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Obama team unveils lobbyist restrictions

From NBC's Amna Nawaz and Abby Livingston
John Podesta, Obama's White House transition co-chair, today promised the "strictest, most far-reaching" ethics rules "ever applied" to a presidential transition. Podesta made that promise in a press briefing at his staff's offices in Washington, DC.

Those rules prevent federal lobbyists from working for the transition in the fields of policy for which they lobbied in the last 12 months. They must also "cease all lobbying activities" while working for the transition, and they can't lobby on their transition-team issues for 12 months after ending their service. A gift ban similar to the one recently passed in Congress also has been instituted.

Replying to the question on whether some expertise may be lost in adhering to these rules, Podesta simply said, "So be it," reiterating Obama's commitment have the "toughest" rules to "stop the revolving door" in Washington politics and reduce lobbyists' influence. His office today released bipartisan declarations of support for these rules from both the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution and the more-conservative American Enterprise Institute.

With an expected staff of 450 and $12 million budget to see through the transition, Podesta pledged the "most open" and "most transparent" transition in history. More than $5 million of that money will come from Congressional funding and the rest from individual donors.

He also announced the creation of "agency review teams" that will complete reviews of more than 100 government agencies, commissions, and offices in the White House. The information gathered by these teams will be used by agency officials "to make strategic policy, budgetary, and personnel decisions prior to the inauguration," according to Podesta. The teams will be dispatched as early as November 17 to begin work, and their names will be posted on the transition Web site (www.change.gov) as early as this week.