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But Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said she doesn’t have a problem with Mr. Podesta coming aboard the White House.

“While he certainly has close ties with his brother, Tony Podesta, he seems to have a pretty separate life,” she said. “John has a career dedicated to public service, so moving into the administration when it’s been fumbling and he’s been known for his competence makes sense.”

The White House did not return calls for comment. They did announce that Mr. Podesta would not be advising the president on the Keystone pipeline, but not because of any concerns about lobbying. Mr. Podesta has publicly stated his opposition to the project and decided that only impartial people should advise the president, said Joshua Earnest, a White House spokesman.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said that regardless of who joins the White House, no one can fix the administration.

“The issue [Obama] wanted to be most associated with is a failure, and no amount of shifting the chairs around on the Titanic is going to solve that problem,” Mr. McConnell told reporters Tuesday.

Mr. Podesta has been an unofficial adviser to the president for some time, Ms. Sloan said.

According to visitor logs posted by the White House, Mr. Podesta has visited the executive mansion almost 130 times since 2009, though there could be a second individual named ‘John Podesta‘ who also visited.

Mr. Podesta has long been a staunch Democratic supporter. After leaving the Clinton White House, he founded the Center for American Progress in 2003, a prominent liberal think tank.

It was there where he dabbled in lobbying himself, working for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a sister organization. Mr. Podesta was last listed on government records as a lobbyist in 2006.

He also has donated some of his own money to the cause, giving about $10,000 to Democratic candidates over the past four years.