President Barrack Obama has hired incendiary lobbyist and political activist John Podesta as a top advisor for the president’s remaining two years in office. The hire promises to reduce transparency and increase partisan rancor coming from the Oval Office.
In December, the Obama administration hired John Podesta, mainly known for his radical environmental agenda and his creation of the confrontational leftist think tank Center for American Progress (CAP). Prior to his hire, Podesta’s CAP argued Obama should become more aggressive in issuing executive orders and more pugnacious in his relations with congressional Republicans.
Podesta caused a political uproar at the time he accepted the Obama administration position, comparing the Republican Party to “a cult worthy of Jonestown” in an interview with Politico.
Podesta’s group also belittled government watchdogs’ calls for more Obama administration transparency regarding IRS officials targeting Tea Party groups, State Department officials failing to disclose facts regarding the Benghazi consulate attack, and Obama administration officials knowing millions of people would not be able to keep their health insurance under Obamacare in contradiction of the president’s promises.
“President Obama has signed Podesta on as White House counselor—which makes him part of the circle of three or four advisors closest to the President,” said Myron Ebell, director of energy and environment studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Unprecedented Expansion of Power
Podesta’s hire has drawn additional attention to what Republicans say is Obama’s excessive use of executive orders. Just three weeks after Republicans won control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, Podesta’s Center for American Prgoress advocated Obama forget about trying to work with Congress and instead implement his agenda through executive orders, regulations, and other administrative actions, said Ebell.
“The President has largely followed this advice for the past three years and has expanded executive authority in ways that have not been attempted by previous presidents except in wartime,” Ebell explained. “But Podesta has strongly criticized the president for not going nearly far enough in using—really, abusing—his executive and regulatory authority.”
Controversial Activist Groups
Podesta cofounded the Center for American Progress in 2003, where he sat as president and CEO. Podesta obtained funding for the organization from special interest groups such as the renewable energy industry and wealthy liberal activists such as George Soros.
In 2009 the organization launched a progressive media “War Room” as a joint project of its 501(c)(4) Action Fund and the Media Matters Action Network to ratchet up aggressive attacks on centrists and conservatives.
Podesta also served as an Independent Advisory Council member of the scandal-ridden and ultimately disbanded community organization group ACORN.
Special Focus on Global Warming
While chairman of Center for American Progress, Podesta focused on global warming policies that would raise energy prices, expand government control of the economy, and lock up more land for federal purposes, Ebell said.
“I expect that Podesta will be a strong advocate in the White House for a more radical and more activist environmental agenda,” Ebell predicted.
In addition to his work at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Ebell serves as director of Freedom Action, an Internet-based grassroots activist organization, and chairs the Cooler Heads Coalition, which comprises more than two-dozen nonprofit groups that question global warming alarmism and oppose energy rationing policies.
Locking Up Federal Lands
Ebell said Podesta has placed special emphasis on unprecedented federal land acquisitions and environmental restrictions in the western United States. Ebell said the Center for American Progress developed a misleadingly labeled “balanced” approach to federal lands that would permanently lock up one acre of land for environmental setasides for every acre of land temporarily leased for oil and natural gas production.
Fighting Keystone Pipeline
Podesta has long been a staunch opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would create thousands of American jobs and allow U.S. consumers to benefit from vast oil deposits in western Canada. Podesta argues blocking the pipeline is crucial to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting global warming.
On January 31, the U.S. State Department released its Environmental Impact Statement concluding the pipeline would not substantially increase carbon dioxide emissions. Despite the government’s own Environmental Impact Statement, Podesta continues to urge the president to withhold approval for construction of the pipeline.
Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.