Science & Technology

Revolving Doors and Midnight Lawmaking


Up until March of this year, Washington lobbyist William Wichterman was registered with the D.C. law firm Covington & Burling.  While there, he represented the National Football League in the successful effort to push through the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which will force banks and other financial institutions to block their customers from placing bets at online poker, sports wagering, and other gaming sites.

(It's worth noting that despite its protestations that online gambling fosters addiction and threatens to corrupt the spirit of competition, the NFL was able to win an exemption to the bill to allow for pay-for-play fantasy football leagues over the Internet.)

According to the Politico, in March, Wichterman was hired on as a White House aide.  His main responsibility?  Help the Bush administration write the rules of the UIGEA.  Wichterman and the White House are now trying to push the new rules through "before Nov. 17, in the narrow window before the new administration could make any changes, according to people familiar with these deliberations."

Wichterman's short leap from chief UIGEA lobbyist to top UIGEA enforcer (before his gig at Covington, Wichterman worked for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, where he also worked to ban Internet gambling) has raised the suspicions of Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.). 

Cohen posed a series of questions in a letter to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, including whether the White House knew of Wichterman's lobbying for the UIGEA on behalf of the NFL; if so, why they allowed him to work on the enforcement of the Act, anyway; how much time the White House requires to lapse before lobbyists hired into the administration can go to work on the issues they were lobbying for; and if Wichterman plans to go back to representing the NFL after he leaves his stint in the White House.