- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 21, 2011

For those seeking an example of the revolving door between government and the private sector at the State Department, one need look no further than President Obama’s recent nominee for the position of undersecretary for political affairs.

Wendy Sherman worked as assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the State Department early in the Clinton administration, leaving to run the charitable arm of mortgage giant Fannie Mae before rejoining the department as counselor to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.

Now, after overseeing Mr. Obama’s transition team at the State Department, Ms. Sherman helps run a big international consulting firm with offices around the world. Her recent roster of clients has included major corporate heavyweights such as Coca-Cola Co., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

But she is poised to leave that job to join the State Department again, taking its No. 3 post and resigning from the Albright Stonebridge Group, where she works alongside Ms. Albright.

Such a career trajectory is hardly unusual in Washington, but under ethics rules imposed by Mr. Obama, who campaigned against the revolving door between government and special interests, she will have to recuse herself for two years from specific matters involving Albright Stonebridge and her clients.

The list of clients on Ms. Sherman’s ethics form numbers nearly two dozen, including several companies such as Dow Chemical Co. that directly lobbied the State Department in recent years.

Ms. Sherman never lobbied for any of her clients. She is not a lobbyist, nor is the Albright Stonebridge Group registered to lobby Congress or federal agencies. But several of her clients — including Delta Air Lines Inc., Dow Chemical and the Chamber of Commerce — have employed their own lobbyists or hired others to lobby the State Department in recent years.

Under Mr. Obama’s ethics rules, any specific issues involving Ms. Sherman’s former clients should be off limits in her new State Department job.

Clients

One client listed on Ms. Sherman’s ethics form, London-based Diageo PLC, one of the world’s largest producers of alcoholic beverages, recently agreed to pay $16 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges of widespread violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The SEC announced last month that the case stemmed from more than six years of improper payments by Diageo to government officials in India, Thailand and South Korea. Without admitting or denying the findings, the company agreed to the settlement.

According to lobbying disclosure forms, Wal-Mart, another recent client of Ms. Sherman‘s, recently lobbied the State Department on currency exchange rates and textile enforcement matters. Dow Chemical, also a client, lobbied State Department officials on issues involving market access in China and Thailand, as well as Middle East investment policy.

Ms. Sherman consulted for Delta Air Lines, which lobbied the State Department on carbon emissions issues and on international air services rights. Coca-Cola lobbied the State Department on issues including excise taxes in Pakistan and Thailand, records show.

The Albright Stonebridge Group and Ms. Sherman declined to comment, but a White House spokesman said Ms. Sherman would abide by Mr. Obama’s ethics rules and did not indicate whether she would require a waiver from those regulations.

Ms. Sherman will be recused for two years from participating personally or substantially in any particular matter that involves the Albright Stonebridge Group or any clients that she served,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

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