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Ari & I: April 4, 2001

Russell Mokhiber questions White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer

Russell Mokhiber questions White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer gestures as he speaks to reporters at the White House briefing room April 2, 2003 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Mokhiber: Ari, there's a report today that the President's decision on carbon dioxide emissions was routed through the legislative affairs director, Nicholas Calio. Calio in 1997 -- his firm -- was paid $420,000 to lobby on this issue by Tenneco Automotive, which is the largest auto exhaust systems company in the country.

I'm wondering if the President is concerned about a perception of corporate lobbyists coming into the White House and making decisions on things they were paid for just a couple of years ago.

Fleischer: Who is the author of this report?

Mokhiber: Center for Public Integrity -- Chuck Lewis' group here.

Fleischer: That decision was made by the President, that decision was made by the policy staff. Calio is our liaison to the Congress. He then conveys to the Congress the decisions that have been made -- or that was the case here.

Mokhiber: Is he concerned about this perception -- this growing perception -- that corporate lobbyists that work on exactly the same issues as paid lobbyists, come in and make the public policy decisions?

Fleischer: The President makes his decisions on the merits, makes his decisions on what he believes is in the national interest.

For example, there are many people who are seeking business tax credits, business tax breaks in the tax bill. The President, others of course on staff, made it very clear to everybody in town that was not going to be the case this year.

If you recall, Larry Linsey had a meeting with K Street lobbyists, who expected to have business provisions added to the tax bill. That would not be the case. As the President put it -- this tax bill should take care of people first, not business.

So, there are going to be issues in which the President takes actions that he believes are in the national interest. Sometimes that will include business, and other times it will not.

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