government decides to use the services that long . . . -- and underscore "the difficulty the next president will face in pulling personnel out of the country," Pincus writes."

And last but not least comes an intriguing piece from POGO. According to POGO, the government needs to be more transparent when it comes to a potential flu pandemic reaching the U.S. According to POGO,

". . . under the government's current plan, a mass-produced flu vaccine is still years away.  Even if a pandemic hit the U.S., it would take an additional six months to make the vaccine available to everyone.